Top tips to build personal resilience in the workplace


Posted on: Jul 13, 2015 by Andrew Kinder

I’ve talked in detail before about the cult of busy and how, with the pressures of everyday life and work, we seem to have fewer hours in the day than ever before. We all have a notion about our own stress levels, but it can be quite overwhelming to try and manage this. A much more positive way to deal with stress is to build what is termed as our personal resilience. Here, I look at the features of stress and personal resilience and give my thoughts on the coping resources you can use in the workplace to ensure a healthy balance.

Building resilience in the face of stress

According to Stephen Palmer[1], ‘stress is the psychological, physiological and behavioural response by an individual when they perceive a lack of equilibrium between the demands placed upon them and their ability to meet those demands, which, over a period of time, leads to ill-health’.

In simple terms, you will feel stressed when pressure exceeds your ability to cope. In contrast, resilience is the ability to use emotional, cognitive, behavioural resources in the face of difficulty; in other words, empowering you to “bounce back” when times are tough.

It’s incredibly important to have resilience in the workplace as it allows us to mitigate the effects of stress and to grow and develop in our careers as a result. Here are the coping resources to consider when building up your own resilience in the workplace.

  • Think about your physical wellbeing Health professionals advise us to do at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Choose activities you actually enjoy, as you’re much more likely to follow through and do them regularly.
  • Problem solve Use lists to identify and prioritise problems. If a task seems daunting, divide it into smaller, bite size chunks and focus on what you can achieve in the short term rather than what seems out of reach. If you can’t solve the problem now, take a break and do something different – a fresh outlook can often lead to an unexpected answer.
  • Be assertive Be prepared to express your thoughts and feelings even where this risks disagreement from others. Use ‘I’ statements to acknowledge ownership of what you are saying and maintain appropriate eye contact with people.
  • Organise yourself Use a project planner to schedule in larger pieces of work over a period of time. Ensure you’ve built in time to prepare for meetings by listing the key items you want to discuss, and do difficult tasks first rather than procrastinate.
  • Believe in yourself Write down the negative thoughts that are getting in your way and what action you are going to take to challenge them. A perfectionist belief is rigid and demanding and makes change and growth difficult.
  • Find a work/life balance Plan your time carefully to schedule your work activities so that you can avoid taking work home and aim to build in at least two leisure activities to each week.

[1] S. Palmer, 1999

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About Andrew Kinder

Head of Mental Health Services at Optima Health
As Professional Head of Mental Health Services at Optima Health, Andrew Kinder takes a lead on delivering its Wellbeing@work programme, which works globally to improve the health and wellbeing of its employees. Andrew has made a unique contribution in the area of counselling in the workplace over the last 15 years. He has been a leader in this specialist field work over this period, serving on the Executive Committee of the BACP Workplace (formerly Association for Counselling at Work). He has also promoted workplace counselling through committee work at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Counselling, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Commercial Occupational Health Providers Association. He was recently awarded a Fellowship by BACP.