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  1. Resilience: not just bouncing back, but bouncing forward

    November 15, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Nothing could be more important than education, experience and training in determining who succeeds, right? Wrong. It turns out that the quality of resilience – the ability to rise above and bounce forward from adversity – is the biggest factor determining success and failure. 

    Josie Thomson, coach, presenter and change leadership expert, explains that when we are faced with adversity, some of us adapt and transform while others do not. If we are able to bounce forward when we have been challenged, we will grow our resilience and increase our chances of success. We can learn to build resilience by using adverse experiences as stepping stones for the future.

    ‘We determine whether an  experience makes us bitter or better’, says Thomson.

    So how can we build the resilience that will make us successful in work and in life? Thomson drew on her own experience as a two-time cancer survivor and on her masters degree in neuroscience to create a strategy involving two things not to do and five things to do to build resilience.

    HOW TO BOUNCE FORWARD: What not to do

    DON’T immediately express your feelings or react just because you feel something. Allowing ourselves to experience the emotion, but not to ‘vent’, builds resilience. We are unlikely to learn a positive lesson if we react in the moment; in fact, we are likely to make the situation worse.  If a colleague is dragging their heels on completing part of a project or your manager is not explaining a vital part of a piece of work clearly, it’s tempting to express your irritation – but that doesn’t mean you should.

    DON’T suppress the feeling either. Doing so elicits the ‘fight or flight’ response in the brain. If you walk into a meeting feeling angry, and a colleague says, ‘how are you?’, instead of answering ‘fine’ when clearly you are not, and this becomes obvious to everybody in the meeting, it is better to say, ‘not too good thanks, but I’m not going to talk about it now’.  Suppressing feelings can cause us to ‘argue with reality’, explains Thomson, and that leads us to suffer rather than to bounce back.

    HOW TO BOUNCE FORWARD: Five things you should do

    You didn’t get the promotion you really wanted, and you want to crawl under your desk in despair. You were depending on a colleague to give you this month’s figures, and they’re not ready for your meeting in 10 minutes time. What would a resilient person do? How can you learn from these apparent disasters?  Here are Thomson’s five tips for what you should do in a situation that threatens to derail you.

    1. Name the feeling. Thomson explains that the brain finds certainty when you label the feeling: ‘I’m frustrated’, for example. This allows you to move on. She warns against rumination, however, stressing that you should name the feeling and then move on.

    2. Reappraise the threatening situation. How we assess a negative event depends a lot on our ‘hard wiring’, which in turn is based on our experience. But, says Thomson, this is not the complete picture; it is only a version of reality based on what you know. ‘Step back and see the whole picture’, she suggests, ‘and ask how you can see this as an opportunity and not a threat.’ For example, if you didn’t get a position you applied for; rather than seeing this as a failure, reappraise it and see it as a step in the right direction that allowed you to practice your interview skills.

    3. Distance yourself. Take a break and put some distance between you and the trigger, and do something to distract yourself, such as going for a short walk. ‘Do something that is both good to you and good for you’, advises Thomson. ‘If it’s a big trigger, observe the 24-hour rule – sleep on it’, she counsels. This gives the ‘threat response’ in your brain and nervous system time to damp down.

    4. Practice calming techniques and mindfulness. Once the preserve of hemp-clad hippies with a penchant for chanting, mindfulness and meditation are becoming more and more mainstream. With good reason – they are scientifically proven to work in reducing stress and anxiety. There are many apps and websites that offer mindfulness meditation instructions and exercises, including Josie Thomson’s own site and Headspace, which offers a free 10-day trial of its app.

    5. Show gratitude and appreciation. Appreciating what we have trains our brain to look for positive messages in everything, a fundamental ingredient for resilience. This can be hard, as it seem our brains are inherently biased towards the negative and being grateful means we are working against our hard-wiring. When we learn to acknowledge this and move on, Thomson says, we can begin to be grateful. ‘ Happy people are not necessarily grateful’, she explains, ‘but grateful people are certainly happier.’

    Josie Thomson’s final message about resilience is this: ‘Pain in life is inevitable. It’s how we learn and grow. Suffering is optional, while growth is intentional.’

     


  2. Learn and grow during Mental Health Month in October

    October 4, 2016 by Alison Hill

    October is Mental Health Month. Even if you are not one of the approximately 45% of Australians who will suffer from a mental health problem at some stage, you are bound to know somebody who does – very likely including a colleague.

    Work is becoming ever more complex and demanding. The scope, scale and speed of businesses is constantly accelerating, as and IBM study in late 2015 found. Over 5000 executives in 70 countries reported that work was always busy, and at times frenetic, and related this to technological disruption and radically different business models as business becomes more competitive.

    It’s no wonder that the World Health Organization describes stress as the ‘global health epidemic of the 21st century.’ Three-quarters of us report feeling moderately to highly stressed by work, according to a Global Corporate Challenge survey of over 4,500 companies, and 36% of employees said they felt ‘highly or extremely stressed at work’.

    Mental Health Month is the ideal time for organisations to focus attention on this problem. Talking about mental health issues is a great way to start, so if your organisation has not put it on the agenda, make this the month you do so. It’s proven to lower health care costs, absenteeism and turnover, and leads to higher productivity. PwC research in 2014 calculated that programs that fostered resilience and a mentally healthy workplace returned $2.30 for every dollar spent.

    Mental health organisation Wellness at Work is offering an online program, which they describe as ‘an easy and inexpensive way for people to build the fundamental skills for facing mental health challenges at work, without needing to disclose their challenges to anyone at work if they don’t wish to.’ The program runs all month, with both paid and free options for participating.

    Here’s a taste of what the program has to offer.

    How to move from functioning to flourishing at work & in life

    Positive psychology expert Michelle McQuaid  presents this talk about how a growing body of evidence is finding that there are small, practical, excuse-proof steps you can take to improve your chances of consistently flourishing.

    Managing work intensity – how to maintain your wellbeing in a fast-paced workplace

    This one acknowledges that work can become too busy and too intense. Psychologist Nicole Plotkin will share some simple strategies for staying calm, managing your stress and keeping a clear head – even when there’s chaos all around you.

    This one looks like a winner: Difficult people made easy: how to handle challenging interpersonal situations at work.

    Hear Eleanor Shakiba, author of Difficult People Made Easy explain three simple tools for handling toxic team dynamics, challenging customer behaviours or emotionally fraught conversations.

    Psychologist, bullying expert, author and speaker Evelyn Field OAM  talks about Understanding workplace bullying… and how to deal with it. Hear why it occurs, the damage it causes to employees and organisations, and what employees, managers and organisations can do to prevent bullying and manage it respectfully when it occurs.

    Also from Wellness at Work is How to build resilience to job burnout. Adele Sinclair explains that burnout is a distinct condition, different to stress and exhaustion. In this talk, Adele will share what she has learned from her own multiple experiences of job burnout and how you can protect yourself from having similar experiences.

    See the full program at http://wellnessatwork.com.au/expo-fr-lounge/

    Of course there are many ways to learn and grow your awareness of mental health issues at work. There are many websites, books and apps that can help with stress, particularly those that present structured approaches to mindfulness.  Read Fully Present: The Art, Science and Practice of Mindfulness by Susan L. Smalley and Diana Winston, or Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Danny Penman and Mark Williams. Useful apps include Headspace and Simple Habit. Find more on the Dummies website.

    The challenge is to go further than this, argues Carlo Caponecchia, Senior Lecturer in the School of Aviation at UNSW. He writes on The Conversation that ‘Workplaces need to move beyond promoting mental health awareness and start changing the way work is designed to prevent psychological harm… By all means raise awareness, support people, and show them where to get further help. But re-design a policy, consult about new supervision practices, challenge a long-held cultural belief, and maybe everyone’s mental health at work will improve just a little.’

     


  3. What Resilient People Don’t Do

    January 27, 2015 by Jenna

    We all respond to change differently. For some of us it comes naturally and we can go with the flow, as for others, having that sense of security removed can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Regardless of which type of person you are, it is important to develop resilience so that we can continue to move towards our goals regardless of the situation.

    So what does it take to be an emotionally resilient person? Perhaps it is best to start by clarifying what they don’t do in order for us to understand what it takes to be resilient. An article by Brad Waters in Psychology Today will be my inspiration for this week and I have outlined ten of his points below:

    1. They don’t cross their own boundaries – Resilient people understand that there is a separation between who they are at their core and the cause of their temporary The stress/trauma might play a part in their current story but it does not overtake their permanent identity.

    2.They don’t surround themselves with bad company– In any environment, your behaviour can be greatly affected by the people you surround yourself with. Resilient people surround themselves with other resilient people who give them space to grieve and work through their emotions. These supporters know when to listen and when to offer enough encouragement without trying to solve the problem, allowing the individual to remain in control of their decisions. Good company will help calm a situation as opposed to adding frustration to it.

    3. They don’t avoid self-awareness – Being ‘blissfully unaware’ can get us through a bad day but it’s not a very wise long term strategy. Self-awareness helps resilient people to know what they need, what they don’t need and when it’s time to reach out for extra help.

    Prideful stubbornness without emotional flexibility or self-awareness can make us emotional glaciers. While strong on the outside to stay afloat, you can get prone to massive stress fractures when experiencing unexpected changes in your environment.

    4. They don’t pretend there isn’t a problem – Pain is painful, stress is stressful and healing takes time. Resilient people understand that stress/pain is a part of living that ebbs and flows. As hard as it is in the moment, it’s better to come to terms with the truth or pain than to ignore it, repress it, or deny it.

    5. They don’t ignore quiet time – Some of us find the best ways to cope with stress and anxiety is to dull out with distractions such as television, eating, drinking too much etc. While not all distractions are bad, you still need to be mindful of the current situation you may be in and not use distractions as a means of avoiding problems. Somewhere in between shutting down or ramping up is mindfulness – being in the presence of the moment without judgement or avoidance. It takes practice, but finding a quiet space to reflect is well renowned for healing and resilience-building.

    6. They don’t presume to have all the answers – Sometimes we try too hard to find answers in the face of stressful or traumatic events, that activity can block the answers from naturally arising in their own due time. Resilient people can find strength in knowing they do not have it all figured out right now. They trust they will gradually find peace when their mind/body is ready.

    7. They don’t put self-care aside – Resilient people have a list of good habits that support them when they need them most. Anyone can build their own list by noticing those things that recharge their batteries and give them a boost.

    8. They don’t underestimate the importance of team input – Being resilient means knowing when to reach out for help from others. It also means knowing who will serve as a listening ear, and who won’t. A supporting team will help you reflect back on issues where you may have been too emotional or overwhelmed to do so at the time they occured.

    9. They don’t overlook other possibilities – Resilient people can train themselves to ask which parts of their current story are permanent and which parts can possibly change. This helps to maintain a realistic understanding that the present situation may be coloured by their current interpretation. Our interpretations of our stories will always change as we grow and mature.

    10. They don’t dwell on issues – When we’re in the midst of stress and overwhelmed, our thoughts can go at a hundred miles an hour. Resilient people can find reprieve accepting the situation and moving on. One technique that works for some people is the write down the issues causing the current stress.

    While writing is one resilience strategy you can keep in your back pocket, there are other ways that resilient people can get out of their head. Examples include healthy distractions like going to the gym or going for a walk, cooking or baking, volunteering or any self-care items as per point #7.

    How have you built resilience in times of change or difficult situations?




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