This week it’s International Stress Awareness Week (4–8th November), and the theme is ‘Resilience: the power to succeed!’ So what better opportunity to highlight the issue of stress in the workplace, and provide some useful tips and suggestions on ways to build resilience.

Resilience is very much a workplace matter. Contrary to popular belief, it's actually a learned skill that can be taught, which is good news for those of us that require a bit more help in that area. 

It’s a useful life skill that can be applied at every level –  from junior positions to the executive roles – and in every sector. You can benefit from being more resilient on numerous levels, including improved focus, healthier mind-set and better working relationships with colleagues. 

But like anything that doesn’t come naturally, building resilience requires discipline and regular practice. Here are some tips on building personal resilience so you can better manage stress at work.

Businessman stressed out at work in casual office

Am I stressed?

Chances are, you’ve experienced stress in one form or another this week, and statistics show you’re not alone. The largest and most comprehensive stress survey carried out across the UK revealed that “74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope”.

But how can you identify stress, and when is it time to seek help or implement coping techniques? Here are some common signs of stress:

  1. Physical signs – tiredness and low energy, headaches, insomnia, aches and pains
  2. Behavioural signs – irritable, aggressive, anxious, impatient, uninterested in life

NB: If you’re experiencing any number of the above symptoms, for a prolonged period of time, you should consider visiting your local GP for help and advice. 

Can resilience be taught?

More often than not, resilience is about being flexible, agile and open to change. Agile people tend to be more optimistic and forward-thinking. They are good problem-solvers and can see the bigger picture. They work well under pressure and can manage stress effectively.

But resilience – and agility – is harder for some than others, especially those who like routine and being in control. But things don’t always go to plan, which is why it’s important to be prepared for when everything goes to pot. 

Everyday people are experiencing set-backs at work, so how do we navigate such obstacles and learn to rise above it? Here are a few ways you can teach yourself to be more resilient: 

  • Physical resilience – stay hydrated, eat healthily, sleep and set limits for using technology
  • Mind-set – our ‘failures’ in life are necessary for growth. Try and reframe any set-back in work as an opportunity to try something else and explore new avenues 
  • Social relationships – nurture these and lean on friends and family for support. It’s friendships that get you through the tougher times – never underestimate the importance of human connection

Business man pointing to transparent board with text Next Steps-1

How can I better manage stress?

Stress can be a very lonely thing, especially in a work context where colleagues are being praised, bonuses given and promotions are seemingly handed on a plate. But everyone experiences stress in the workplace, it’s not a unique feeling – it’s how you choose to manage it that makes all the difference.

Consider the following:

  • Communicate – this is key. We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, and it’s true. Talk to your line manager if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need support. Alternatively, go out for lunch with a colleague and talk through any issues you have. Sometimes it just helps to offload and get a different perspective on the matter. 
  • Prioritise – If you’ve got a huge to-do list that just keeps growing, take 20 minutes and go through each item using the red, amber, green system. Highlight any urgent task that needs dealing with that day ‘red’, and subsequent tasks that are less urgent, ‘amber’, and ‘green’. Be realistic – there are only so many hours in the day. It’s better to do the job properly, than juggle multiple jobs at a time and end up with a job half-done. 
  • Set boundaries – If you’re feeling overwhelmed with a growing workload, it might be that some of the responsibilities and jobs you’ve been allocated, are not in your remit. This is called ‘work creep’. Refer to your job spec, or if you no longer have it, request it from your manager or HR. Cross-reference any responsibilities against the work you’re doing on a day-to-day basis, and raise any inconsistencies with your line manager.  

Will I notice any benefits at work?

Simply put, yes. If you learn to build a greater resilience and manage your stress effectively, you’ll be well set-up for anything life – and work – throws your way. With regular practice, you may notice the following benefits:

  • Improved performance 
  • Better wellbeing 
  • More productive 
  • Happiness at work 
  • Greater success

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