Embrace stress to build resilience

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We can't completely eradicate stress but we can fundamentally change our relationship with it

Successful businesses have employees who have healthy minds and a healthy relationship with stress. Stress is an everyday occurrence and part of our day-to-day language, and consequently the subject of constant head-scratching about how to reduce it.

But what if we could look at this problem differently? What if we could accept that while we can't completely eradicate stress from the modern workplace it is in within our power to fundamentally change our relationship with it?

Forward-thinking leaders are now investing in the minds of their staff, and creating positive mindset interventions that are helping employees feel more in control, empowered, focused and engaged in times of adversity, change or pressure. This new mindset approach is long-lasting and reduces anxiety, lessens fatigue and improves performance. It does not reduce the stress that exists, but works by transforming how people think about it and their experience of it. Quite simply they become more resilient.

Creating a mindset of resilience involves three belief shifts, which give staff the 'KNACK' (Knowledge and Notice; Accept and Connect; Kickstart).

Knowledge and Notice – When we find ourselves in a stressful situation the temptation is to treat stress as an unwelcome visitor to be resisted. But fighting it can make us feel more out of control.

It is much more useful to work towards having the knowledge to transform stress. Most of us recognise its presence but don’t go any deeper. By equipping yourself with the knowledge that you are experiencing it you can notice and acknowledge the effects it is having on you.

We can notice our thinking, which in times of stress tends to polarise in rigid ‘all or nothing’ positions, seeing everything in black and white. The process of noticing its impact allows you to begin to step outside of it, almost as an observer, and acknowledge what is happening.

Accept and Connect – We should accept stress – even welcome it – as it means we are dealing with something we care about. Many of us will think ‘why is this happening to me?’, but if our unconscious mind asks us a question from a negative place we allow stress to paralyse us.

Asking why takes us into the past and the unconscious mind will usually give a list of unhelpful negative answers that support our stress and perception of being out of control. Acceptance is recognising that as human beings we experience emotions, such as stress. Once we stop fighting it we take away its power and are ready to transform our response. Connect with the motivation behind the stress; ask yourself what is at stake and why does it matter to you?

Kickstart – We can now redirect the energy generated to kickstart our response to it and to the situation causing it. It is our positive choice to use this energy as a motivation for good – visualising what we want to achieve and then asking ‘what can I do right now?’ and ‘how can I move to my outcome?’ How and why questions move us out of paralysis and into the future towards our visualised positive outcome.

Rebecca Howard is a psychotherapeutic executive coach specialising in developing individual and team resilience, and founder of coaching company Shiny Mind

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