Resilience for Work and Life
by Jane Perry, Business Psychologist & Coach, Founder C Zone Coaching and Consultancy
Are there certain things that are almost certain to send you into orbit? Are you sensitive to particular people, attitudes or types of behaviour? Do you find yourself reacting with a familiar negative or unhelpful response when something or someone triggers you? Feeling emotions such as anger, embarrassment, resentment, disappointment and hurt are part and parcel of being a thinking, feeling human being, however, if you find your reaction to certain triggers become troublesome then it is worth exploring some ways to regain emotion control.
You know your emotional responses are not serving you well if you are regularly feeling anxious in certain scenarios or with certain people. You might excessively ruminate on what has happened, lie awake playing back what has been said or you might have regrets about how you reacted in front of others when triggered. When you respond in any of these ways you are seldom in control.
Resilience is often described as the capacity to bounce-back from setbacks and challenges, however, if you keep responding negatively to the same types of difficulties or hurts, then your resilience or capacity to recover is undeniably going to weaken over time. At work, given the myriad of relationships, tasks, outputs and responsibilities that people generally have to manage, feeling confident and in control is important.
Difficult relationships was highlighted as the number one cause of work-related stress in a recent large research study of UK employees; followed by volume of work; and the third cause was feeling criticised. This was backed up by HSE figures which highlighted work pressures and difficult relationships as the most common precipitating events leading to work-place stress. Anxiety, depression and stress account for almost 39% of all absences from work in the UK and in Ireland, even with a determined reluctance to report stress on sick certs, stress, anxiety and depression now accounts for 24% of noted illnesses. To put this problem into context, the 2014 EU Labour Force survey quoted a figure of €614bn as the annual cost of work-related depression across the member countries.
So resilience is far more than continuously bouncing back. Resilience, first and foremost is about belief. We are resilient when we believe we are strong enough to deal with life's difficulties; when we feel we have some control over our lives and work; and we are confident that we can master our emotions and our reactions.
Like all personal change, the starting point is self-knowledge and self-awareness. When starting out on a journey of self-knowing, it is critical to go about it in a positive and constructive way. The process of analysing and evaluating ourselves must come with self-compassion, acceptance and a dose of healthy intention. Whether we are trying to work it out for ourselves or working with a coach or other professional, the first step is to understand why certain scenarios trigger certain responses. If we can decipher this puzzle we can then turn our attention to what purpose our reactions serve. This can be a difficult process and what we learn is often quite a surprise.
When committed to change, we must then change our relationship with the trigger or find a workable alternative to the response. Understanding why we react as we do and having a workable alternative may be enough to bring about sustainable change. However, most of us are reacting from almost an unconscious state; an autonomic response or habit. We then need to find a tiny gap between the trigger and our response; an instant which allows us to pause. This tiny gap gives us enough time to recognise what is happening and to choose our new learned way.
Different professionals use different methods of interpreting and helping client to control and choose their responses. I use a combination of mindfulness and visualisation to interpret the triggers and responses; positive interventions to broaden perspectives; knowledge of how the brain works & specific techniques to create understanding;character strengths and personal values so the client can choose the best method of responding for him or her; and of course focused coaching conversations
It is a challenging but uplifting experience and it works. When you find that gap and you take control of how you respond emotionally and externally, you have built the skill of resilience that last a lifetime.
Jane is the founder of C Zone Coaching and Consultancy, a business dedicated to helping people thrive and flourish at work. Jane is a Business Psychologist and Coach who specialises in building Resilience, Strengths-based coaching and fostering positive cultures and behaviour at work. She has an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology, a Post Graduate Diploma in Personal Construct Psychology (Orgs). She is also a certified Strengthscope Practitioner, Mindfulness Therapist and EMCC member.