To survive in our rapidly changing economic environment, many organisations are making large-scale changes which ratchets up pressure on everyone. More output is required from people using fewer resources. Many people are working longer hours and complain that work is more stressful than ever before.
If this applies to you, you need to be resilient. Resilience is the ability to stay task focused and productive during difficult times, to recover well from sustained pressure and adversity. It also enables learning for the experience to become personally better rather than bitter; stronger rather than weaker.
While this might sound like magic, it is in fact ordinary magic that everyone possesses. The good news is that it’s made up of a set of skills and behaviours that can be learnt and improved.
In our research on personal resilience (more here), we found seven elements that make up resilience, as shown in the model. From these elements, there are five practical strategies that can immediately assist to build your internal coping resources to become more resilient.
1. Find meaning in your work
At the core of personal resilience is feeling your life has meaning. When life becomes really difficult, you inevitably confront the existential question of: “Why should I persevere?”
You need to craft an answer that makes sense to you; otherwise you may sink into despair, feeling alienated and hopeless.
Work for many is a central part of our lives, and thus it’s important that the work we do has meaning.
Strategy: Find meaning in the work you do beyond meeting deadlines and filling in reports. Identify how people’s lives are improved by the outputs of your work. Look for opportunities to deepen the meaning in the work you do (more here).
2. Use coping strategies that have worked previously
As an adult, you will have inevitably experienced difficulties in your life. You used resilience and get through these difficulties and you can use those same actions to build your resilience.
a. Reflect on your previous successes in coping with adversity, and identify the coping strategies you used. Ask yourself: What did I do to recover and move forward? What changed my attitude? Who or what helped me?
b. Identify how you can use your previously successful strategies to cope with your present challenges.
3. Change your thinking
The way you think and feel creates your reality. In other words, if you think that you are over-stressed, can’t cope and things are getting worse — then those thoughts will create that reality for you. Fortunately you can change your thinking, which is great news if your thinking is overly negative from time-to-time.
Strategy: There are three magic questions that can help re-frame or restructure your thinking (more here). These questions are:
a. How do I accept this? (This question asks how you will come to terms with what has happened — its not however passive acceptance or having to agree with what has happened.)
b. What can I learn from this? (This helps you look for some positive in the distressing situation.)
c. Is there an opportunity? (Almost always there is a need to take action and this step guides you in that direction.)
4. Reach out to others
Reaching out to others involves both giving support as well is asking for support. In a work context, most people find it’s easier to give support rather than ask for support. Asking for help is particularly difficult if it feels as if you are admitting to a weakness.
The irony is that strong people admit their vulnerabilities and ask for help, whereas weak people dither and delay taking action, hoping things will improve.
a. At work, choose individuals whom you trust to appropriately share your confidences and ask for their help in a very specific ways, for example to check your thinking about a problem or to help you evaluate alternatives. You can start the conversation by saying that you don’t need them to make the decision for you, but you would like them to help you to think through your analysis. That’s a powerful way of asking for help
b. At home, be clear with your partner as to what you’re asking — are you asking for them to help you come to a solution? In which case, follow the same process as at work. Alternatively, are you asking for the opportunity to vent? In which case, tell them you just want them to listen. This crucial differentiation will help you to keep your lines of communication open with one of the most important people in your life.
5. Take small steps to move forward
Dealing with ongoing stress or adversity inevitably requires some sort of action on your part.
Strategy: You always have a choice of one of three alternatives:
a. Continue to do what you are doing (appropriate when your strategy will probably be successful with time.)
b. Do something different (appropriate when your present strategy is not working as well as you would like.)
c. Let go and move on (appropriate when you want to put something behind you and to get on with your life.)
In conclusion, try these five strategies to help keep the stress in your life positive, rather than allowing it to become debilitating.
Resilient Leadership Workshop
Leaders learn how to keep stress positive. They assess their Team Members strategy-fitness and learn three resilience coaching techniques. The outcome is the leaders are better able to deliver organisational strategy and coach their team members when their resilience lags (read more here).
Team members and specialists learn how to bounce back from difficult organisation and life events, such as significant change, setbacks and hardship. The outcome is they are able to resist stressful experiences impacting on their job productivity and stay calm and healthy (read more here).
Mental Strength Training
Mental Strength training helps people keep task-focused and persistent. Mental Strength training teaches the process and tools to remain composed under pressure and less vulnerable to emotional slumps at work and at home (read more here).