Resilience at work – or in any other part of life – is not only important to your emotional well-being, but it can help you manage the daily stresses and strains of working life and enable you to progress in your career.
'Resilience is about bouncing back - and it's crucial to staying at your best under the many pressures working life can bring'
What is resilience?
There are lots of different definitions of resilience, but put simply, it is a person’s ability to adapt and bounce back in the face of difficulty.
Maybe you’ve heard the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Being resilient helps us see challenges as opportunities instead of obstacles. This means that when something unexpected or unpleasant happens in our lives, we are able to learn from it, adapt to it and move beyond it a stronger person.
Why does it matter at work?
We won’t lie, work throws up a lot of pressures. Struggling to find a vacancy in a difficult job market, going through the stress of job interviews, office politics, bullying, making important decisions, even redundancy - experiences like these mean that working life is fraught with challenges.
Resilience at work is the ability to maintain a cool head and work through adversity. It will help you to carry on working at a high standard despite life’s ups and downs. It will also help you progress in your career by giving you the tools to manage more responsibility and pressure, and demonstrate this to others.
How resilient am I?
To get a sense of how resilient you are, there are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- Do you stay positive when things go wrong?
- Do you know how to relax when you start feeling stressed?
- Can you keep a sense of perspective when things get difficult in your life?
- Do you have lots of friends and family who support you when times are tough?
- Do you get plenty of exercise, eat well and have hobbies you enjoy?
The more of these questions you answered “yes” to, the more resilient you are likely to be. Kudos to you if you got five yeses, but don't worry if not – there’s plenty you can do to build your resilience.
How can I develop resilience at work?
Experts say that how resilient you are is influenced by three sets of factors:
- Personal characteristics: Your sense of control over your life, your awareness of your emotions and ability to manage them, optimism, sense of perspective, sense of humour, self-belief, ability to solve problems.
- Environmental factors: For example, how much support you receive to help you manage difficulties.
- Other people: The attitude of those around you, such as your friends, family and colleagues.
Sometimes, there are ways we can change these factors to enable better resilience, but we don’t have control over all of these factors all of the time.
Here are 6 practical things you can do now to improve your resilience at work, school and in your home life:
1. Don’t blame yourself
When things go wrong, it’s tempting to think that it’s all your fault. For example, if you get a B in your maths test instead of the A you were expecting, it’s easy to think you’ve failed and that you’re at fault somehow. But things won’t always go your way, and it won't always be your - or anyone else's - fault. As long as you try the best you can next time round, there’s no need to beat yourself up. Next time you find yourself in a situation like this, try taking the gentle approach by accepting what has happened and moving on.
2. Learn from your mistakes
Learning what you could do better in future is much better than blaming yourself. In the maths test example above, the positive approach would be to look through the paper to find out what your weak points are, then come up with a revision plan for how you are going to get better at these topics.
3. Embrace change
It's easy to be resistant to change. But change can be a good thing, even if it’s not quite what we were hoping for – not least because it can teach us how to adapt to new situations. For example, if your teacher changes part way through the year, instead of griping about it, you could try adapting to their different teaching style and see what you get out of it - they may have strengths that your old teacher didn't.
4. Create a support network
Maybe you already get by with a little help from your friends, in which case - great! But if you think you could do with a bit more support from family and friends, try taking the first step yourself. Others are more likely to support you through hardship if you’ve done the same for them at one time or another. You should follow the same approach with your colleagues at work.
5. Be good to yourself
Exercise, the right diet, and plenty of sleep are really important for resilience (along with pretty much everything else in life). Avoid too many sugary treats, don’t drink too many caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee or Coke – and don’t take up smoking or drinking. Get at least 8 hours’ sleep a night and 30 minutes’ moderate exercise per day (cycling, brisk walking etc). Keeping your mind and body healthy will help regulate your moods. Check out this helpful diet plan from the Chartered Accountants’ Benevolent Association.
6. Practise mindfulness
You’ve probably heard of mindfulness, it’s all the rage at the moment. A busy, racing mind can be exhausting, and doesn’t help cultivate the calm, collected mindset you need for resilience at work. Mindfulness teaches us to focus on physical sensations – usually starting with the breath – to anchor ourselves in the world, so we don’t get too distracted by spiralling thoughts. There are lots of free apps like Headspace which teach you the basics – all you need to do it is a quiet place and some headphones.
Hopefully you’ve got a better sense of what it means to have resilience at work – plus a few techniques to help you start building resilience in your school and home life right away. If you’ve been feeling under pressure lately, take a look at our article on dealing with stress.