Learning how to bounce back

A recent study has found that more than half of final year high school students have low levels of resilience, potentially putting them on the back foot before they even enter the workforce. Many lack basic impulse control, conflict resolution and relationship building skills, prompting calls to make emotional resilience lessons part of the school curriculum.

Before the global financial crisis changed the landscape, many people, especially younger people, hadn’t experienced tough times at work. Struggling to respond constructively to workplace stress has been estimated at $30 billion a year in Australia in lost productivity and psychological injury claims. The good news is that emotional resilience can be learned.

Resilience is about bouncing-back from hardship or adversity. It’s about being mentally tough and emotionally strong, and being able to maintain a sense of wellbeing in the face of challenges. To some extent resilience comes from within and depends on your personality, but resilient behaviours can also be developed and mastered. Teaching emotional resilience at school will have a positive impact on productivity and performance at work, and benefit society as a whole.

Cultivating resilience

Much has been written about resilience and how to cultivate it, and there are some common themes. Resilience helps us to accept our circumstances and to mindfully choose how we respond to situations, to get a better outcome. At an organisational level developing emotional resilience is a big deal. Organisations can create an environment that supports resilience and minimises stress through things like realistic job design, providing autonomous roles, and effective change management.  Benefits include increased engagement, fewer sick days and stress claims, and higher productivity.

Investing in the resilience of your people is good for them and good for your organisation. Research by wellbeing experts Robertson Cooper has found that there are clear links between productivity, psychological and physical health. Workplaces that support people to be fit and healthy, and acknowledge that people have a life outside work, are less stressful and more productive.

But even the most comprehensive wellbeing plan can’t reduce altogether some of the daily stresses that just go with the job. It’s how people train themselves to respond to these stresses that matters.

Here are some things you can do to develop your emotional resilience:

  1. Develop the right attitude – use positive self talk to remind yourself of what you can do.

  2. Be aware – develop your emotional awareness, observing and understanding what you are feeling and why.

  3. Develop an internal locus of control – we can’t control our circumstances, but we can control how we respond.

  4. Cultivate optimism – this is more than looking on the bright side, it’s about maximising your strengths and minimising your weaknesses and setbacks.

  5. Rally social support – friends can help lighten the load and those with strong social networks tend to stay healthier, happier and cope better with stress.

  6. Find the funny side – stepping back and finding humour in frustration and adversity
    will increase your resilience to the situation.

  7. Keep fit – having a regular exercise habit lifts mood and has been linked with stronger levels of resilience and immunity.

  8. Get in touch with your spiritual side – studies have shown that having a spiritual element in your life will help you become more resilient.

  9. Don’t give up – maintain the effort for the long term – don’t give up on your situation, don’t stop working toward getting through, and trust the process.

“I believe adaptive capacity or resilience is the single most important quality in a leader, or in anyone else for that matter, who hopes to lead a healthy, meaningful life.”

– Warren Bennis, American scholar, Organisational Consultant and Author

In summary, the best way to conquer adversities and problems at work and in life is to increase our knowledge and understanding of ourselves. The more self aware we are, the more able we are to make positive changes and make good decisions when we are faced with difficult and challenging situations.

A great way to start is to ask yourself the right questions. Contact us to take the “How Resilient Am I” self-assessment from our TakeON! Emotional Resilience module, and follow up with 10 top traits from Psychology Today – 10 Traits of Emotionally Resilient People.


Posted: Thursday 20 March 2014

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