What comes to mind when you hear someone say they’re ‘bouncing back’?
How we think of resilience could be having a big impact on our mental wellness and it can look different for everyone.
What we need to mentally fortify or decompress from life’s happenings will be different too.
There are huge amounts of information and mental stimulation around us every day, including at work.
What it takes for us to recover and build our resilience will also need to change.
The cost for workplaces
Often, we might put on a brave face at work when we are going through a tough patch.
It can be difficult to switch off what is happening for us while we’re at work – even though work might make for a good distraction.
We might think we are being resilient – and it can have the opposite effect.
The Centre for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) states that poor mental health costs can contribute to approximately $70 million in negative impact to the economy.
In response to the recent post lockdown, post pandemic world, the US Surgeon-General Dr. Vivek Murthy said “a healthy workforce is the foundation for thriving organisations and healthier communities”.
As much as workplaces can negatively impact an employee’s mental health and resilience, workplaces are also a key factor in supporting people towards thriving, flourishing and developing key skills to strengthen personal resilience.
Unchecked, the flow on effects from poor mental health for businesses are costly – manifesting in higher rates of employee absenteeism, employee presenteeism and compensation claims.
Scrolling isn’t helping, either
It is regularly recommended to us to reduce our screen time, including the time we spend on social media.
Over the years, research has found psychological stress and social media use have become causally linked.
According to Pew research, social media and similar technologies can takeover people’s lives, creating time and social pressures.
These put people at risk for the negative physical and psychological health effects that can result from stress.
Knowing more than we need to about what is happening in the lives of those around us is adding to our mental burden.
This cost of caring is sabotaging us from getting the physical and mental rest we need to recover.
Which is food for thought next time we reach for our devices, especially at the end of the day.
Our resilience is a major part of our recovery.
Building resilience can be as straightforward as catching up on sleep, completing physical therapy for an injury or running a bath after a long day at work.
Often, it isn’t.
In medicine, allied health, and mental health we often hear the word 'recovery' – but what does this mean for us in building resilience?
“Individuals can have a huge influence over themselves when developing resiliency skills” Liz Gould, Managing Consultant and registered Psychologist with Communicorp says.
“Think proactively about personal or work-related setbacks. It might sound counter intuitive, however we don’t want people to fall into the trap of helplessness and de-skill in key areas such as problem solving, as this can stall their recovery.”
Jaiswal et al. cites recovery as 'both a process and an outcome' in their research.
They also outline that a recovery journey is often non-linear and should be focused on a person’s strengths.
Liz added “when approaching setbacks with curiosity and even positivity, people tend to view both setbacks and successes as learning and growth experiences.”
“Which in turn builds and consolidates skills in resilience so when the next setback comes along, they are better equipped to cope and manage themselves through it.”
To truly improve our resilience, we must release any expectations we have of ourselves to recover quicker or better.
Whether it is bouncing back after a diagnosis, significant life event, sickness, injury, or procedure – the outcome(s) and process for our recovery will vary.
- Do you consider recovery to be more of a journey, destination, or both?
- What does resilience look like, to you?
- What does recovery look like, to you?
- How can your personal strengths enhance your resilience?
Three things that influence our resilience
On your recovery journey, there are several factors which influence our resilience.
Jaiswal et al. highlights our relationships, a sense of meaning and our participation and explores how they influence us.
- Relationships – these can be as specific as intimate as friends and family or a therapeutic connection with a health or mental health professional. They also include our relationships with the broader community. Are your relationships supporting or hindering your resilience and recovery?
- Sense of meaning – think about what gives your life meaning, and what influences the way you see yourself and the world around you. These include our sense of self, levels of hope and sense of purpose. Factors like these can have a positive influence on our recovery and help us overcome the barriers or setbacks we might experience (financial constraints, stigma).
- Participation – what we do can contribute to our identity and wellness. These include the roles we explore through avenues like employment, parenthood, volunteering, religious practice, or self-care. We also develop our personal agency through activities such as goal setting, activity schedules and to-do lists.
Top tips for building resilience for employees
- Be kind and practice self-compassion – mistakes happen – balancing work, life and family can be hard at times.
- Raise your awareness and remind yourself of what you can and cannot control.
- Problem-solve and set goals – connect with someone if you want extra support or accountability.
- Look after your physical wellbeing.
- Prioritise your mental health – daily intention statements or mindfulness will help with reducing stress/anxiety which in assists with clear thinking (and helps with problem solving).
- Seek help when you need it – early action in help seeking, delivers better results.
How employers can influence resilience
An individual’s resilience significantly impacts their mental health, wellbeing, and performance in the workplace.
Individuals are often required to produce much more, at greater speed, which can lead to increasing feelings of stress and strain.
Communicorp, part of APM Group, assist many employers and employees navigate workplace issues to provide solutions.
These include the area of mental health and personal resilience at work, leadership and strategy, with the aim to create psychologically safe and healthy workplaces for all.
Understanding how to optimise your resilience in a workplace environment is a critical element of success:
- Create awareness of resilience – what is it, and why it’s important.
- Provide opportunities for staff to be educated in key resilience skills that can enhance performance at work (and at home).
- Be proactive in implementing psychological safety policies and programs.
- Have a mental health and wellbeing plan that can foster positive relationships and a safe workplace culture.
- Have a platform to celebrate success.
- Communicorp website
- 5 traits of the psychologically safe manager – Workplace Mental Health Institute (WHMI)
- 7 fatal mistakes managers make with employee mental health – Workplace Mental Health Institute (WHMI)
- 8 ways to strengthen resilience in the workplace – Workplace Mental Health Institute (WHMI)
- The Resilience Project
- Building resilience – Way Ahead Mental Health Association NSW
- Top tips to build your mental resilience – Swinburne University of Technology
- U.S. Surgeon General Releases New Framework for Mental Health & Well-Being in the Workplace – Media Release – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Mental health and the workplace: How can employers improve productivity through wellbeing? – The Centre for Economic Development Australia (CEDA)
- Psychological stress and social media use – Pew Research Centre
- Essential elements that contribute to the of persons with severe mental illness: A systematic scoping study – Atul Jaiswal, Karin Carmichael, Shikha Gupta, Tina Siemens, Pavlina Crowley, Alexandra Carlsson, Gord Unsworth, Terry Landry and Naomi Brown.