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Resilience tips as we return to the office

Victoria MacLennan. 04 May 2022, 11:05 pm
Resilience tips as we return to the office

Wikipedia describes psychological resilience as an individual's ability to successfully cope with adversity. There is no question we have all dealt with adversity in the last 2 years, and here we are facing the challenge of navigating yet another new norm - starting to travel again, returning to our offices, attending large gatherings; meanwhile Russia has invaded the Ukraine, new strains of Covid keep emerging, inflation and the cost of living are escalating - we have a lot to deal with right now.

Resilience isn't programmed into us by default, it's something we can learn and develop and occasionally need a reminder of how. So feeling slightly overwhelmed at the realisation it's already May, with a jam packed month ahead, an ever increasing to do list and ambition to burn, I remembered a blog I wrote back in 2018 on The Art of developing Resilience so thought it was worth a quick recap.

As we start to return to the office, interact with our colleagues in person again, here are a few reminders on how to build resilience in the workplace.

What size is your jar?

We've all heard the Rock, Pebbles, Sand and Water story before (teacher illustrates to their class by filling a jar with rocks, adding pebbles, adding sand and water) to illustrate why it's so important to focus on the rocks in our lives - the important things like our whānau, our friends, our health.

If you haven't considered it before it's worth taking stock and asking yourself do you know how big your jar is? And what capacity you can take on before feeling overwhelmed?
The answers to these questions are different for everyone, some of us have more capacity than others, can fit in more "small stuff". Don't get jar envy! we see others appearing to do so much more than we are so we push ourselves beyond our own capacities to level up with them. Focus on yourself, try to look for your own telltale signs of stress.

Resilience at work

We all experience stressful situations in the workplace from time to time so keeping some simple techniques in mind to help both in the moment and on an ongoing basis, here are some tips I have utilised in the past you could also try:

  • "Smile and Wave" - doesn't sound very resilient but if you find yourself at the sharp end of a difficult meeting or discussion, or in a room full of angry people (directed towards either you, your team or others) not reacting in the moment will help ensure you don't say or do something you could regret and help you defuse your feelings in the moment. Be present, listen and digest but don't retaliate or react. This technique creates a small level of cognitive distance from what is going on in the moment and gives you time to process before reacting. Smile and wave, give it a try next time.
  • Physically detach - we have all been working from home for so long it's going to feel strange returning to an office. Find yourself a place to go when you feel overwhelmed, a 10 minute walk routine, or a relaxing place to sit in the sunshine is a great technique to restore perspective. I am always amazed at how different a difficult situation looks after talking a walk in the fresh air, always. My advice is to make this place outside your office, don't run to the toilet as this can create a range of different stresses, go outside.
  • Make resilience part of your daily routine - some people swear by a long list of apps (just type resilience in on the app store and you will see there are many), find things that lift your energy eg: exercise before work or yoga at lunchtime, and programme them into your day.

As a women, I often suffer from emotional overload at work trying to ensure it's a welcoming environment embracing manaakitanga, ensure my team are all thriving - and especially in our very male dominated industry - protect the more vulnerable around me from stress or overload. This is difficult to just turn off so my advice to other women is sometimes you need to be selfish, look after yourself first.

Resilience in life generally

Whether at work, at home, when we are volunteering or when something goes wrong at the supermarket there are many times in our lives resilience techniques can help. Here are a few tips you might find useful:

  • Learn your triggers - try to create little techniques to identify when your coping measures are getting low. Mine are - I start to see the negative in everything, my responses to questions get short and I struggle to concentrate. What are yours?
  • There are two sides to every story - when you are struggling it's easy to feel like everyone is against you. This isn't necessarily true. Everyone has crap going on in their lives so confrontational or conflicting situations might just be down to a moment in time. Equally, if you can step into the shoes of others you interact with, see the world from their perspective it goes a long way towards feeling more informed and empowered - which leads to a really important skill:
  • Cultivate (appropriate levels of) Compassion - we all have differing emotional quadrants (EQ). For some of us compassion doesn't come naturally and we forget the impact we have, yet for others compassion can become overwhelming soaking up the stress of people in our lives. Cultivating an appropriate level of compassion is itself an art that can become a great tool to help us cope in times of stress.

Finally, if you are not getting the engagement or reaction you want - whether in a shop trying to strike a deal, at work trying to deliver a project or at home trying to get the neighbours to trim their hedges - think about your approach, what the other parties motives are, what their perspective might be and whether you could maybe change tact to get a different outcome? Looking for a solution rather than putting up barriers can create a completely different engagement experience.

You are not alone

We all have shite to deal with. Look around you, everyone is dealing with their own challenges - they might just be better at hiding the stresses of their lives by employing great resilience techniques. Remember we've all had 2 years unlike any before as well, you aren't the only one feeling stress.

Equally you don't need to go through everything alone, finding a mentor is a great tactic for both supporting you to reach your aspirational goals, helping you become more self aware and cope with the challenges you encounter at work.

If these techniques aren't enough your employer might have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) you can tap into, you can talk to your people manager, someone you trust or contact one of the various mental health support services listed below. Most of all take care of yourself.

Hope these tips help. Ngā mihi for reading. Vic

Mental Health Contact Details:

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