By Hallie Gayle
Resiliency is the ability to “bounce back” in the face of adversity, trauma, and stress. It allows us to remain hopeful, strong, and adaptable during life’s unpredictable twist and turns. People who possess this characteristic trait bear the fruits of healthy and balanced lives, not necessarily because they’ve been struck with good fortune, but because they’ve gained strength and wisdom from difficult trials. Resilience is not just about getting through a crisis, but about making the best of stressful situations and events.
In the workforce, resiliency gives individuals and teams the ability to continuously achieve goals even when challenges arise. Ewuria Darley, associate director of the Center for Workplace Mental health, adds that “resilience is associated with greater job satisfaction, work happiness, organizational commitment and employee engagement.” Studies show that work is the number one contributor to stress in people’s lives. Competition, deadlines, interpersonal tension, and workloads require a great deal of emotional management and grit. For this reason, employers are recognizing the need for resilient team players who are able recover and overcome the many obstacles in the workday.
The good news about resiliency is that it’s a skill, a trait that can develop and build like a muscle. And just like a muscle, the body must endure the pain of working out—as the saying goes, “no pain, no gain.” If there’s any positive note about the current COVID-19 crisis, it’s the fact that all of our resiliency skills are being put to the ultimate test—and hopefully—strengthening. Family therapist Dr. Micheal Ungar states that “thinking about the many different systems we need for mental and physical health, from a positive attitude to social networks and health care, opens up possibilities to make us much more capable of withstanding long periods of forced isolation, financial stress, and even grief.”
For some of us, resilience might be associated with certain “tough” and domineering personality types who are able to speak up boldly in difficult confrontation. Maybe you picture resiliency found in those who possess a lot of energy and focus. The truth is, resilience doesn’t look like a specific stereotype and it is often a quieter strength that allows us to be vulnerable and more authentic—even in our professional careers. During a crisis like our present pandemic, everyone is going to react differently. Everyone will have their own way of tapping into their core superpowers and making the most of these difficult times.
For employees, it is a critical time to assess what it is you need in order to accomplish your work goals while remaining sane and knowing the limitations of reality right now. For employers and leaders, it’s important to boost the spirits of your team and groups, finding the right balance of being understanding and holding people accountable. Here are some suggestions to move us along as we overcome the many challenges brought about by the pandemic:
1. Find meaning: In our normal day to day life, pre-pandemic, it might have been easy to get stuck in the motions of your career. Now that you find yourself in a new environment having to learn new skills, it is a good time to readdress why your work contributes to a greater cause. For example, nurses are facing tremendous changes and challenges in their jobs right now, but they know they must adapt because they believe in their purpose of saving lives. Every job serves a purpose in society. Whatever that bigger meaning is for you, make that be your focus.
2. Manage your workday and environment: A huge part of resiliency is making the most out of something less than ideal. Many of us miss our offices and our colleagues and the nice separation between our job and home. Work with what you have. Make note of what hours you are most productive and structure your day around everything you might be juggling. Clear out the clutter in the guestroom and create an office space. Take breaks from your computer and make reasonable to-do lists that will help you feel accomplished.
3. Build community: Maintaining communication and relationships in work and outside of work will give us tremendous support. Provisional psychologist Heather Craig advices that “[social support] is beneficial to develop personal as well as professional networks, which can be a source of guidance and support during times of stress or simply to provide a nurturing relationship.”
4. Be authentic: If we aren’t honest with ourselves, we won’t know what it is that we need in order to cope—mentally, emotionally, and physically. Be mindful about your own limitations and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Being honest with others also opens up productive discussion and room for more creativity.
5. Foster positivity and humor: Resiliency first and foremost starts in the mind and with our thoughts. If we’re constantly fixating on everything that’s not working, our attitude and behavior are affected. Practicing positive thinking rewires our cognitive abilities and actually gives us more energy and focus to tackle tasks throughout the day. Staying positive doesn’t mean ignoring the reality of what’s happening in the world; it just means changing your perspective and seeing the bigger picture. Dr. Heather Craig notes that “a surprising finding in the research was that resilient employees don’t take the work environment too seriously. They introduce an element of ‘play’ to the workplace, which further fosters positive emotions amongst employees.”
For employers and leaders, encourage employees to tap into their resiliency skills during this time. In order to build resilient teams, it’s important to allow for flexibility and authentic discussion. Facilitating debriefing sessions can encourage reflections and action planning. Don’t be afraid to give out deadlines or make lists and guidelines; giving responsibilities and structure to employees is actually a valuable motivator.
During this time, it is the effort of resilient individuals working together that keep goals and visions possible. Our current crisis can be seen as an opportunity to practice resiliency; in fact, it is a call for companies, businesses, leaders, families, and individuals to find strength, manage their time and energy, and overcome the many trials through the weeks or months to come.
Hallie Gayle is a writer and world traveler with a range of experience in education, community development, and culture exchange. She has served in the Peace Corps and has taught English around the World. ExecuInsight LLC is thrilled to have Hallie on their team to provide expert writing services.