In February 2018, The Guardian reported the findings of research by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which found that “526,000 workers in the UK suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17, and 12.5m working days were lost as a result over that period”. CNBC reported in August 2018 that in a “recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23 percent reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out sometimes”. Gallup estimates that this costs between $125 billion to $190 billion in health-care spending each year.
Nobody is immune: Stress, traumatic events and personal tragedies impact our lives at different times and in differing ways. Enhancing our personal resilience is one means by which we, as individuals, can build the resources necessary to adapt and ‘bounce back’ quickly in difficult and challenging times.
Resilience is defined by the American Psychological Association (APA) as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress”. In other words, it is your bounce-back ability. That capacity to be present in a situation, recognize the triggers, identify what is required, and develop and execute the positive actions necessary to move forward. However, while we may find ourselves nodding in agreement and over-confidently identifying ourselves as a resilient person, the statistics prove otherwise. So what can we do?
Enhancing our personal resilience is one means by which we, as individuals, can build the resources necessary to adapt and ‘bounce back’ quickly.
The good news is that resilience can be learned and built up. There are a number of contributing factors to enhancing your resilience, such as:
- Generating a greater frequency of positive emotions.
- Greater self-regulation of emotions avoiding wild fluctuations in your emotional state.
- Maintaining positive relationships.
- Having a purpose, a meaning in life.
- Knowing and understanding your strengths.
- Self-confidence and having a positive image of ‘self’.
- Making a realistic assessment of the situation.
- Creating a realistic plan of action.
- Motivation to execute that plan of action.
- Developing a positive attitude.
During stressful times we should be more aware of our health and strive to improve our ‘self-care’.
So how can you enhance your personal resilience?
- Health: Begin by recognizing stress and its impact on your body and habits. When you are stressed: do you sleep less? Do you eat more junk food and less nutritional food? Do you exercise? How much time do you spend slumped on the couch watching TV or glued to your mobile phone? During stressful times we should be more aware of our health and strive to improve our ‘self-care’. Eat well, eat often. Exercise more frequently during the week. Do not sit with your phone in bed, focus on getting the right amount of sleep for you.
- Create a greater frequency of positive emotions: A daily ritual of conducting a gratitude exercise (‘Three things I am grateful for today’) before you go to sleep each night, or a regular practice of loving kindness meditation (which you can find at http://www.positivityresonance.com/meditations.html). Additional cognitive tools such as ‘Flipping it’ and ‘Reframing’ provide a different way of looking at a situation, and can be used throughout the working day to help you provide an alternative perspective during stressful or trying times.
- Challenge your negative thoughts: We are hardwired to see the negative in situations. It’s part of our evolutionary make up. It is also why we tend to immediately look to the worst case scenario in stressful situations and can end up in a downward spiral of emotions. Therefore, snapping ourselves out of this catastrophic thinking is an important skill to have. You can do this by listing the worst-case scenarios that occupy your mind. Then confirm or refute your assumptions of each. Rationally examine and challenge each assumption. Doing so helps diffuse your negative thoughts and place the situation/event in a more rational and measured context.
- Use your strengths: Identify your strengths. Two platforms you can use for this are www.viacharacter.org and www.gallupstrengthscenter.com. Reflect on when you have used them and how they have enabled you to achieve success. Use these innate talents to your advantage: During trying or stressful times, we tend to focus on our weaknesses – to our own detriment. This pushes us into a negative spiral. Look at what you are good, and great at, identify where these skills can help you in the particular situation, and then use them.
- Improve your situational awareness: Know what is going on around you. Engage with others beyond your immediate circle either at work or at home. Develop a greater understanding of the events that are unfolding elsewhere and how these may impact you. Doing so affords you the opportunity to identify early warning signs and consequently gives you a greater amount of time to plan.
- Take control: Make a list of what you can control on one side and what you can’t control on the other. It helps provide perspective. Certain areas you will have no control over, so why worry about them? Focus on what you can control, develop a plan focused on positive actions for you to execute. It provides clarity and purpose.
- Positive and supportive relationships: Spend time building positive relationships based on mutuality (a shared created value), vitality (energy), and positive regard (respect, compassion & trust for each other). These relationships – during stressful times both in your professional and personal lives – are the ones you will lean on for support. Get outside your own head space and actively engage with those you value and trust. Seek advice, solace, support and fun with those people. Loneliness and isolation will negatively impact your personal resilience.
Our personal resilience levels fluctuate throughout our lives, as our circumstances and environment change, and as we change. However, having a set of tools available to help us through periods of renewal and recovery affords us the building blocks necessary to improve our own health, wellbeing, happiness and ultimately our resilience.
© IE Insights.