Resilience is our ability to deal with everyday stresses, bounce back from setbacks and perform at the best of our abilities. It is a great asset to have at work because it enables us to find ways to overcome difficulties, to meet important deadlines, and perform even in stressful conditions, including unexpected factors such as when a pandemic affects our lives.
We discussed re-entry anxiety in a previous article and how hard it was for many of us to come out of the first lockdown and face the world again with all the fears and anxieties the pandemic can bring. The uncertainty about what will happen in the coming weeks and months, people losing their jobs, altered working patterns including working from home or social distancing can really take a toll on our mental health and challenge our life balance. A lot of professional plans and hopes have to be postponed for many and therefore we need to find way to navigate these unprecedented times.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Many thrive when working as part of a team so working remotely can feel like the loneliest place in the world without being able to randomly pop into a colleague’s office or check in on how someone is doing over lunch break. This is why both leaders and employees of organisations need to make an effort to stay in touch with colleagues, now more than ever. Creating open communications in the workplace and sharing concerns and suggestions for improvements can create safer and healthier work environments. Understanding the challenges people are going through is key in finding positive solutions to ensure everyone feels supported and therefore happy and performing well. We shouldn’t be afraid to share how we feel and ask for support when needed as everyone is going through a lot of change at the moment.
ACKNOWLEDGING THE PRESSURE
A lot of us are used to working very hard and in auto-pilot, continuously allowing the pressure to pile on so it takes a certain amount of self-awareness and courage to acknowledge when we are struggling and can no longer face the present and more so, the future with serenity. When unacknowledged, stress and pressure can have a detrimental effect on our health. One of the first steps of using our resilience is simply to recognise that we all go through different emotions, both positive and negative, and that connecting with them isn’t threatening. Once we let ourselves feel uncomfortable emotion or tension, we’re already halfway towards positive change, learning or an emotional shift. We then have options like talking to a friend, a colleague, a boss or asking for help from a therapist or doctor.
RESILIENCE IS A MUSCLE
Think of resilience as one of the muscles in our body: the more we use it, the stronger and better it gets.
Resilience gives us the ability to cope with work and life challenges and respond constructively even when everything around us feels unfamiliar and uncertain. It’s our capacity to find within us new mental, physical, emotional resources to bounce back or overcome a difficulty. Resilience helps us adapt and maintain a flexible and creative attitude towards changes we find ourselves facing.
We build resilience by looking after ourselves, acknowledging the stress we are under and figuring out how we as an individual or a group can best face and solve the sources of stress. For those who don’t know how to understand and acknowledge what is truly happening within, the body is the easiest way to start. Our body, mind and emotions are so closely connected that they react in sync. Just pause for a moment while sitting in your chair at work or on your commute, check if you can feel tension in your neck or shoulder, see how your tummy feels, is it tense or relaxed, listen to your breath, is it shallow or comfortable? One crucial way to look after ourselves is to notice when we start experiencing stress in our bodies and find a way to release this before tension escalates. Practising relaxation techniques, looking after your sleep, alongside other positive lifestyle choices such as eating healthily and staying connected is vital to keeping stress under control. When stress is under control, we have more energy and are able to think more clearly, which contributes to connecting with and building resilience.
SOPHROLOGY FOR STRESS MANAGEMENT
What if the tension in our bodies unknowingly persists and we feel overwhelmed and unable to face our future? With Sophrology we learn to choose how to best use our mental energy by working on the mind/body connection. When we worry, we create negative scenarios in our heads, we imagine what could go wrong which may cause anxiety, or difficulties in our daily life.
Sophrology is an increasingly popular mental wellbeing practice using breathing, gentle movement and visualisation. You can practice just a few minutes a day and over a few days or weeks, you begin to feel a shift in your inner state and perception. You will be able to access the powerful resources you have within you, notably helping you sleep better, think more clearly, boost your energy and change your outlook on the future.
You can start with this very simple Sophrology exercise: when you start feeling anxious, shift your focus to your breathing. Inhale slowly through your nose expanding your belly, hold for a couple of seconds and then exhale slowly through the mouth deflating your belly. Your mind will be so busy concentrating on this exercise that it will not process any other thoughts. Deep breathing is one of the building blocks of Sophrology and together with visualisation and gentle movement it creates a sense of calm and balance. It can be done anytime and anywhere when you need a moment of calm.
CREATE YOUR OWN FUTURE
Sophrology teaches us to become more in tune with our bodies and to be able to observe our sensations in the present moment, to be grounded in the here and now so we can maximise our experiences.
But what do we do with our fears about the future? It’s only natural to worry about the future especially in the times like we live in. The good news is that we can teach our brain to recognise that the future doesn’t have to be a cause of anxiety but rather a source of hope. We can also choose not to be passive but to take an active role in shaping our own future and the way we perceive it.
A Sophrology tool that can help with this is ‘Futurization’: we use our creative mind to visualise overcoming difficult situations, being connected to our inner resources of confidence, calm or positivity. We teach our brain to project itself in successful moments which in turn starts to rewire our physiology and promote resilience. Seeing yourself in the future having already solved the problems you are currently facing has a strong influence on body, mind and emotion and during the practice people learn to recognise those new possibilities and can start to build on them in their daily experiences.
This helps us reframe our thinking to build a better future and take a different perspective in the way we see our work, our relationship or purpose. If we look at the positive contributions we make or are able to stay connected to what we truly value through our work, we are more likely to forge a positive path ahead.
Gaining a holistic view of our jobs, focusing on the present moment and preparing for our future, allows us to perform at work then leave the day’s work behind instead of thinking about what happened, what we could have done better or fretting about a future event.
Living in the present means “travelling light”- we don’t carry excess baggage (such as recurring disruptive thoughts, regrets, anxieties) and our mental clarity allows us to adapt better to situations. Being able to access a sense of calm any time we need it also means being able to use our creativity to find solutions to problems.
ACTION PLAN FOR THE FUTURE AT WORK
Apart from open communication, taking an active part in tackling stress for both employers and employees is key to building resilience. When we ignore early signs of stress, we are more likely to develop exhaustion which may affect performance and set us on a never-ending loop of stress. The Center for Workplace Mental Health from the American Psychiatric Association Foundation highlights the importance for employers to have measures in place to support employees’ mental and physical health.
As employees, we can take ownership of our situation, acknowledging when we are struggling, then discuss this if possible with co-workers (for example, asking for help to share the workload) and take action.
As a collective, we can all discuss what can make us better equipped to do our job with our employer, even changing corporate culture to create new processes. Employers need to understand the struggles their employees face as well as their own. This can also include having access to mental health support or to the necessary infrastructure for working from home on a permanent basis.
Sophrology can help us feel more grounded, resilient and focused as we go through these transitions. Guided body awareness and visualisation exercises are shared in the book The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology and in our online course to help you create a better, more positive future.