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Embracing Resilience and Adaptability to Conquer Stress

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My father always told me there are three things I could be certain of: death, taxes, and change.

Amy McCae, Founder of Creative Wellness, outlines how resilience and adaptability are two skills that one can develop which empower you to take control of your life, placing you firmly back in the driver’s seat, reducing stress.

Given the uncertainty in the world, workplace, and daily life the amount of stress generated may feel overwhelming. Adding juggling work and home life, reducing stress can seem insurmountable.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from challenging circumstances and to develop a growth mind-set seeing opportunities, even in difficult situations. Cultivating resilience requires building strong coping mechanisms and fostering social support systems.

Adaptability is the capacity to adjust to new situations, being flexible and open-minded in ever-changing circumstances. It allows you to respond more effectively. Being adaptable means thinking in different ways and changing perspectives.

According to McKinsey and Company building resilience and adaptability requires organisations to “practice wellbeing as a foundational skill.” Practicing wellbeing needs to take place on an individual level as well as within an organisation.

Very Well Mind suggests that: “Stress can be defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Stress is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action.”

There are steps you can take to respond to stress that in turn will also develop resilience and adaptability.

One step, first identified by psychiatrist Dr Daniel Siegel, is ‘Name it to Tame it’. What are you feeling? Name the actual emotion. When you are stressed, your amygdala is activated, keeping you stuck in fight, flight, or freeze mode. ​

Naming the emotion begins to rewire your brain to integrate and regulate the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex allows for executive and even visionary thinking. You begin to no longer react emotionally to stress and instead consciously choose, leading to better outcomes.

Cultivate compassion and curiosity for yourself

Another practice is to notice your thinking. You have over 50,000 thoughts a day and they are contributing to your stress. When you become aware of the habitual patterns of thinking that are shaping your reality you can change your life and change your perception. If you find the thoughts you think aren’t serving you one of the simplest and most profound things you can do is to ask yourself if they are true. Also, write down each one you notice as a reframe statement for each one. Let go of the negative self-talk. Literally throw out the paper with any negativity and say to yourself, no more. Negative and even biased thoughts won’t help anyone and will certainly increase your stress level.

What you resist persists acknowledging your thoughts and emotions. Everyone wants to be validated and this is one way to do that for you. It also opens your mind to new possibilities and perspectives. Invite your emotions and thoughts in for tea and make friends with them. Ask them what they need. Ask where the story you tell yourself comes from. Find out where the emotions reside in the body and anything about each one that you feel compelled to ask. Cultivate compassion and curiosity for yourself and the experiences just as you would a small child.

Another way to build resilience and adaptability is to reflect on all the times in the past that you overcame challenges. Clearly see and write down these experiences. You can also ask yourself the following questions: How well do you embrace change? New ideas? Perspectives? How do you handle setbacks?  Clarity creates confidence which leads to better decisions and emotional regulation and then you reduce stress.

Self-care is an obvious step but oddly we often need to be reminded. You must have sufficient reserves and be more like a punching bag to be able to bounce back in challenging times. There is a difference between self-care and self-maintenance. Consider this, make a list for both, and do both. Block them off in your calendar and protect your time.

Regarding organisational adaptability and resilience, there are countless questions to consider but here are a few to get started:

  • In what ways are we promoting work-life harmony?
  • ​How well do we embrace change? New ideas? Perspectives?
  • How do we foster a culture of compassion and empathy, where employees feel supported during challenging times?
  • What strategies can we employ to develop effective communication, so people feel heard and valued?
  • ​What risks are we aware of?
  • ​How do we handle setbacks?
  • What steps can we take to promote a sense of purpose and belonging within the organisation?
  • ​What opportunities for personal and professional development do we offer?
  • How are we addressing issues of burnout and mental health within the workplace, and what resources are available to support employees?
  • ​What employee wellbeing practices do we have in place? Are there opportunities for mindfulness practices or stress-reduction techniques integrated into our organisational culture?

If you begin with developing awareness and wellbeing for yourself, you can then begin to build resilience and adaptability, and hence reduce stress. For those leaders or those struggling with workplace challenges the change begins with awareness and intent to change as well.

One question at a time, one step at a time, leading with compassion and curiosity will reduce stress and improve all areas of life.

World Wellbeing Week 2024

June 24 – June 30

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