Resilience is not, as you might have been led to believe, about a rigid kind of tough strength. It is about developing psychological flexibility. I try to explain this as the difference between swimming hard in a choppy sea and picking up a surf board and riding the waves. Emotional resilience is a strength that can improve workplace performance; optimising the amount and quality of energy you have, reducing stress and encouraging healthier working relationships.
You might not think that we can learn a lot about how to build our emotional resilience from those tiny humans whose pre-frontal cortex (the brain’s CEO, with a key role in emotional regulation) is in the earliest stages of development. However, I would argue that there are three key lessons that toddlers can teach us about emotional resilience.
1) Don’t take your eyes off your basic needs
Toddlers who are hungry, thirsty, tired, who have had too much stimulation (or not enough) or who have been eating lots of sugar, are not much fun to be around. As adults we’ve learnt how adaptable the human body can be to short-term deprivation (or over-indulgence) of our basic needs, but many of us ignore the signs our bodies give us that we are stretching it too far. The result can be a reduction in performance, burnout and long-term health implications. Optimising the way our bodies work helps us to increase our energy and enables us to better flex our response to perceived threats or disappointments.
2) Keep a sense of wonder and live in the moment
Going for a walk with a toddler can be slow going, stopping at every leaf, flower and stone to observe, pick up or play with it. My approach is strongly influenced by ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), which combines mindfulness with value-based action. Mindfulness is fundamentally about strengthening the ability to step out of your thinking mind and connect with the part of your mind that observes and attends to your senses and environment in the present moment. This can reduce stress levels and help you to actively choose where you focus your attention and energy.
3) Stay flexible, feel an emotion and move on
I’m not suggesting that you start screaming and banging your fists in the middle of the office when you don’t get what you want. However, as adults, our efforts to avoid and control the discomfort of negative emotions can cause more issues than the emotions themselves. It always amazes me how a toddler can be screaming one minute and then running around happily the next. That ability not to brew and stew over things that haven’t gone to plan, or about the way someone has acted towards you which has pressed your buttons, is the way to a life that is lighter and provides you with the energy to focus on the things that are really important.
Hazel our Emotional Resilience Specialist – Hazel is an expert in emotional resilience, leadership development and team dynamics. She has experience working with all levels, both in the public and private sector. Hazel takes a biopsychosocial approach to emotional resilience, exploring the interaction between the environment, biological systems and mindset, beliefs and behaviours. Hazel has helped leaders to build resilience in their response to crisis situations and to develop flexibility in their approach to the whole spectrum of leadership challenges.
This is an emerging workplace topic that is increasingly high on organisation’s agendas. If you want to know more about emotional resilience please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.azizcorp.com