Stress is a problem in South African workplaces and it’s getting worse. In a 2012 survey , over half (52%) of South African professional workers said their stress levels have risen over the past year. Almost 70% of South Africans will at one time or another experience such significant stress that it interferes with their ability to do their day-to-day work. In fact, workplace stress is estimated to cost business R3 billion a year.
To address this problem, organisations have in the past provided stress management workshops. Exciting new research that has shown that more important than just managing stress, we now can help people enhance their ability to bounce back and to cope. In other words, to build their resilience.
Resilience at work enables you to stay task focused and productive during tough times. Resilience in your personal life enables you to deal with the daily grind as well as significant difficulties, and still experience joy and happiness.
Here are 10 tips on how to develop your resilience in order to bounce back and cope with stress:
1. Keep strongly connected to that which gives you meaning in life
No matter how busy you are, every day take time to do something that has real meaning for you. Meaning is usually found in relationships with significant people (typically family and special friends), causes (issues greater than yourself) and faith. Build these connections in good times, and you can call upon them in difficult times. The stronger your connection to what gives you real meaning in life, the easier it is to persevere and remain strong.
2. Use your character strengths at home and work.
You have almost certainly used your character strengths to bounce back and cope during tough times in your past. Ironically, many people aren’t aware of using their character strengths, because they feel so “obvious” and don’t feel particularly special. This is unfortunate, because you are more effective at work and home when your use your character strengths. Thus identify your character strengths and deliberately use them to cope with adversity, recover and become even stronger.
3. Maintain perspective, and remember that it’s not always about you.
From our evolutionary past, we are programmed with a survival instinct that makes us more alert for the negative than the positive in our lives. You therefore need to work on maintaining a balanced perspective. Once you accept that life isn’t fair or easy, you can rise above the struggle and focus on what you can change or achieve.
4. Challenge your inappropriately negative thinking.
If you feel flooded with negative thinking, quieten your internal critical voice by finding different and positive explanations of what’s happening in your life. Tell yourself realistically positive stories about what you’re experiencing in life, and then tell these stories to others too.
5. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others.
Being kind to other people really helps you during tough times. You can’t however be kind to others unless you are also kind to yourself. Allow yourself not to be perfect and to make mistakes. There comes a time to let go of the past and move on.
6. Be grateful for what you have and focus on the good things that are happening every day in your life.
Practice being grateful. Focus on what you have, rather than what you don’t have. Comparing yourself to others is natural, so compare yourself to those who have less than you, rather than those who have more than you. Good things are happening every day in your life – pay attention to them and be grateful for them.
7. When times are tough, look for what you can learn, what opportunities arise and what is positive.
When experiencing difficulty, avoid dwelling on the misery. Reframe the situation by asking yourself: What can I learn from this? What opportunity arises? What is positive? Then move on to action by asking yourself: What small step can I take to change the situation or achieve my goals?
8. Persevere but remain open minded and flexible. Exercise regularly and get enough sleep.
Push for solutions and don’t give up, but don’t become so fixated that it becomes “action for action sake”. Take time out to exercise regularly. It will help put things in perspective and the endorphins your body produces will give you a welcome natural high. When stressed, you need even more sleep than usual, which for most people is at least seven or eight hours every night.
9. Ask for help, even when it feels awkward. Help others, especially when you are also struggling.
Many people say it’s easier to help others than to ask for help yourself. Be the exception by asking for help early, even if it’s difficult. Reach out to others and help them when they are struggling. The act of helping others has a wonderful way of helping yourself at the same time.
10. Choose to have joy and fulfillment even in the face of stress, disappointment, heartache, hardship and disruptive change.
Choose to be resilient in the face of life’s difficulties. You may not have much choice as to the events you encounter in life, but you always have the choice of how to react in a particular situation.
In conclusion, use these 10 tips to bounce back from stress and life’s difficulties. They will help you enhance your resilience, and enable you to experience joy and happiness even in the face of life’s difficulties.