Resilience: the power to succeed!

“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”

Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven

International Stress Awareness Week is held this year between 4th to 8th November 2019 with a theme of “Resilience: the power to succeed!” Wednesday 6th November is also National Stress Awareness Day.

What is resilience?

Resilience is commonly referred to as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. This definition captures the "bounce-back characteristic, which reflects one of the central characteristics of resilience.

During this week, the International Stress Management Association (ISMA) will hold a series of campaigns and events, including its annual conference, to raise awareness of workplace and personal stress and its effects on mental health. With the theme of resilience, this week is all about being able to stand up to challenges and to bounce back from setbacks, not just at work but also in our personal lives.

The HSE defines stress as "the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work." How prevalent is stress? Estimates from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) show:

  • The estimated prevalence and rates of self-reported illness caused or made worse by work, by type of illness, for people working during 2018/19 (as at October) is 602,000 cases, a prevalence rate of 1,800 per 100,000 workers.
  • The number of new cases was 246,000, an incidence rate of 4100 per 100,000 workers.
  • The total number of working days lost due to this condition in 2015/16 was 12.7 million days. This equated to an average of 48 days lost per case.

Stress can affect how you feel emotionally, mentally and physically and also how you behave.

  • How you may feel emotionally: Overwhelmed, irritable and "wound up", anxious or fearful, lacking in self-esteem.
  • How you may feel mentally: racing thoughts, constant worrying, difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions.
  • How you may feel physically: headaches, muscle tension or pain, dizziness, sleep problems, feeling tired all the time, eating too much or too little.
  • How you may behave: drinking or smoking more, snapping at people, avoiding things or people you are having problems with.
  • If you're stressed, whether by your job or something more personal, the first step to feeling better is to identify the cause. The most unhelpful thing you can do is turn to something unhealthy to help you cope, such as smoking or drinking.

What you can do to address stress - Prof Cary Cooper's tips:

  • Be active: exercise won't make your stress disappear, but it will reduce some of the emotional intensity that you're feeling, clearing your thoughts and letting you deal with your problems more calmly.
  • Take control: there's a solution to any problem. The act of taking control is in itself empowering, and it's a crucial part of finding a solution that satisfies you and not someone else.
  • Connect with people: a good support network of colleagues, friends and family can ease your work troubles and help you see things in a different way. The activities we do with friends help us relax. We often have a good laugh with them, which is an excellent stress reliever.
  • Have some "me time": put aside a couple of nights a week for some quality "me time" away from work.
  • Challenge yourself: setting yourself goals and challenges, whether at work or outside, such as learning a new language or a new sport, helps build confidence. This will help you deal with stress.
  • Avoid unhealthy habits: don't rely on alcohol, smoking and caffeine as your ways of coping. In the long term, these crutches won't solve your problems. They'll just create new ones.
  • Help other people: people who help others, through activities such as volunteering or community work, become more resilient. If you don't have time to volunteer, try to do someone a favour every day. It can be something as small as helping someone cross the road or going on a coffee run for colleagues.
  • Work smarter, not harder: working smarter means prioritising your work, concentrating on the tasks that'll make a real difference.
  • Try to be positive: look for the positives in life, and things for which you're grateful. Try writing down three things that went well, or for which you're grateful, at the end of every day.
  • Accept the things you can't change: changing a difficult situation isn't always possible. Try to concentrate on the things you do have control over.

Check out the stress-busting apps

Take a look