Ever wondered why some team members seem to cope well when faced with increased work pressure or a heightened workload? Why is it that some employees have the capacity to bounce back so quickly when faced with a problem or a significant challenge? And why can some so easily seem to cope with ongoing changes in the workplace? Well, there may be an answer – psychological resilience.
Resilience is defined by the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Some even describe it as level of toughness. Research suggests that there are certain things resilient people do when compared to those who are not resilient. Resilient people tend to be more optimistic in their thinking, particularly when faced with problems. Resilient individuals tend to think about problems as having an endpoint (“this problem will come to an end”) and they are good at containing issues and not letting them leak into other areas of their life. We call this the ability to compartmentalise. A recent client of mine was having significant issues in the workplace with a difficult and somewhat narcissistic CEO. After some counselling, my client was able to contain the problem in terms of his thinking and restrict it from having an impact on his work, family and social life. This is important in resilience.
Resilient people also tend not to blame themselves when they make a mistake or are faced with a problem or challenge. They are good at explaining away the causes of bad events. This doesn’t mean they blame other people for their misfortunes – it means that they are able to attribute the causes of bad events to external factors and not blame themselves when things don’t go to plan.
A recent example of this in action was a client who had arranged to meet a colleague at a local café at a specific time (10.00am) to discuss a work opportunity. My client’s colleague didn’t arrive on time and still had not arrived by 10.15am. My client started to attribute blame to herself in a subtle way. Her internal dialogue was, “I’ve got the time wrong. I always stuff things up. I probably got the wrong café too. This always happens to me.” This internal dialogue made my client feel awful. Not surprising however, her friend arrived at the café at 10.25am saying her car had not started and her phone wasn’t working to let my client know she would be late! But the negative thinking patterns in my client had already begun to take on a life of their own.
This way of thinking is deemed to be pessimistic and if this becomes a repetitive pattern, this erodes resilience and the probability of experiencing a mental health issue is much higher.
The most fascinating aspect of resilience is that you can train yourself to become more resilient and the first step is becoming more aware of your thinking biases, both conscious and unconscious.
At Headway, we facilitate training programs to help employees become more resilient and to cope better with stress. Our program is based on resilience research and includes education and training on the following points:
Purpose. Discovering one’s purpose or their “why” makes us much better at dealing with and working through problems.
Explanatory Style. Teaching participants how to become more resilient through their thinking patterns when faced with work or personal problems.
Circle of Influence. Highlighting effective ways to reduce stress by focusing on what is in one’s control and what is not.
Resilient Behaviours. Diet, exercise, mindfulness and pleasant events and each of their relationships with resilience.
Positive Relationships. How and why relationships are fundamental to the development of resilience.
If you would like to know more about Headway’s resilience program, call on (08) 9226 4489.