Resilience and stress
Building resilience and managing stress
How Imperial's community deals with stress
Our sense of wellbeing can come from several factors, the more long-lasting might be a sense of meaning, purpose, and growth, and the more fleeting; simple pleasures like a sunny day, a good meal or feeling calm. It can be helpful to consider how satisfied we are with our social connections, mental health and physical health, as well as our work and working environment, in order to ‘flourish’:
Flourishing means a lot more than the absence of stress, or mental ill-health. It is about having energy, passion, self-esteem, improved physical health, supportive relationships and being successful in our endeavours. Feeling positive in the workplace has an important part to play, contributing to many of the essential elements of our wellbeing including our ability to use our strengths and skills, develop, and fulfil our potential. This provides long-term benefits for the engaged and sustainable performance of both individuals, and organisations.
There are skills and behaviours that we can all adopt to improve our overall wellbeing, help manage stress and develop resilience, and these form the basis of the range of workshops and support for all staff.
Resilience and stress
What is resilience?
Resilience has many different connotations but often refers to the capacity to positively respond to, and cope with, difficult situations, events or setbacks. These difficulties can occasionally be life-changing traumas or tragedies, but can also be the build-up of pressure or stress in our day-to-day living. A person demonstrating resilience is not only able to handle such experiences and difficulties in the moment, but also to ‘bounce back’ more effectively afterwards. It may also include the possibility of personal learning and growth from even the most challenging situations. Resilience involves proactively building a range of resources that we can draw on when we need to. Resources might include self-awareness, an ability to recognise and manage our energy levels, an understanding of what motivates us, optimism, physical activity and supportive relationships. We often need to find ways to both address the difficulty and support ourselves emotionally.
Resilience is not something you either have or you don’t – anyone can develop resilience by managing their thoughts, behaviours and actions. If you wish to consider or develop your resilience then you may want to try our workshops, Building Personal Resilience and Mindful Effectiveness.
What is stress?
Stress is the physiological and emotional response to a situation of excessive or overwhelming pressure, usually over a period of time. It is seldom a single life event which affects our ability to cope. Despite our best intentions, the impact of stress at work can be felt on our personal lives, and vice versa. Common physical signs of stress include sleeping problems, headaches, muscle tension and difficulty concentrating. Common emotional signs include racing thoughts, worry or low self-belief. Stress can affect how you feel, think, behave, and how your body works. If you are feeling stressed, it can be difficult to see a way to manage the pressure and it can affect everything you do.
Stress is one of the largest causes of work related absences and can be indirectly responsible for many other causes including mental health illnesses, musculoskeletal disorders and colds and flu. It has also been proven to have a negative impact on performance, relationships, decision making and creativity. Stress itself is not an illness but if left unresolved it can result in more serious problems such as Anxiety and Depression.
If you would like to understand more about stress and its impact, and effective measures to reduce and prevent stress for yourself and your teams, then you may want to try our workshops Stress Management: Keeping Cool Under Pressure, and Tackling Stress in Your Team (for leaders, managers and supervisors).
How to make stress your friend
Kelly McGonigal, Health Psychologist
Kelly McGonigal translates academic research into practical strategies for health, happiness and personal success.
Reclaim Your Lunch Break
Reclaim Your Lunch Break is a nationwide campaign, encouraging UK workers to take their breaks. Benefits include increased productivity, focus, and creativity through renewing our cognitive capacity – the brain gets tired!
Find out more about the benefit of your brain's off switch.
We can also use our breaks to move more, eat a healthy lunch, or talk to our colleagues, all of which are good for our mental and physical wellbeing.
Stress awareness tool
If you feel your work is causing you to feel overwhelmed and stressed, it can be difficult to pinpoint the factors which make you feel this way. In a fast paced work environment; it can be easy to be caught up in the momentum of the activity, but pausing to reflect can help you avoid developing behaviours which can have a negative impact in the long term. A self-directed tool has been devised to help you, based on the Health and Safety Executive’s Management Standards for Workplace Stress.
Line managers' guidance
From time to time individuals will attribute their symptoms of stress to work factors. The Identify your Work Stressors Tool is the first of a two part process designed to assist a problem solving approach to the individual’s perception of how their work is contributing to their stress. By spending time working through the stress assessment, considering the relevance of recognised sources of work stressors, the individual should be in a position to better articulate their difficulties and may also have some ideas which will help to resolve them.