How can you build resilience at work?

How can you build resilience at work?

If you’re already in, or building your way into management ranks, emotional resilience is key. It’s how you handle difficult moments in your life and turn adversities into opportunities. As a manager, or even an employee for that matter is constantly exposed to setbacks, and putting out fires.  

To be better at handling curveballs at work, making better decisions, managing conflicts constructively, and preventing burnout, you need tremendous resilience. It may not be an easy trait to inculcate but when done, it can save you frustration, and maintain your wellbeing no matter what the circumstances are at work. This blog will give you some solid tips to develop resilience. 

Are we born resilient or do we learn from our experiences?

In an interview with Dhivya Sundarrajan, a Psychologist (Transactional Analyst), Professor of Social Work, and Learning Facilitator, she talks about how human beings perceive adverse situations and develop resilience. 

She says, “It starts in our childhood. As little kids, we couldn’t make meaning of the environment around us and our parental figures. Our brain wasn’t cognitively developed then, and we couldn’t perceive grown logic. So, we cooked up stories to make meaning of what was around us to survive.

In the process, we also picked up injunctions or dysfunctional beliefs from interactions with the parenting environment. Thoughts like ‘I should give up’, and ‘I shouldn’t exist in this world’ crop up at this stage. Children who grew up in toxic or abusive environments also develop beliefs like ‘I’m not worthy’, and ‘I’m the reason everything’s going wrong here’. These beliefs run deep and take root in our psyche.

This belief is slowly changed over time, with life experiences, and continuously combated by our primal instinct to survive. We’re all fighters in that context. Over time, the survival instinct, paired with adult awareness overpowers the internal negative beliefs (the ones we read before), and this is how we develop resilience. It’s the ability to change the narrative in our minds when faced with an adverse situation and try our best to climb out of it.” 

8 tips to build resilience at work

1. Start with yourself

People who are resilient start with self-awareness and self-acceptance first. When you recognize your patterns, the catastrophizing you do in your mind, and your record of the times you’ve successfully handled difficult situations at work, you begin to believe in yourself. As managers, you need to go a little further with this step. 

Take a macro view of your team, recognize their strengths and weaknesses impartially, and embrace individuals for their uniqueness. This is the first step to becoming resilient as a team.

2. Make time for mindfulness – dedicate 5 minutes to it during every break

Breathing exercises are the best way to ground yourself in any given moment. When you’re grounded, you perceive what you do, and what others do clearly, without projecting your feelings onto them. This helps you recognize and interpret how you manage your emotions. With this steady state of mind, you can advocate for yourself and your team when it comes to it, and protect your wellbeing. 

3. Share stories of learning from mistakes

Get together with your team, and start a practice of sharing your subtle vulnerabilities with them. Anecdotes of the times you committed a mistake, faced a tough time, failures, etc, with each other – when everyone shares and listens to each other, two things happen:

  • Your affinity for each other improves, and you feel accepted
  • You realize everyone makes mistakes and 

Dhivya Sundarrajan says, “In the order of survival, we become very adaptable beings. We learn qualities with time. Resilience can also be learned. You start inculcating the trait when you witness people around you being resilient in situations you thought were devastating.” 

4. Get more social support

Dhivya Sundarrajan says, “Primarily, we’re threatened by any impending danger to us. As social beings who are interdependent, we’re also threatened by any danger to our loved ones. In the modern context, we wouldn’t hurt our loved ones physically or emotionally. When they see us suffering and upset over a failure or a difficult situation, we know they will also be affected by it. This affinity for our people helps us overcome the limiting beliefs we have, and make us stand up to the situation at hand, hence improving our resilience.” 

This is why social support is important to start handling difficult situations effectively. When we have people who embrace us for who we are, we tend to gain confidence in ourselves. This applies to the workplace as well. If your team and manager have your back no matter what, and you know they’ll support you, you’re not hindered by roadblocks down the road.

Harvard Grant Study is a 75-year-old study that studied resilience, happiness, and wellbeing amongst 268 Harvard-educated men throughout their lives and has come up with the most effective coping mechanisms to develop resilience:

5. Practice altruism

Altruism, simply put is putting yourself before others. It includes helping others, volunteering, and showing kindness, which collectively is linked to higher life satisfaction. When we help others, our reward system is activated, serotonin is released, and we constantly look for opportunities to help others. To build resilience, it’s important to volunteer to help our people first. Make it a routine by checking in on your colleagues once in a while, and offering to do something they’ve been struggling to do at work. Not only will you have earned a friend, but you’ll feel good about your ability to make a difference, which will further boost your resilience. 

6. Make humour a regular part of your day

Finding humor to make difficult situations easier is a sure-shot way to build your resilience, and is a healthy coping mechanism to inculcate. It improves social interactions and relieves stress. Humour also reduces sensations of pain and stress. Train yourself to find joy, or fun on a regular day. This habit will kick in when you’re stressed and help you naturally ease out of it. Crack respectful jokes, or share a hilarious meme, or video with your team on a challenging workday, and witness what it does for your team.

7. Train yourself in sublimation

Sublimation is the process of channelling negative emotions like anger or frustration into productive energy, instead of suppressing or acting out. Use anger as motivation for creative or constructive pursuits. When routinely done, it can increase neuroplasticity and adaptability. This boosts self-efficacy and confidence in yourself. Identify hobbies that channel you into productive outcomes – painting, exercising, writing, or painting.

8. Consciously push away unhealthy emotions temporarily

It’s not the same as suppressing emotions. What we mean by pushing away is acknowledging your emotions and choosing not to focus on them at that time, to get done with the task at hand. This is a hard thing to do, but when you train yourself to take the emotion out of the equation and focus on your task until you’re in the right time and headspace to deal with it, you can take on almost anything in life, and still maintain your personal wellbeing. 

Want help practising these techniques, and incorporating them in your wellbeing journey? Contact us and talk to one of our therapists today. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are some signs that I need to work on my resilience?

Signs you need to work on resilience include feeling overwhelmed easily, difficulty coping with stress, and a lack of confidence in your abilities.

2. How can I support my colleagues in building resilience?

You can support your colleagues in building resilience by offering encouragement, being a good listener, and providing resources for self-care and stress management.

3. Can resilience help me overcome imposter syndrome?

Yes, resilience can help you overcome imposter syndrome by building your confidence, focusing on your strengths, and recognizing that setbacks are a natural part of growth.

4. Can resilience help me manage uncertainty in the workplace?

Yes, resilience can help you manage uncertainty in the workplace by fostering adaptability, creativity, and a positive outlook.

5. How can I bounce back from a mistake at work with resilience?

You can bounce back from a mistake at work with resilience by taking responsibility, learning from the experience, and focusing on solutions rather than dwelling on the past.