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Personal Insights on Embracing Resilience and Managing Stress

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I have long advocated for resilience and stress management, alongside compassionate leadership, to enhance wellbeing and business success.

Yet, a recent month spent away from home for medical reasons offered many unexpected, interrelated insights on resilience that could well be transformative in a professional context.

Here are nine of them.

1. The power of physical and mental space

One of the most striking observations of being away from routine responsibilities allowed me to create a new kind of space – a physical and mental breathing room that was both healing and illuminating. It allowed me to focus on the present, reducing the noise of everyday stresses.

For business professionals, this highlights the necessity of stepping back from the day-to-day and establishing clear boundaries between professional and personal demands. Creating the room to breathe doesn’t just aid recovery; it can spark creativity and enhance problem-solving abilities.

Periodic disconnection from daily operations through short breaks or longer periods away can rejuvenate both mind and body, enhancing our effectiveness upon return.

2. Routine redefined

Away from home, my daily routine was simplified, as I focused on only essential activities. This provided me a valuable lesson in adaptability and resilience, and the value of flexibility – crucial in managing stress and preventing burnout.

This flexibility is also a lesson for businesses: the ability to pivot and redefine processes can lead to greater efficiency and resilience, helping teams to respond to challenges with agility.

3. New perspectives

It was also a month for new perspectives. Originally championed by Tim Ferris, ‘mini retirements’ involve taking a month or more away from work to immerse oneself in a completely new experience. It’s not something I had experienced before, although having had to be away for an extended stay, I would certainly say I returned with a fresh perspective and renewed energy, even in the most stressful of times.

Many businesses already do adopt similar concepts, even offering sabbaticals, to help employees reset their stress levels and return with renewed energy. It is most definitely worth considering. Afterall, a change is as good as a rest.

4. Moving more for mental health

Movement, which is one of the most valuable things we can do for our overall health and wellbeing, was a daily practice I embraced through walking extensively while away.

Physical activity improves our mental health, indeed, last week, the theme for Mental Health Awareness Week was ‘Movement: Moving More for Our Mental Health.’ Regular physical activity boosts health and happiness by releasing feel-good hormones, which can reduce anxiety and stress, and improve sleep.​

In the workplace, it can give us a sense of achievement and creates a positive impact on our focus, motivation, and productivity. Going to speak with a colleague instead of emailing, taking the steps instead of the lift, and scheduling a quick walk around the block, are just three great ways of keeping active during the working day.

5. The importance of support systems

My time away highlighted the importance of a solid support system, from healthcare professionals to family and friends.

Similarly, in a business context, building a strong and supportive organisational culture with open communication where employees feel heard, valued, and understood, can alleviate stress, help prevent burnout, and enhance job satisfaction among team members.

6. Finding solace in simplicity

Living with fewer distractions and a simplified lifestyle helped reduce stress and promote mental clarity.

In the business world, this might mean reducing bureaucratic hurdles, prioritising, or simplifying tasks, streamlining processes, reducing unnecessary complexities, delegating, and redefining workflows, thus decreasing the cognitive load on employees, and improving productivity, clarity, and focus. Less can often be more in a high-stress business environment.

7. Mindfulness and reflection

I found the practice of mindfulness and periods of reflection to be instrumental in maintaining calm and coping with stress. My go-to technique is 4-7-8 breathing.

Simply breathe in for a count of four – hold for seven – and breathe out for a count of eight. It will easily and quickly calm the nerves, even in high-pressure situations.

For business professionals, integrating these practices into the daily routine can maintain calm, reduce stress, improve focus, and aid decision-making, whilst also preventing the onset of burnout by fostering a greater sense of control and tranquillity.

8. The beauty of quality time

Spending uninterrupted quality time with my husband underscored the importance of being present with loved ones.

Businesses can apply this lesson by encouraging employees to safeguard work-life balance, through setting boundaries to protect one’s personal time. This will maintain emotional wellbeing and overall health.

It also applies to quality time spent with colleagues which will strengthen team camaraderie and build trust and rapport.

9. The freedom of unstructured time

The liberating effect of unstructured, obligation-free time was profound. In the world of constant connectivity, giving ourselves permission to disconnect, to enjoy a quiet cup of coffee, and to sit still with our thoughts is revolutionary. As Bertrand Russell wisely said: “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

In business, creating space to step back and just ‘be’ without immediate goals or tasks can lead to a more reflective, creative approach to work. Detaching, even temporarily, is empowering, and recognising that issues will wait, and very often be resolved with better answers that come from a rested and refreshed mind, is a game changer.

By creating space, improving adaptability and flexibility, seeking fresh perspectives, keeping active, supporting one another, simplifying our approach, and incorporating periods of reflection, quality time and strategic breaks, we can handle stress more effectively. These strategies not only improve our own resilience but also enhance our professional performance, setting a powerful example.

World Wellbeing Week 2024

June 24 – June 30

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