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5 Ways to Build Resilience During Tough Times

Editors Note: This guest post by Nick Hedges originally appeared on LinkedIn. His opinions are his own.

Life doesn’t always work out the way you think it will. You may think you are on a path. Things are going well. All your ducks are in a line. And then when you least expect it, everything changes.

Let’s suppose you recently commenced a new job. You are excited. The role is challenging but well within your skill set. The work seems interesting. The office culture appears to have all the hallmarks of a friendly, upbeat vibe. Your boss comes across as supportive. You are really feeling good about the move. And indeed during the first few weeks everything is going ever so well. Until suddenly it isn’t! Your boss starts to be more critical and you start to feel undervalued and negative. These negative thoughts start to dominate and they start to become self-fulfilling. You are suddenly in a bad place and need to find ways to deal with these feelings.

If you are an employer reading this post, stop and think for a moment whether you could potentially be “the boss” in the above scenario.

It reminds me of a recent investigation that I was involved in undertaking.

An employee (let’s call her ‘’Julia’’) was working in a small team. She was a high achieving manager but suddenly found herself faced with an allegation of bullying by a colleague (let’s call her ‘’Jennifer’’) with whom she had worked for several years. This evolved into a really challenging situation for Julia and her team.

The complaint led to an externally run investigation where her whole character and professional reputation were suddenly under scrutiny. Julia was left feeling totally overwhelmed and distressed, particularly because she had not been aware of any issues between Jennifer and herself prior to the complaint.

The investigation process was most challenging for Julia. She felt that her personality, work style and colleague relationships were being investigated and analysed. It was not an easy time and Julia had no choice but to pick herself up and keep going.

Julia’s response to this situation is the essence of resilience and this has made me realise that we can all learn strategies to cope in times of adversity.

Here are my 5 tips on how to build resilience in difficult times:

1. Talk it out

One of the best ways to cope with adversity is by talking with others.

Research put out by the NSW Mental Health Association has shown that talking through our challenges with another person enhances resilience. There are several factors that can impede on resilience – working in unsupportive environments; lack of connectiveness with others; and not looking after ourselves physically and emotionally.

Talking it out with others is particularly beneficial to ensure mental wellbeing. RUOK Day took place a month ago on September 14th 2017. The message is very relevant to the example of Julia and Jennifer (both for employers and employees alike), and no doubt also applies in other workplace environments and even with our friends and family at home.

More on RUOK later.

2. Focus on the things you can control

We often spend far too much time worrying about other people and situations or environments which we cannot control. If we resolve to focus rather on what we can control i.e. the way we behave and react to people and situations then we will find ourselves spending a lot less time trapped in negativity and feeling overwhelmed.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could find an ‘on/off switch’ for focusing on the negatives and things we have no control over!

In the earlier example, Julia really had to focus on the elements she had control over, such as the way she behaved toward Jennifer and her team mates during and after the investigation and this proved to be helpful. Ruminating over the situation would have been counterproductive.

3. Ask for help from others

The message of RUOK is a really simple and great one. Sometimes we are afraid to talk to people we work with for fear of seeming unstable or weak. The RUOK message is about listening without judgement and offering assistance if you notice another person who is needing to be heard and understood. Julia tended to stay alone in her situation as she was so devastated at the way in which her unintentional behaviour had been misconstrued.

4. Be healthy from the inside out

It’s all too easy with the hectic schedules and demands in busy life to get caught up with work and career, household tasks, children, family and friends while neglecting our own physical and mental health.

When was the last time you exercised, did yoga or meditation or even sat down and ate without rushing? We are so time poor that focusing on me is usually the very last priority on the list. This is where workplaces can help with wellbeing initiatives as a means of building a resilient work culture through activities provided in the workplace such as massages, yoga, team sports, healthy food options readily available and opportunities to engage with team mates.

5. Participate in networking and engaging in positive activities

Put simply – Have fun!

Did you know that laughter is really good for you? The benefits have been proven to reduce cortisol levels (stress hormones), lower blood pressure, work your abdominal muscles and create an overall sense of wellbeing. (Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan, Loma Linda University California). So, in fact doing something silly, watching comedy, having a laugh with friends are some of the best things you can do to feel good and cope in difficult times.

So there you are. Some practical ways that you can feel more resilient when times are tough or seemingly so anyway … yes even if you are an employer.

Don’t forget to ask your friends, family, colleagues and team members, RUOK? Not just on RUOK Day … but every day.

Nick Hedges

Nick Hedges is the founder of Resolve HR, a Sydney-based HR consultancy specialising in providing workplace advice and training to managers and business owners.

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