Resilience isn't something we're all born with, but everyone can learn how to improve their adaptability to change at work. Some people have the ability to take stress and turn it into something they thrive off, and for others there are skills that can be developed.
The art of resilience has been studied a lot over the last fifty years, and researchers have concluded that resilience is built up of:
All of these are abilities we can adapt to match our own needs. Knowing that resilience is an aptitude that you can bring about for yourself, the next logical question is how do you build that skill?
With the modern workplace being filled with complex structures, an always-on culture and constant connections, there's an underlying threat of experiencing burnout when resilience goes un-practised.
We'll explore five ways you can learn to become more resilient and enable you to conquer even the most challenging times at work.
1) Break Down Processes
A big project lands on your desk. It needs meetings to be arranged, budgets to be managed, departments to be coordinated. In this moment, stress can set in and you can start to feel like you're not going to cope.
The task will become much easier if you're able to break it down into small pieces of work and create a schedule to complete each section. Break your day down into parts for dealing with your inbox, attending meetings, coaching your team, etc. - and work at sticking to it.
Being able to compartmentalise your working day will give you more focus throughout each task. When you constantly switch between tasks, it puts stress on your brain and makes it more difficult to finish up each part. Indeed, trying to multitask can oftentimes be counterproductive.
It's simple to create a daily and weekly schedule. Visualising how you're going to get the project across the finish line helps remove stress and boost morale. Dedicating sections of time for dealing with certain aspects of the task at hand also means you have allotted time to deal with problems as they arise, so you don't just feel like you're putting out fires and rather feel that you are making progress.
2) Break Up Your Day
As simple as it sounds, taking regular breaks is important to improve your resilience. It might look impressive to your boss that you eat your lunch at your desk whilst writing emails, but it's no good for you and, therefore, no good for the company.
Psychologists say that as well as having your circadian rhythm (or daily rhythm), you also have an ultradian rhythm. This means that your body has productive cycles that last around 90 to 120 minutes before you need to stop and refresh. Taking short breaks means that you're able to work with your natural patterns of productivity.
Taking regular breaks will:
- Increase your productivity by allowing yourself to work when revitalised
- Boost your creativity because you can approach your task with fresh eyes
- Give time to healthy habits like taking in fresh air and getting natural light
- Improve your mental health by listening to what your brain and body needs
Making sure that you take breaks is a simple and effective way to make sure your mind is prepared for any challenges that make their way to your desk. It's also an effective long-term strategy to prevent burnout.
3) Work on Your Mental Agility
A mentally agile person is able to make effective decisions and work across a range of tasks. The key principle here the ability to respond to a situation rather than react to it, or to think with your head rather than your heart.
When you improve your mental agility, you become more resilient because you can cope better with challenges; you become solution oriented. Some ways you can improve this skill are:
- Look for various solutions to problems rather than go with the first one
- Read more so that you can have a wider understanding of different perspectives
- Learn how to gather as much information about a situation as possible
With these steps you can start to understand a challenging time from a narrative perspective rather than just observing it from the side lines. This makes you more resilient because you can make effective choices in tough times, without feeling stressed.
4) Practice Mindfulness
Being mindful means that you keep your focus in the moment, allowing you to analyse what you're doing with better clarity. There are plenty of documented benefits of mindfulness, including:
- Making better decisions
- Being more creative when solving problems
- Increasing productivity
- Reducing overall stress levels
All of which are going to make you more resilient when faced with tough work situations.
Mindfulness is associated with a concept called vigour, which boils down to how positive a person is. When you practice mindfulness, you become more vigorous and enthusiastic about your work; it's the opposite of burnout. Being present in each moment is going to give you clarity when you make decisions and help instil a sense of confidence in your choices.
5) Learn Compassion
Becoming more compassionate will breed resilience and, according to a study discussed in Berkeley's Greater Good Magazine, will:
- Increase your positive emotions
- Help create positive working relationships
- Improves collaboration and cooperation
By making the office environment a more friendly and empathetic place to be, you and your team will be better able to deal with problems effectively.
Resilience is an important skill to have. It's not something innate, but rather something that can be learned by adapting your behaviour, acquiring skills, and changing your attitude towards stressful situations.
Once you understand what it takes to build resilience you can start practicing straight away. It's useful to have some basic techniques taught to you to ensure that you're working on the right track before committing to a plan.
Mindfulness and compassion are about your state of mind, breaking down your work and taking breaks are tangible actions that you can take, and your mental agility can be something you work on a little bit each day so you can slowly get better.