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Make building resilience your New Year’s resolution for 2016 [Blog]

Workplace ResilienceThere are a number of ways I can tell that 2015 is coming to a close: the shops are overflowing, queues are lined up to see the Christmas windows, and most people I speak to tell me they are exhausted and looking forward to the holidays.

Fatigue and stress are common at this time of the year and the consequences in the workplace are serious.

According to WorkSafe Victoria, November and December are the most dangerous months of the year for Victorian workers, with almost 25% of workplace fatalities occurring in the final two months of a year. In November alone, eight Victorian workers lost their lives.

While it’s not possible to blame fatigue for all of these tragedies, WorkSafe Victoria warns the risk is higher as many businesses rush to finish projects for the year.

It’s also one of the busiest times of year for the health and community services sectors, as accident and emergency wards fill up, individuals and families are under financial, emotional and mental stress and people suffer greatly from loneliness and depression.

So it was timely that TMS recently hosted a seminar series in Melbourne on building resilience and managing stress and fatigue. CEO Helen Wood presented to managers and staff in engineering, resources and infrastructure companies, not-for-profits, and the legal sector. We heard common symptoms of stress and fatigue, despite the diversity of pressures in their workplaces:

  • Engineering, resources and infrastructure: roster management, long hours, pay incentives to do overtime, project deadlines
  • Health and community services: significant reforms, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme, mergers, high level of commitment to clients with complex needs, limited resources
  • Legal sector: high performance expectations including for billable hours, vicarious trauma from cases, combative litigious context.

The ability to bounce back from or adapt to difficult circumstances such as these is known as resilience. Resilient people have meaning and purpose in life, optimism, ability to find solutions and be creative, humour, a strong sense of self and they take care of themselves.

We gave participants at our seminars tools and techniques to help them continuously build their individual resilience, support their staff and make their teams and organisations more agile, creative and productive.

If you will be making New Year’s resolutions for 2016 over the holidays, perhaps you could make building resilience one of them. Here are some tips to help you:

  1. Engage in emotion-focused problem solving: Initial strong emotions to challenging situations can be like quicksand: the harder you struggle, the deeper the emotion becomes. Take calming breaths, step away from the situation to gain perspective and reframe your mindset.
  2. Tap into your networks for emotional, social, informational and practical support. This helps build your resilience reservoir and acts as a buffer in stressful times.
  3. Be creative in the way you think about problems: Focus and think more broadly about the problem, beyond your initial emotional reaction. Use a structured problem solving approach, including brainstorming, evaluating and planning solutions. Remember to review your action plan as more information comes to hand.
  4. Sleep soundly to assist the body and mind to recuperate and recharge. Sleep also allows the brain to review and consolidate the thoughts and experiences you have while you’re awake.
  5. Maintain balance between work, rest, play, family and friends and ensure you are spending time on the things that give you meaning in your life. Not only does a balanced lifestyle keep you engaged and satisfied, it is also key to helping you stay resilient when stress strikes.
  6. Relax and de-stress: Under extreme stress our bodies are flooded with chemicals, most notably adrenaline, that prepare us for ‘fight or flight’. The adrenaline rush makes the heart beat harder and faster, raising blood pressure. Relaxation is a state of deep rest that is the opposite of the stress response and brings our system back into balance: deepening our breathing, reducing stress hormones, slowing down our heart rate and blood pressure and relaxing our muscles. Mindfulness is a useful practice to achieve this state.
  7. Reduce stress by healthy eating: A balanced diet will help you to keep alert, focused, energised and healthy. Try to avoid using food and caffeine as a stress reducer or pick-me-up and instead take a brisk walk or drink a cup of herbal tea. Make mealtimes pleasant: slow down and relax. You’re likely to eat less and enjoy it more.
  8. Get moving: Not only does exercise keep the heart healthy and get oxygen into the system, but it helps deplete stress hormones and releases mood-enhancing chemicals which help us cope with stress better. Try this seven-minute workout.
  9. Follow through: Some of these tips will be easier to include in your routine than others. However, if you stick with them, your chances of achieving balance and coping with the daily stressors will grow. That said, if you’re finding that things don’t improve through regular practices of these stress management tips, you may want to consult your doctor.

We wish you resilience and wellbeing in 2016!

About the author

TMS Consulting