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How to build resilience in your team during tough times

During the difficult times created by COVID-19, it is more important than ever that employers monitor the mental and emotional wellbeing of their staff.

Benestar Group, RCSA’s preferred Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provider, are experts in workforce wellness and individual wellbeing and have provided a guide to help RCSA members understand the process of building resilience in their teams.

What is resilience?

Resilience refers to our ability to effectively deal with difficult or highly stressful situations.

It can be characterised as the ability to utilise our skills, strengths and resources to cope with and recover from challenges.

Resilient people are often able to:

  • Keep going in the face of difficulty.

  • Spring back following adversity.

  • Adapt to changing or challenging circumstances.

  • Use successful stress management techniques.

  • Thrive, even when times are tough.

Characteristics of resilient people are:

  • A strong social connection with others.

  • Acceptance of the uncontrollable.

  • Humour and empathy.

  • Optimism.

  • Self-awareness.

  • Future focused decision making.

  • Commitment to self-care.

  • Ability to identify and use own strengths.

  • Positive anticipation of coping with challenges.

  • View mistakes as learning experiences.

  • Finding good in others.

What is stress?

Our ability to manage stress is key part in building resilience.

Stress occurs when our perceived level of pressure is greater than our perceived ability to cope.

During highly stressful situations, the “fight, flight or freeze” response is activated. This causes increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol, and the impact of these hormones create signs and symptoms of stress.

Signs of emotional stress include irritability, anxiety, feeling low or overwhelmed, being critical, mood swings and anger.

Signs of behavioural stress can be a lack of motivation, bad eating habits, emotional outbursts, a reliance on substances, withdrawing and reduced performance.

When people are stressed it can also effects their thought processes, often resulting in indecisiveness, negativity, confusion, a lack of perspective, irrational thoughts and self-blame and a pre-occupation with small things.

Signs of physical stress include an increased heart rate, blurred vision, a change in appetite, tiredness, general aches, an irritable stomach, skin rashes, increased sweating, grinding teeth, a clenched fist or jaw and generally getting sick.

In the workplace, the signs of stress might be hyper-reactivity, memory issues, difficulty concentrating, a loss of interest or becoming disengaged, failure to meet expectations, a change in personality or behaviour, increased conflict with others in the team and taking increased time off work.

How to build resilience

The good news is that building resilience is a process which we can develop over time by learning and using helpful techniques.

Here are three to try:

  • Boost positive emotions: These are essential for happiness, wellbeing and success. Positive emotions such as contentment, love, hope, interest, inspiration, serenity, pride, gratitude have been found to reduce cortisol and enable better problem-solving skills. They’re contagious and can encourage others to feel positive too! Make the time to recognise the positives every day. You can do this by practicing mindfulness, gratitude and focussing on the elements in your life which you can control.

  • Avoid thinking traps: Be aware of unhelpful thoughts, as these can undermine resilience. Examples of unhelpful thoughts or thinking traps are overgeneralising, filtering out the good things, catastrophising, predicting the worst case scenario, personalising, rigid thinking, rumination and jumping to conclusions.

  • The Stop Light Strategy: When experiencing stress, we are more likely to behave impulsively and say or do things that we wouldn’t otherwise say or do. Apply the Stoplight Strategy by using these three steps to help you make effective decisions under pressure. Firstly, stop and name the emotion you are experiencing. Then take perspective and consider your best options or course of action. Finally, proceed mindfully.

Resilience development plan

Formulating a plan can help you target specific areas that you would like to become more aware of and improve upon when building your resilience.

Regularly review and modify your plan to reflect your progress and notice any positive changes in your ability to respond to difficult or stressful situations.

Use the categories below to set some realistic and achievable goals, while also recognising some of the barriers you may need to consider and overcome in order to achieve them.

Body: Exercise more, eat healthy, develop healthy sleep habits, breathing exercises etc.

Mind: Practicing mindfulness or slowing down, boosting positive emotions, noticing three good things each day, managing thinking traps, seeing mistakes as learning opportunities, knowing your strengths and using them.

People: Listening with your eyes, ears and body, modelling compassion and empathy, expressing praise and gratitude, giving specific and constructive feedback, learning from mistakes.

Work: Helping others to find three good things each day, using the stop light strategy, taking breaks to move and stretch, serial monotasking – protect your attention, making use of your Best You

RCSA members who need support should call their EAP provider.

If you have an account with Benestar or would like to discuss joining them, call 1300 360364 (Australia) or 0800 360364 (New Zealand).

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