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  • Vanessa Barajas, MPH

Cultivating Resilience

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

Written by Vanessa Barajas, Program Coordinator at Work2Live

Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and toughness. There’s a notion that resilience enables a person to elastically spring back into shape, or into the person they were before whatever difficulty it is that they faced. This commonly held belief is faulty, an assumption that clouds our understanding of what truly constitutes resilience. Humans are fundamentally and forever changed by the challenges and changes we encounter. We do not recover, but instead, rebuild. We do not bounce back, we bounce forward.

A better description of resilience might be: The human capacity to be present in the face of challenge and to leverage the lessons inherited in challenge, change, and complexity for deeper personal growth and development. In this definition, resilience is our willingness to be present for both the affirming and adverse challenges life presents. It’s about showing up completely, instead of hiding, numbing, or ignoring these experiences, and by way of being present with our experience, to allow ourselves to be fundamentally and forever changed by our circumstances, ultimately, for the better.

The exciting thing about resilience is that it is a skill. Like any skill, with practice, resilience can be learned. Here are some ways to build resilience at work:

Take a positive stance. By taking a positive stance at work, you are more able to adapt to adversity because an optimistic attitude puts energy and motivation into work. This can mitigate emotional exhaustion and cognitive fatigue.

Accept change. Accept that change is a part of life. There’s always going to be changes at work and there will be changes you cannot control. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can control and improve.

Practice thought awareness. This means to have a level of awareness about the full range of thought and even emotions you experience, from negative to positive. In turn you’ll have the ability to consider the ramifications of your reactions and behavior and the effects it has on others.

Practice reframing. Negative thoughts can reduce the quality of your performance, and they undermine your relationships with others. Cognitive restructuring helps you to change the negative or distorted thinking that often lies behind bad energy.

Choose your response. Remember, we all experience bad days and we all go through our share of crises. But we have a choice in how we respond: we can choose to react with panic and negativity, or we can choose to remain calm and logical to take control and find a solution. Your reaction is always up to you.

Move toward your goals. Develop realistic goals and take a small step regularly to achieve those goals. This enables you to move toward the things you want to accomplish. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”

Practice gratitude. Find a way to practice gratitude that you can actually stick to, whether that’s ending each day by writing a sentence in a gratitude journal or committing to running through a list of three things you’re grateful for while brushing your teeth every morning.

Learn from your past. By looking back at who or what was helpful in previous times of distress. You may discover how you can respond effectively to new difficult situations. Remind yourself of where you’ve been able to find strength and ask yourself what you’ve learned from those experiences.

The importance of resilience in the workplace cannot be underestimated! Given that we spend roughly one-third of our day at work, being able to ‘bounce back’ when presented with the inevitable challenges that work presents is a very important issue to consider. With enough practice, you’ll have a toolbox of techniques that come naturally. The important thing is to remember you’re not alone on the journey. While you may not be able to control all of your circumstances, you can grow by focusing on the challenges you can manage with the support of colleagues, loved ones and trusted professionals.


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