This guide will help you better understand resilience training and how you can effectively deploy it within your organization.
- What is Resilience?
- What factors influence Resilience?
- Examples of Resilience
- What is Resilience Training?
- Why is resilience training important?
- How resilience training can help
- What businesses can learn from Military Resilience Training
- How to Train Resilience
- TEDtalks About Resilience
- Books on Resilience
What is Resilience?
Resilience is your ability to deal with and bounce back from difficult situations, such as tragedy, trauma, adversity, or stress.
A resilient person is able to face life’s challenges in a healthy manner without damaging their physical or psychological wellness.
Resilience is not about avoiding difficult situations, but rather it is facing them and using helpful thoughts, patterns, or behaviors to overcome them. As such, resilience is a learned behavior rather than an inborn skill or talent.
That’s great news, as it means that every person can learn how to be resilient and benefit from applying it to every aspect of their life, whether at work or home.
Another aspect of resilient people is that they not only face challenges and overcome them, they learn from the challenges, and emerge stronger and wiser than they were before. They have the skill to find the lesson in each negative experience and apply that knowledge in future situations.
What factors influence Resilience?
Resilience is a spectrum, and at times we may find that we are more or less resilient than we were the previous day, month, or year.
There are a multitude of factors that influence how resilient you will be at any point in time.
1. Self care
Not getting enough sleep, eating poorly, taking too few breaks, or not having time to devote to meaningful personal projects or activities can directly lead to less impulse control and erratic behavior.
This in turn leads to low personal resilience, as we are less in control of our thoughts and feelings.
The cure for this is simply taking the time to take care of ourselves. We all only have so much energy to get through the day. Think of your energy like a battery. You might start the day at 100% and by the end of the day, you are at 30%. That’s not too bad. But what if you start the day at 40%, because you have slept badly, or perhaps are just so overloaded at work that you’ve been playing catch-up with your tasks until late at night? Then you’ll be at 0% by mid-afternoon. In this situation, your ability to navigate problems will be reduced and your resilience to face challenges throughout the day will be very low.
2. Previous life experience
Depending on a person’s unique experiences, this factor can be a positive or negative influence. If a person has faced and overcame challenges, then they can approach new challenges and trust that they have the skills to navigate it.
However, someone who has faced challenges and failed to overcome them will have the opposite experience. This makes it more difficult for them to navigate new challenges, and they will not have the benefit of positive experiences to help them along the way.
In this situation, resilience training is important, as it gives this person the tools to be able to overcome challenges, and by doing so they will build up their resilience for next time.
3. Childhood environment
A person raised in a psychologically safe and supportive environment will have an easier time facing challenges with resilience.
Our past childhood experiences greatly affects our resiliency, whether or not we realize it. A person who has experienced a tumultuous childhood may have difficulty trusting that things will turn out okay because of their past negative experiences.
While resilience is something that can be learned, there are many genetic factors that can make it more or less difficult for a person.
Whether someone is pessimistic or optimistic, for example, will influence how a person reacts in situations.
People who may have trouble facing stress and negative situations might need more time after a difficult experience to recover.
5. General life situation
Sometimes, we go through more difficult periods of life. If our personal life is stressful, that will affect our work life and our resilience.
A person with young children or someone going through a move can be less resilient than someone who has a calm, quiet home life with few external stressors. Other examples of common life stressors are divorce, moving (especially a move outside of your state or country), the death of a loved one, illness, job insecurity, financial problems, a new child, a new job, and even getting married.
Obviously, some of these stressors are actually positive things, but just because a situation is a positive one does not mean it is without stress.
Each person has different resources in their life that they can turn to for help. This could be a person, such as a colleague, a mentor who can advise, connections, parents, or friends.
Or it could be money, such as having enough savings to be able to reduce money-related stress. Owning your own property can reduce the stress of renting (but can also bring its own unique stressors when the hot water boiler breaks or the roof leaks!) Having consistent, dependable childcare is a very precious resource, as any parent can attest.
Resources take burdens off of your shoulders and help you balance responsibilities in life.
Examples of Resilience
To see resilience in action, we only have to look around us. Every person knows someone - or is someone - who has faced grand challenges and bested them.
Perhaps it was someone who lost their house in a fire, and then managed to build the home of their dreams. Or a business owner who successfully pivoted their business from in-person to online when Covid shut the world down.
Here are some examples of resilience in the workplace:
A manager loses a key staff member at the beginning of a huge project. They manage to navigate the hiring and training process of the new team member while keeping workloads manageable by extending timelines, asking for cross-departmental assistance, and hard work. The team learns to become more flexible with project timelines and they know they are better prepared to handle difficult challenges in the future.
A salesperson loses out on a big contract to a rival company. While the loss stings, they take the opportunity to look at the competitors - what did they have that won the contract? Were they delivering a better product or service? The salesperson takes the time to refine their offerings so that future contracts will fare better.
During a time of cutbacks in an organization, an employee reaches out to their peers and offers support, both morally and for job-related tasks. They know that this is difficult for everyone, and counsels people on how they can adjust to new roles, find new work, or otherwise weather the storm.
In each of these examples, you can see they follow a pattern: A negative experience is followed by grace, thoughtfulness, and a willingness to adjust the way that work is done - in short, it is handled with resilience.
What is Resilience Training?
Resilience training is a prepared (structured and planned) activity aimed to embrace and gain a positive mindset and experience in stressful and difficult emulated situations.
This is done by training our attention to focus on specific aspects of a challenge, as well as identifying and using our unique strengths to overcome those challenges.
Suniya S. Luthar states that resilience refers to a dynamic process encompassing positive adaptation within the context of signiﬁcant adversity (Luthar and colleagues, 2000).
As previously stated above, resilience is something that can be learned.
Many organizations have developed resilience training, and while all may differ, they share common techniques; such as:
- Understanding our own locus of control
- Developing the skills of emotional regulation
- Sharpening the ability to be aware of our emotions
- Choosing to be realistically optimistic about the future
- Setting achievable goals, and wanting to fulfill them
- Understanding what is within our control
- Learning to thrive in ambiguous situations
Developing good self-esteem
Why is resilience training important?
If we have learned one thing from Covid-19, it is the importance of resilience. We cannot know what lies in front of us, but we can bet that there will be challenges to face! It’s a simple fact of life that there will be ups and downs. The better prepared we are for the downs, the faster, and better, we can navigate them.
For organizations, reliance training can make a massive positive impact.
As people continue to work remotely, there is an inability to truly disconnect from work. Emails, texts, and calls come through at all hours, and the line between work and home has blurred—or disappeared altogether.
Combined with navigating a global pandemic, as well as personal challenges like children participating in remote learning, or sick family members, employees are at greater risk of burnout than ever before.
How resilience training can help
1. Increased productivity, focus, creativity
When we increase our resilience, we are better able to prioritize tasks, solve challenges, and not be overwhelmed. We are better able to switch between tasks, approach challenges, and find solutions.
In fact, chronic stress can impair our cognitive function, reduce our social skills, and even shrink our brains (which also leads to, impaired cognitive and emotional function). When we operate under stress, we’re definitely not at our best.
2. A friendlier work environment
When a person is resilient, they will have what is called “response flexibility.” This means that when faced with a challenge, they are able to take a step back, pause, reflect on the situation, adjust their perspective, and choose the best option for responding.
This basically replaces emotional reaction with productive response. By using logic rather than emotion to respond, the work environment can be much calmer and more positive.
3. Organizational changes are made smoother
Change is inevitable, but it does not have to be stressful. By applying resilience training, employees can be taught to view change as a challenge that can be managed, rather than a threat or unsurmountable issue.
By treating change as a positive, organizations will find themselves becoming more innovative, and thus more competitive.
4. Employees will enjoy better well-being
By introducing better coping skills, resilience training helps to reduce employee stress.
Stress can significantly increase the risk for major health problems; such as heart attacks and depression. Therefore, reduced stress can lead to better health and positive work outcomes. Reduced stress for employees can also lead to lower turnover in organization and less absenteeism, as employees are more likely to stay in work environments that support their well-being.
An APA survey in 2020 showed that 63% of American adults reported experiencing significant stress related to their jobs. That’s almost a 20% increase from the previous year. The pandemic is mostly to blame for this significant increase, but it’s also important to note that half of the working population indicated that their jobs were a source of stress the year before.
As we mentioned above, stress can cause cognitive impairments. It doesn’t stop there though. A study by Yaribeygi et. al (2017) showed that stress can lead to memory loss, immune system impairments, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal problems, and can even negatively affect the endocrine system.
In short, there is no part of your body that is immune to stress.
What businesses can learn from Military Resilience Training
Martin Seligman, who is known as the father of positive psychology, has developed, with a team of experts, a resilience training program that is used around the world. Notably, this program is used by the United States Army to help soldiers better deal with PTSD and other issues that come from serving in the military.
The program is “based on PERMA: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment—the building blocks of resilience and growth.”
Named Master Resilience Training, a 2013 study showed that 92% of resilience-trained Army National Guard soldiers and civilians reported that the training helped to improve their resilience, and a further 97% reported using the training in their jobs.
The MRT focuses on 6 main areas:
- Mental agility
- Strength of character
Within these areas, the MRT teaches 12 specific skills:
- Goal setting
- “Hunting the good stuff”
- Activating thoughts
- Events and consequences
- Energy management
- Avoiding thinking traps
- Detecting icebergs
- Putting things into perspective
- Mental games
- Real-time resilience
- Identifying character strengths
MRT teaches those in leadership positions how to build their own resilience and then pass that knowledge to those under their command.
MRT training generally is broken down into three parts, “building mental toughness, building signature strengths, and building strong relationships,” according to Seligman.
Organizations can take inspiration from this program and apply it to building employee resilience. Your employees don’t need to see combat to benefit from resilience training!
There are two important takeaways from military resilience training that can be applied to any business.
1. Leadership buy-in is crucial
Leading by example is powerful. When leaders walk the walk and talk the talk, it inspires employees to follow their actions.
By having leaders who are trained and actively practice resilience and encourage resilience in others, you can activate the resilience of your entire organization.
2. A comprehensive program will help build the foundation of resilience within the organization
Resilience training has a lot of moving parts consisting of theory and practical exercises.
The most effective resilience training programs are comprehensive, multi-faceted, and involve taking the time to practice these new concepts. The more in-depth you get with your program, the better your results are likely to be.
This video, created by the U.S. Army, offers an overview of resilience, the benefits it offers, and how one can build their resilience.
How to Train Resilience
There are many ways that resilience training can be introduced into an organization. Depending on how the organization wishes to structure it, resilience training can be a formal training operation or can be more informal, with information available to all with optional activities.
1. Bring in the concepts of resilience through day-to-day activities
HR departments, as well as team leaders, can also introduce resilience training in a more informal manner.
Meditation workshops can be a key aspect to introduce emotional self-awareness for your employees. For example, research has shown that meditation decreases stress. Creating meditation breaks, with or without a guide (or an app, like Headspace), can help create the structure that encourages employees to participate.
Or try other activities, such as expressive writing, mindful breathing, or self-compassion breaks. It’s much easier to ask employees to take this time if it is included within the workday.
Putting tips for emotional regulation on the company newsletter can help spark employees to consider adding these practices to their daily routines. Offering information about goal setting, perhaps in workshops or within teams, can motivate that activity.
Stress-reduction activities, such as physical exercise, encouraging open and honest dialogue, and gratitude journals have all been shown to lower stress levels and help improve resilience at the same time.
2. Encourage resilience training through company policy and resources
Having policies that actively promote resilience and investing in a positive work environment will create a ripple effect through your organization.
Encourage the work-life balance of employees, and make sure that managers are paying attention to how much stress their teams are under. Track their tasks, make sure they are not being overloaded, and create an environment that encourages employees not to spend more time than is necessary at work.
Create a great work environment through making space for game rooms with pool, darts, and video games, as well as calm spaces with comfy couches, or build a gym - in short, making the space within the office walls where employees can kick back and destress, in whichever way works for them.
Invest in after-work activities that employees can do together if they wish. Movie nights, escape rooms, painting classes or an intramural softball team are all great team-building and de-stressing activities.
Encourage healthy activities, especially sports. Build a running team, or encourage employees to do marathons, triathletes, or other sports competitions by funding entrance fees or equipment.
Provide mental health days that can be taken at an employee’s discretion. Give employees free meditation apps, exercise classes, and resilience training resources.
3. Online courses
Many companies offer online resilience training, with comprehensive programs taught by experts.
LinkedIn Learning offers both courses and learning paths. Courses, such as Building Resilience, are single-serving offerings while learning paths, such as Developing Resilience and Grit, string together multiple courses into a comprehensive guide.
Coursera offer’s Positive Psychology’s Resilience Skills course, as well as many others. In short, there is no lack of online courses that you can use to build your resilience online!
4. Free resources
HR departments or individual employees can find a wealth of free resources about resilience training, either to teach themselves or be able to lead workshops for other employees.
These are just three of many options open to those who wish to inform themselves without breaking the bank.
5. Bringing in an expert
There are many experts who travel the world to teach the concept of resilience in live seminars.
Some organizations might find it more energizing for employees to have this type of training live, especially when it comes to practicing resilience exercises.
TEDtalks About Resilience
If you enjoy watching well-curated videos from inspiring people, these TEDtalks about resilience are exactly what you need. Each one comes at the idea of resilience and explains its value, in a unique way that will educate and enlighten.
1. What Trauma Has Taught Me About Resilience - Charles Hunt
2. The Three Secrets of Resilient People - Lucy Hone
3. The Superpower of Resilience - Sule Kutlay Gandur
4. From Stress to Resilience - Raphael Rose
5. Resilience: How to Emerge from your Tragedies Stronger - Sydney Cummings
6. How to Build Resilience as Your Superpower - Denise Mai
7. Sh*t happens. 8 lessons in resilience - Dr Fiona Starr & Dr Mike Solomon
8. The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong - Amy Morin
Grit: the power of passion and perseverance - Angela Lee Duckworth
Books on Resilience
If text is more your thing, these books have been featured on several ‘best of’ lists, including on everydayhealth.com and positivepsychology.com.
'Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy,' by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
'Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness,' by Rick Hanson, PhD
‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz
'Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope,' by Mark Manson