Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress---such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. Resilience is the ability to "bounce back" from difficult experiences. And it is a skill that can be learned. By teaching ourselves to reframe a difficult experience into a more constructive one, we can become more resilient.
Resilience in the Workplace
Many of us now work in constantly connected, always-on, highly demanding work cultures where stress and the risk of burnout are not uncommon. Since the pace and intensity of contemporary work culture are not likely to change, it's more important than ever to build resilience skills to effectively navigate your worklife. Rich Fernandez, former director of learning and organization development at Google offers this advice, "The most resilient individuals and teams aren't the ones that don't fail, but rather the ones that fail, learn and thrive because of it. Being challenged---sometimes severely---is part of what activates resilience as a skill set."
Here are some tips from the Harvard Business Review, based on neuroscience, behavioral and organizational research:
Exercise mindfulness. One way to define mindfulness is to turn off the automatic pilot that our minds frequently default to, and take control of our attention. People in the business world are increasingly turning their attention to mental-training practices associated with mindfulness---and for good reason. Social psychologists Laura Kiken and Natalie Shook, for example, have found that mindfulness predicts judgment accuracy and insight-related problem solving. Other researchers have found that mindfulness enhances cognitive flexibility and job performance, even after accounting for things like vigor, dedication and absorption. If you'd like to read more about this research click here.
Be selective and deliberate with your attention. One practical way to think about this is that, although you can't decrease the amount of information you receive (in your inbox, for example), you can optimize the way you process that information. Be deliberate about compartmentalizing different types of work activities such as emailing, strategy or brainstorming sessions, and business-as-usual meetings. According to recent research published by the American Psychological Association, switching from one type of task to another makes it difficult to tune out distractions and reduces productivity by as much as 40%. Allotting specific times for each task can help eliminate the cross talk and distractions.
Take detachment breaks. Throughout the workday, it's important to pay attention to the peaks and valleys of energy and productivity that we all experience, what health psychologists call our ultradian (hourly) as opposed to our circadian (daily) rhythms. Mental focus, clarity and energy cycles are typically 90-120 minutes long, so it is useful to step away from our work for even a few minutes to reset energy and attention.
Learn to Respond, Not React. The process of being able to pause, to observe the experience from a neutral standpoint, and then to try to solve the problem develops mental agility. When we are able to cognitively take a step back from our experience and label our thoughts and emotions, we are effectively pivoting attention from the narrative network in our brains to the more observational parts of our brains. Being mentally agile, and de-centering stress when it occurs, enables the core resilience skill of "response flexibility."
Cultivate compassion. One of the most overlooked aspects of the resilience skill set is the ability to cultivate compassion---both self-compassion and compassion for others. According to research cited by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, compassion increases positive emotions, creates positive work relationships, and increases cooperation and collaboration. To learn more about compassion training, visit Stanford University's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research.
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