Maintaining resilience in a crazy world

Recently, I met up with a friend who had just started a new job.  It was the end of her first week she was so excited about the role and enthusiastic about the work, she had thrown herself into it and was feeling the effects.  She had worked so hard that when Friday night came, she needed her slippers and the sofa not the cocktails and dancing that were planned.  Battling on, she came out and tried to enjoy the evening but after a single glass of wine, she was literally falling asleep at the table.

She felt under the weather for the whole weekend and was annoyed with herself for taking such poor care of her well-being that she couldn’t enjoy her friends and her personal life in a way that would provide balance to her hard work.  She spent a fairly miserable weekend trying to recuperate and promised herself that this wouldn’t be how she continued in this role.  From that day, she made a commitment to herself to look after her well-being and maintain resilience so that she would be able to give equal amounts of energy to work, life and self.

How are we in a situation where people feel burnout just from a normal week at work?  And what can we do about it?

It seems like the world is such a busy place today.  Technology means that we are constantly connected and seem always in demand, in fact, social media makes us want to be needed in this way because we’re constantly craving that dopamine hit that comes with a notification or message or email (Simon Sinek explains this here).   There’s more happening today than there was 20 years ago.  There are more choices about how we spend our time and we have more disposable income it seems so we can enjoy these opportunities.  The compression of time and space makes work more demanding and causes it to creep further and further into our personal lives.  The digital revolution brings communications to the palm of our hands which blurs the line between work and life and, if we’re not careful, it can tip the balance towards more work and less life.

We have to bear in mind though that for many of us, working life will be over a longer period than we envisaged and we also need to look after ourselves in order to sustain our energy and continue our efforts.  How often have you reached Tuesday and felt so tired it’s like you’ve worked a week already?  You might get home on Friday and find you are grumpy and miserable because you have been flat out all week and now too tired to go out or enjoy the weekend the way you would like to.

Building and maintaining resilience means that you can cope, bounce back or recover from the challenges life throws at us.  It’s about having the energy to deal with whatever comes a long and maintain a positive attitude come what may.  It’s being able to adapt quickly and adjust to new or changing circumstances.  Some consider it to be having a ‘toughness’ that allows us to manage in difficult times and come out even stronger.

How  can we build resilience? Here are some ways you can develop and maintain resilience in everyday life:

1)      Take a step back and consider how you are spending your time – do you need to be doing everything you’ve signed yourself up to? Can some things wait or could you delegate tasks and responsibilities to someone else?  It might be hard to let go but you don’t have to do everything yourself and if you try, it will have a negative impact on your well-being so make sure you are being realistic and being as efficient as you can.

2)      Look after yourself – are you making enough time for yourself? If you don’t already, maybe you could meditate, swim, start a yoga class or treat yourself to a regular massage.  If finding time for a class is difficult, or money is tight, there are lots of options on YouTube for yoga (my favourite is Yoga with Adrienne) and meditation (The Honest Guys) or if you fancy a massage but don’t like the price, check out your local college and see if they offer any deals with their students.

3)      Eat well – when we’re busy and tired, it’s very easy to grab a quick bite or fill up on junk and yet we know that eating the right things can make a big difference.  Think about cooking from scratch.  It doesn’t have to take a long time, I find that if I get home late and need something quickly, stir-fry is my saviour.  Another option is batch cook and freeze for those days you want good food fast (find some good batch cooking recipes here).

4)      Practise mindfulness – if like me you have a million things going round in your head, practising mindfulness can be a useful technique (See ). No matter what worries I have rattling around in my mind, I try and focus on whatever it is I’m doing at that time and save the worry about where I have to be next for later.  Whatever is going on, it helps to focus on the moment you are in.

5)      Have fun – enjoy the lighter things in life. Make sure you have fun times with your friends or have a regular activity that you enjoy, even better perhaps if it’s something you love but are not good at!  The ‘tuneless choir’ is exactly about letting go and enjoying yourself.  Even in work, as Mary Poppins famously said ‘find the fun and snap, the job’s a game!’.


Has your world become more busy? How do you maintain resilience in a crazy world? Share your thoughts in the comments below.



How to cope with stress in 5 easy steps

Today, my colleague Max experienced a bit of a travel disaster which led to high levels of stress which impacted the rest of her day.  It was already going to be a difficult one with tight timescales to meet but missing a train when you are meant to be interviewing people creates the kind of problems we would all like to be without.

This is how Max’s day started…

She had the plan all worked out.  Get up at 6.30am, get self ready, get the children up and ready, grab Weetabix for children’s breakfast, leave the house at 7.35am, drop children at granny’s house with aforementioned cereal supplies, leave granny’s at 7.50am and head to the station with plenty of time to make the 8.55am train to north Wales.

Things were going well. All was on track. Until…

8.15am – traffic begins to slowdown.  Not to worry.  Plenty of time.

8.23am – traffic comes to a standstill.  It’s ok.  Don’t panic, I can still make it.

8.30am – the realisation sets in that it is going to be a real struggle to get to the station in time.

By this point, every light is red, the counter is moving ever closer to the 8.55am departure time and the usually helpful notifications were coming through frequently telling her how little time was left until the train’s departure.

By the time Max was able to park, there were just 12 minutes to go and still an 8 minute walk to get to the station and a ticket to collect. Still thinking that by some miracle, she might be able to get that train, she ran as fast as she could to the station, dragging a suitcase and rucksack behind her.

Of course, nothing went smoothly at the station either and she finally reached the platform to see the train pull away.

So what did she do to manage her stress throughout this situation that might help when living through your own nightmare morning?

1)      Breathe – the first thing to do when you feel stressed is to breathe.  Your heart rate increases in these situations and you feel hot under the collar so if you can get your breathing under control, you can get the situation under control also.

2)      Plan for the worst but hope for the best – throughout the whole time, Max was hopeful that she would make it and did everything she could to get there in time.  However, in the back of her mind, she was thinking ‘what is the next best thing if the current plan doesn’t work out?’.

3)      Take stock and get some perspective – yes, she really wanted to be on the train and support colleagues with the interviews but if she didn’t make it, others could manage or she might be able to rearrange the times and get the next train instead.

4)      Get support – technology means that your support network is never far away so Max sent a what’s app message to her family who referred her to point 1 – breathe (it really is number 1 for a reason!).  She then texted her colleagues who also told her not to worry.

5)      Be thankful – the morning didn’t go well but there are still things to be grateful for such as the health app which sent another notification saying she had done 12 minutes of cardio.

Does this resonate with you? What are your tips for dealing with stressful situations? Share them in the comments below.

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