Resilience equips us to deal with life’s inevitable ups and downs. When we have high resilience, we can cope with the bruises we get from living life. We are able to pick ourselves back up, smile and carry on, knowing it’s all just part of the richness of life.
When we aren’t fully equipped to deal with the pressures of life, a feeling of stress can build up. If we don’t manage the stress, eventually, we reach a point where it takes its toll on us physically and mentally. Our sleep can become disrupted, switching off becomes more difficult, we may turn to drinking or smoking to help us relax. It may even manifest itself in physical symptoms of tension – maybe a knot in our stomachs, a headache or tension in our neck or shoulders. Ultimately, it can start to affect our behaviour, and the last thing any of us want to do is to snap at those we care about.
There are three types of stress we face that challenge our resilience:
The ongoing day-to-day: life feels too much and there’s lots of disruption. We’re forced to work long hours, we work on activities that don’t align with our values, and it starts to impact on our personal life.
The unexpected, causing a spike: sometimes, something unanticipated and out of the ordinary happens – but everyone still expects the same level of commitment from us. Deadlines still need to be met at work, families still need to be fed, bills still need to be paid. But we haven’t planned for this additional dynamic.
A slow build up: sometimes the stress builds up so slowly and over such a long time period, we don’t notice it’s happening at first. Many minor causes of stress, which we can manage perfectly well for a short period, can overwhelm us when we are carrying them for a prolonged period of time or alongside other stresses.
How resilient are you?
There are a number of questionnaires online to understand how resilient you are. They look at whether you have a healthy view of yourself, use humour during hard times, have friends you can talk to and are good at solving problems. It is worth using Al Siebert’s resilience questionnaire in his book The Resiliency Advantage, Siebert spent much of his career developing the thinking behind psychological resilience and is considered an expert in the field.
If you recognise your resilience is low…
Compartmentalise the stress. The activities or ‘things’ causing you stress don’t need to affect every area of your life. If your boss is making your life a misery, you can still enjoy (and need more than ever) a good night out with friends. On the other hand, if you are going through a rough patch at home, be thankful you have your work to distract you. Don’t feel guilty that you are taking enjoyment from other areas of your life, or that you are using them as an escape until you get fully back on track.
If you feel that you aren’t managing, talk to a friend or go and see your doctor. Don’t ignore the signs.
Know when to walk away
There’s a story about a University Professor of Psychology. In a lecture one day she picked up a glass of water and asked everyone, ‘how heavy is this glass of water?’
The students called out various answers, which the professor shrugged off.
‘The actual weight doesn’t matter,’ she explained to them. ‘What really matters is how long I’ve been holding it. If I hold it for just a minute, it feels light. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a whole day, my arm will feel numb and paralysed. Any longer than that and I will be tempted to give up and drop it. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.’
The Professor continued, ‘The stresses and worries in life are like this glass of water. Carry them for only a short while and they’re manageable. Worry about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if we think about them all day long, or longer, we can feel paralysed and hopeless – incapable of concentrating or focusing on anything else.’
For a while, we don’t really notice that the stress is weighing us down. But when we carry it around for days, weeks, months – it can become more than we can bear. The glass represents the stresses in our lives. It’s important to know when we need to put the glass down.
Developing resilience within your organisation
Resilient leaders have a ‘multiplier effect’ on their teams who are:
- 20% more creative.
- 31% more productive.
- 52% less likely to experience burnout.
- 78% less likely to leave the company.
Individuals and teams who have high resilience cope well despite disruptive change, sustain good energy under constant pressure, as well as adapt quickly to new ways of working.
However, workplace resilience is generally low, with only 15% of workers globally highly resilient.
Many organisations stigmatise employees when they express frustration or anxiety at work. Instead, like change, resilience needs to be seen as a continuous journey involving progressive growth. Organisations and leaders have a responsibility to create the best environment where wellbeing is prioritised to proactively enable and support resilience.
Change is an emotional journey, talk about its impact and remind people that the hard times don’t last forever.
Focus on what’s important
Help people to prioritise their work and manage their work in progress.
Encourage the right behaviours
Talk to people about taking regular breaks during the day, taking time to get to know their colleagues on a personal level and setting clear boundaries.
Create a support network
Ensure people are working in an environment based on trust, and that they have people to turn to when times are challenging.
To ensure your Leaders are ready to confidently lead your organisation through change and deliver at speed, talk to us about the S&S Future Leader Accelerator.