Building resilience to stress is imperative to surviving and thriving in the challenging modern workplace. Stress will always be there, but small efforts can add up to really help us cope during challenging times. When our systems are constantly triggered by stress, we lose the capacity to connect with colleagues, collaborate and perform at our best.
Patricia Abbott, Chartered Occupational Psychologist, who runs corporate training programmes with resilience consultancy, Wiser Working, recommends these small, but essential tips for building your coping skills during stressful times:
1. Prioritise sleep.
Sleep is a nutrient – and many of us are deficient! During sleep we recharge our batteries and gear up for the challenges of the next day. Inadequate sleep can result in poor decision making, shorter tempers and reduces resilience to stress.
2. Build in moments of recovery during the day.
We have the capacity to mini-charge our batteries during waking hours. Simple things like a 20-minute walk away from your desk, a friendly chat with a colleague, 15 minutes of mindful meditation, listening to classical music or watching kittens on YouTube can switch our nervous systems into ‘recovery’ mode. Find the things that make you laugh or feel good and build them into your day.
3. Set your Boundaries.
Checking work emails after hours can eat into your recovery time and keep your nervous system activated. Unless it’s life or death (and it rarely is), you can calm your stress levels by completely switching off after hours. If you find it difficult to say no or switch off, consider seeking the help of a coach, psychologist or therapist who can help you build your personal resources.
4. Harness your best assets.
Recognise that you have coping skills and character strengths that might be useful at this time e.g. humour, determination, optimism. Many people’s stress levels are often driven by the ubiquitous ‘imposter syndrome’ – panicked feelings of not being good enough. Remind yourself that you were hired for all your great skills and experience. You do have the capacity to navigate through difficult times, and you’ve probably overcome various difficulties in the past.
5. Get Moving.
The stress-busting effects of exercise are well-documented. Exercise builds resilience. Aim for 2-3 sessions of moderate-vigorous activity each week. Don’t overdo it though – excessive activity can be a source of stress on the body. Balance out your workouts with cardiovascular activities like jogging and swimming with restorative practices like yoga.
6. Choose the right fuel.
Avoid stimulants like coffee and caffeinated drinks which keep your system activated in the ‘fight or flight’ mode and, choose healthy foods that keep your energy levels stable. However busy you are, don’t skip meals. Missing out on breakfast or lunch can cause blood sugar levels to drop resulting in a state of being ‘hangry’ (hungry + angry) – and that causes stress for everyone!