3 Ways to Boost Your Work Resilience

Find the means to bounce back from work stress.

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Amy Martinez_bio pic.jpg
Amy Martinez
Everyone has tough times—but some people seem to handle those times better than others. One co-worker might be a ball of anxiety, frustrated at every change. Another seems to figure out her next step easily and move on. What makes the difference? Resilience.

Resilience isn't the absence of stress, bad news, or difficult decisions. It's the ability to find new strength and bounce back—an essential skill for career success in today's topsy-turvy world.

If you aren't resilient, you will struggle in fast-paced, difficult, and ambiguous situations. If you're stressed, you won't perform your best—and your health will suffer as well.

Lacking resiliency also affects the people around you. It will drain the morale, productivity, and energy from your team or co-workers. Just being around you will increase other people's stress, making them wonder, "Will he be angry, reactive, anxious?" Getting your call, text, or email can turn their good day into a whirlwind of action or drama.

Being healthy, sane, and resilient allows you to bring your best self to the job and be a person other people want to work with—right now and over the long term.

Make these three actions a priority to build your resilience:

1. Take care of yourself. That inner voice that tells you to take better care of yourself is right. When you do, you'll find it's easier to cope with stress, difficulties, roadblocks, criticism, rejection, or change. Consider five types of health: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual.

  • What can you do to build physical energy? Get up and move every 90 to 120 minutes. Suggest a walking meeting with a co-worker. Climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Each week, do some sort of physical activity—get your sweat on.
  • What can you do to overcome mental fatigue and exhaustion? Take a break from the task at hand. Impose a change of scenery with a short mental vacation by daydreaming, solving a challenging puzzle, or practicing a simple meditation technique.
  • What can you do to become more conscious of your emotional triggers? Figure out who and what pushes your buttons. Slow down so you can manage your reactions and choose your response. Try the "third-party observation" technique: objectively see the various angles of this situation from different viewpoints, as if you were watching it unfold on film. Playing "witness" to your life allows you to regain a sense of perspective.
  • What can you do to create more meaningful and productive social relationships? Take an energy assessment of your relationships. Choose to spend more time around those who feed your growth and impart energy, and less around those who drain you.
  • What can you do to more effectively align your behaviors with your core values and purpose? Clarify what you value most, quiet your mind or think about what inspires you. Connect to your energy source: a person, an idea, a doctrine, or a concept.
  • 2. Focus on learning. Another way to deal with stressful, chaotic times is to learn from your past wins. Recall a time in your personal or professional life when you were able to overcome, prevail, bounce back, or rise above a difficult situation. Then ask yourself:

    • What happened?
    • What was I thinking and feeling at the time?
    • What did I do that helped me get through that situation?
    • What was I pleasantly surprised to learn about myself as I worked through the situation?
    • Your own experience can deliver great insight into how to manage your current situation. Find ways to repeat what worked—but also figure out what you could do differently.

      3. Get real. Understand that any time you encounter a career crisis or significant challenge, it's normal to experience a feeling of vulnerability. New jobs, no jobs, and crazy jobs will keep you outside of your comfort zone—maybe even for prolonged periods of time. And trying to be sane and resilient during these times isn't easy. Do your best and be compassionate with yourself and others as you work your way through.

      But remember, every time you find a way to learn from your tough experience, you build inner strength. When you look carefully for meaningful lessons, you deepen your resiliency reservoir. And with that extra resiliency, you become a more positive and productive person—and your career will benefit, too.

      Amy Martinez is a senior faculty member with the Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked, global provider of leadership education.