Imagine white water rafting down a fast flowing river, you’re being thrown from side to side; your raft is rising and falling, pitching and rolling – you feel sick, it’s relentless and you can’t even catch your breath. Then, you spot an eddy ahead, a placid area of water that’s protected from the torrent around you. You know you have to get back into the rapids, but you just need those few moments to gather your thoughts and summon the strength to keep going.
Now, thinking about your work, does any of this seem familiar? In the modern workplace, deadlines change, goalposts move and we’re expected to do more with less - it’s increasingly difficult to stay at peak performance. Ever feel like you need a second to catch your breath? You’re not alone.
Feeling overwhelmed at work is nothing new and the effects of this are well documented. In 2015/16, 11.7 million working days were lost to workplace stress. Clearly, there are thousands of people out there desperately in need of their own eddy.
So, what can you do? Well, firstly it’s important to recognise there are some things it’s difficult to change – your workload and the expectations placed on you by others. So, the logical place to start would be to focus your energy on what you can change. Below are some simple tips for building resilience that, when routinely enacted, will help you deal with the challenges of today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world and maintain a more consistent level of performance in your role.
1. Perspective: When we’re under pressure, it’s easy to blow things up to unrealistic proportions. Someone points out an error in one of your presentations and you think, “Why am I always singled out?” Your boss cancels a meeting and you think, “She takes no interest in my work. I get no support!” It becomes normal to view everyday events more dramatically and, importantly, more negatively than they actually are. It’s easy to slip into ‘victim’ thinking and match events to fit your narrative. When you find yourself asking “why me?” take that as a ‘red flag’; stop and challenge your own perspective. Think about all the times your manager has supported you or all the great feedback you’ve had. Is the world really against you or is that just a filter that you’re seeing it through in that moment?
2. Be thankful: Take a look around you – I’m sure you have a lot to be thankful for. People who were asked to keep a gratitude journal, noting simple things like spending time with a friend or what made them smile that day, found that their levels of happiness increased significantly in just three weeks. People who regularly practiced gratitude were more optimistic, positive and alert as well as more inclined to help others. Having a positive mind-set will really help you put things in perspective, which in turn will help you deal with the constant ‘white water’ that is the modern workplace.
3. Take time out: We have limited cognitive resources; when we become overloaded, we just don’t function well and our performance diminishes. We are less able to cope with problem-solving, creativity and decision-making. To be brutal, you are no good to your organisation if you are burnt out, making poor decisions and bringing others down with you. Find time to switch off and find your eddy – whether that’s family, friends or hobbies. The organisation doesn’t need heroes, it needs people that can perform consistently.
4. Breathe: As simple as it sounds, taking 10 minutes out each day to practice some thoughtful breathing – slow, deep breathing (5 seconds in, 5 seconds out) - can reduce anxiety and stress levels. It helps us quell the stress response that plays havoc with our body. Thoughtful breathing has been shown to reduce blood pressure, reduce levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the blood, improve the immune system and increase your general feeling of well-being. Thoughtful breathing is free and requires no specialist equipment – you really have got nothing to lose.
Resilience is not something people are born with; through deliberate and wilful practice you can increase your levels of resilience and find inner reserves you never knew existed. Why not start today? For more information on how to build resilience, you can view our free 40-minute webinar here.
Grahame Robb Associates Ltd are specialists in learning and development training that releases the potential of individuals, teams and organisations. Our Resilience for Results programme embraces cutting edge diagnostics technology, proven tactics and techniques as well as practical experiential learning exercises to provide delegates with the tools to enhance their mental, physical and emotional resilience in the workplace.
 Statistics - work related stress, anxiety and depression statistics in great Britain (GB) (2016) Available at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/ (Accessed: 14 February 2017).
 Lab, E. (2017) Gratitude and well-being. Available at: http://emmons.faculty.ucdavis.edu/gratitude-and-well-being/ (Accessed: 14 February 2017).