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Burnout, physical illness, and waves of employee resignations continue to be one of the major issues impacting employers in North America. As an employer, resilience needs to be a priority not only for your staff, but for yourself.  

In this issue of the Pulse, we take a look at resilience; what it is, and how you can promote it in your workplace.  

What is resilience? 

Resilience is essentially the ability to recover from adversity. How quickly and how well can you bounce back? Resilience doesn’t mean we aren’t hurt or don’t struggle – but that we can move through it and adjust over time.  

Psychologist Susan Kobasa says there are three elements essential to resilience: 

  • Challenge – resilient people are more likely to view difficulty as a challenge, not as completely devastating. They take failures and mistakes as opportunities for growth instead of a negative reflection on their self-worth.  
  • Commitment – resilient people can make commitments to goals, ambitions, relationships, causes, and other things they care about, and follow through on those commitments.  
  • Personal control – resilient people spend time and energy on situations/aspects of their life that are within their control, rather than focusing on uncontrollable events. 

The past few years have certainly been a test of resilience for many of us, adjusting to new ways of living and likely significant changes at work.  

Resilience can be built.  

As explained by the American Psychological Association (APA), “resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait that only some people possess. On the contrary, resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that anyone can learn and develop. The ability to learn resilience is one reason research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary.” 

While it can be learned, it takes time and intent to do so – and it may just be a worthy effort to commit to if you find yourself struggling with different workplace or personal challenges.  

Resilience is a part of our mental health.  

Since our capacity for resilience isn’t fixed, it’s natural that our mental wellbeing will impact it. If you’ve ever felt like you just can’t weather things the way you used to, that’s normal. And it’s not necessarily always going to be that way, either. Sometimes, we’re in a great place to roll with the punches, and other times, the slightest gust can knock us over.  

This is because our resilience is connected to our mental health. This goes to say, if employers want their employees to be resilient and avoid burnout or illness through challenging times, they must prioritize their employees’ mental health.  

Action is necessary.  

While adopting a mental health-conscious mindset is good, action is also needed. In fact, there seems to be a disconnect between these two concepts.  

Data from 2021 found that 86% of employers see mental health, stress, and burnout as a top priority — yet only 25% have implemented a wellbeing strategy. 

So, whether you’re an employer in the process of developing a strategy or an employee in a workplace without a concrete plan in place to protect your mental health, working on building your own resilience may be necessary for your wellbeing and success.  

Strategies to build resilience.  

While this list is by no means exhaustive, it includes some helpful practices you can adopt to build your resilience: 

  • Slow down – spend intentional time relaxing, working on your sleep routine, and practicing body and mind wellness activities like meditation or deep breathing.  
  • Take care of your body – according to the APA, “stress is just as much physical as it is emotional. Promoting positive lifestyle factors like proper nutrition, ample sleep, hydration, and regular exercise can strengthen your body to adapt to stress and reduce the toll of emotions like anxiety or depression.” 
  • Practice thought awareness – a key quality of resilient people is that they “don’t let negative thoughts derail their efforts.” Instead they have agency over their thoughts and are able to reframe them. These are the kinds of thoughts to be aware of: 
    • Permanent – thoughts that see the effects of bad events as permanent rather than temporary.  
    • Pervasive – thoughts that let setbacks or bad events affect other unrelated areas of life.  
    • Personalized – thoughts of self-blame or self-hate in relation to a difficulty or challenge experienced.  
  • Learn from mistakes and failures – every time you fail, there is likely a lesson. Take the opportunity to learn and adjust your strategies, rather than internalizing the failure.   
  • Choose your responses – practice strategies that allow you to react calmly and logically during challenging times. This isn’t inherent to everyone, but is a skill that can be worked on.  
  • Maintain perspective – although a situation or crisis may seem overwhelming in the moment, part of resilience is having a proportional reaction to its long-term impact.  
  • Set goals – setting smart, effective personal goals that align with your values can help you build successes and learn from your experiences.  
  • Work on building your self confidence – according to Mind Tools, when you “develop confidence and a strong sense of self, you have the strength to keep moving forward, and to take the risks you need to get ahead.” 
  • Focus on strong relationships – in the workplace as in all walks of life, those with strong connections that can survive stress find themselves happier and more resilient.  
  • Join a group – you may need to look to a specific group outside of your regular activities to help build those connections. Whether hobby-based, faith-based, or around a common interest such as volunteering, these are all great ways to find and foster strong relationships.  
  • Be flexible – rigidly adhering to plans and expectations can cause undue stress when those plans need to be amended or scrapped altogether.  

In conclusion… 

Resilience is needed to adjust to and overcome adversity in the workplace, or any walk of life. While resilience isn’t a fixed quality, and can be reflective of our mental health, it’s important to remember that there are steps and strategies we can take to improve it.