A Blog series by Elise Misse

Blog #22

How to Build Resilience

What Resilience means

Ever wondered how resilience is built or why resilience is important? While there are many definitions you might come across, such as this one or this one, there is no single universally agreed upon definition as such. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as: “The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress”. But there are other definitions too such as: “Surrounding yourself with like-minded and positive people, focusing on long-term goals and not instant gratification, and avoiding any negative news which may sour the mood”.

How Resilience is built – Best tried-and-true practices

Identify strengths and weaknesses

If you want to understand why resilience matters, especially in a workplace context, then you need to be aware of your emotions because that’s what resilience truly is at the core: having a high degree of self-esteem, always being in touch with your emotions and incorporating a coping mechanism (or several) in order to deal with changing circumstances.

I suggest keeping a journal to record your thoughts and emotions each day. Alternatively, you can hire a life coach to help you identify strengths and weaknesses and then write down what makes you unique as an individual. The more you know about your strengths and weaknesses, the better you will understand what resilience means in order to cope with and succeed in the workplace.

Embrace positive energy and supportive people

Do you want to know one of the keys of being really happy and building resilience at the same time too? Surround yourself with positive and supportive people who are quick to bring out the best in you (and not the other way around). You’ll be a much happier, more content and grateful at the end of the day!

As an added bonus, you’ll feel much more comfortable, and when things do get tough at work or even in life, you’ll be able to see the glass half full, deal with the accompanying challenges, and be kind to yourself. Keyword being “kind”!

Set boundaries

Want to know how to build resilience when things go wrong or when the odds are stacked against you? Learn to say “no”. It’s tough – I know – but it’s a highly effective emotional superpower! I usually want to be the first person to jump up and help someone when the situation calls for it, but we have to set limits, really. Being resilient often has to do with when to say no.

Practice self-care

Good self-care is a critical element of avoiding burnout at work or in life, in general. Therefore, to better understand how resilience is built, you have to take a step back and think about what matters to you the most. Take care of yourself, even if it means putting yourself first before others.

Get moving

Many people who wonder why resilience is important in business or how resilience helps mental health often overlook this one critical element: the human body’s ability to find happiness and contentment by simply moving!

Working out releases endorphins – or “happy hormones” – in the body, which can dramatically boost mood, mental health and our sense of wellbeing. Even your heart will thank you for it, and the fact that you’ll look younger than your age will be nothing to complain about!

The best part? You don’t even have to be a gym-goer. Anything from running or brisk walking to swimming, bodyweight movements at home or yoga, for example, will do just fine. As long as you’re moving in a way that you find challenging while burning a good amount of calories, you’ll feel much better about yourself and be happier as well as less stress-prone in general. Guess what? Our resilience level just went up by a few notches!

Set time aside for some “me time”

You need this, believe me, more than you need anything else! If you’ve ever wondered about questions like “can resilience be developed?” then it’s worth considering how taking time out for yourself can help you build it.

By focusing on your thoughts, goals, interests and the positive things in life that make you happy – you can truly focus on how to achieve these and, perhaps, the changes needed to reach the next level of happiness, accomplishment, or whatever your immediate goals are. Even a few hours every so often may be all you need.

Eat great food!

Surprised to see this one end up on the list? Don’t be – there’s plenty of research out there which shows how quality food, especially the kind we love the most, can help build confidence, resilience, and make us happier. In fact, it’s a great excuse to get away from it all and connect with people over a meal whose company we really enjoy. Yay – more resilience!

Take a weekend trip

Every now and then, we need to just take a break from it all. You’ve been working very hard and pushing the limits, clearly – so, why not reward yourself by checking out some sights and sounds? Depending on your budget, it could be somewhere in town, out of town, or even a country you’ve been longing to visit. Meet some new people, intermingle with their culture, and see where it all takes you. It’s a great opportunity to appreciate your life even more and better understand what truly makes you happy.

Employers should play their part too in helping employees build resilience

It’s just as important for employers to understand why resilience matters, especially when it comes to keeping women motivated and productive. This research indicates that women generally find it harder to build resilience at the workplace than men. After all, the burden of building resilience shouldn’t fall on the employee’s shoulders alone – there’s always more managers, employers and entire companies can do to build high levels of resilience in their employees:

Encourage healthy lifestyles

This is a relatively easy and cost-effective way to help each employee build more resilience. There’s a lot employers can do to promote the importance of healthy eating, regular exercise, good sleeping habits or an active lifestyle, for example.

One way to go about it is by having the team cast a vote to see who is interested in signing up for a corporate wellness and fitness programme. You may be surprised to see their enthusiasm and willingness! It’s a great way to show that employers care about employee wellbeing and you’d be amazed how it will boost motivation, productivity, focus and especially, resilience levels.

Out of shape employees who feel lethargic, tired, unmotivated, etc. or who deal with an unusually high volume of work each day may not be able to cope with the daily pressures and are far more likely to feel unhappy and unfulfilled at work – that’s a disaster waiting to happen, but one which employers can help avoid early on.

Acknowledge and reward progress

One of the things that disappoints workers to no end and especially makes them feel underappreciated is when they make contributions within the workplace and don’t get any kind of recognition or acknowledgement. As a result, their resilience levels can sink dramatically too. A number of global studies indicate that more than three quarters of people quit work, citing a ‘lack of appreciation’ as the reason for leaving.

It’s imperative that employers reward employees who contribute towards the ‘mission objectives’ – it will make them feel valued and give them a better sense of self-worth, not to mention how their resilience levels will soar.

Many companies have a formal rewards program in place while some even use a rewards software-based platform and gamification to ‘unlock’ specific rewards for employees as they hit milestones – so, it’s definitely worth looking into.

Provide adequate time for relaxation

Sure – there are coffee breaks at every workplace, but are employers offering an adequate timeout to employees each day to take a break from it all and just reflect on something other than work?

The mind and body need to rejuvenate every few hours, so apart from the usual lunch break, giving employees additional breaks to take a walk around the office block or even take a power nap (like they do in Japanese workplaces) is not a bad idea.

Encourage healthy activities and/or hobbies

This can be a difficult one to accomplish initially, because you will find that not all employees have the comfort level to talk openly about issues they are facing, for example, or what their key interests are, in this case. However, Managers should still sit down with employees and have a frank discussion about what truly sparks their imagination and what their idea of “fun” is. By showing that you care about their interests, it will not only encourage them to pursue their heartfelt hobbies, but also have a much better sense of happiness, fulfilment and psychological safety when coming to work. You can bet their resilience levels will go through the roof!

Formal counselling

Many workplaces have an active counselling program to help employees deal with any issues related to mental health or emotional wellbeing. Whether employers offer this for free or at a reasonable rate is up to them – one way or another, it will make employees feel that they have the necessary support when they need it.

Have an ‘open door’ policy to discuss workplace issues

In many companies, there’s a culture of not approaching the senior management or CEO in order to discuss workplace issues or, for example, poor working conditions. You need to do the exact opposite!

One way to accomplish this is to have an ‘open door’ policy where any employee, no matter what their status, can approach management directly to discuss areas of concern. This could be anything from bad or unfair working conditions to complaints about a specific employee behaviour. It’s important for employees to know that they have the power to speak up and highlight issues, without the fear of getting penalized or punished for it.

Promote teamwork and a positive working environment

When employees walk through those front doors each morning, they should never feel like they are in a maximum-security prison where their every move is being studied, and punishment for non-compliance is just around the corner!

Always be the first one to encourage teamwork – to let every employee know that they are a part of the team and everyone needs to work together to meet the company’s goals. A sense of camaraderie will boost everyone’s resilience levels for sure.

Closely monitor employee burnout

Unchecked levels of employee burnout is a major factor that leads to not only poor mental health and performance levels but also sinking resilience levels. It is, therefore, critical to monitor these levels regularly. Counselling and corporate wellness programs can both help deal with burnouts, but more importantly, prevent them in the first place!

Closing thoughts

After it’s all said and done, I just want you to remember this: building resilience when things go wrong is a good strategy to have, but that shouldn’t be the goal. No matter where things stand in your life at the moment, learn how resilience is built now! Take the above ways to heart and keep moving forward – resilience will help, no matter what kind of setbacks you’re dealing with, I can assure you.

About LEAD Network Europe

The LEAD Network Europe is a non-profit and volunteer-led organisation whose mission is to attract, retain, and advance women in the consumer products and retail sector in Europe through education, leadership, and business development. The LEAD Network is run by and for its members, women and men, and we value every individual for their unique perspective. With a primary focus on promoting gender equality the organisation strives for the advancement of women of every race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, educational background, national origin, religion, physical ability and lifestyle. Its vision is of a fair, diverse and vibrant industry where everyone can thrive. A diverse workforce where both men and women are enabled to contribute their full potential and lead their organisations to the next level of value creation. LEAD Network accounts for 18,000+ members – both women and men – from 81 countries.

For more information, please visit www.lead-eu.net