5 Ways to boost your emotional resilience at work

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Denise Gibb

Hi, I’m Denise – Founder of Chat2Change and dedicated counsellor. My mission is to inspire change and enhance mental fitness by helping you overcome emotional roadblocks related to anxiety, grief, loss, and work stress. Let’s work together to transform your challenges into opportunities for growth and well-being.

Feeling crushed by work stress? What if you could transform that stress into resilience, bouncing back stronger each time? Emotional resilience isn’t just a buzzword—it’s the key to combating the self doubt that arises in today’s high-pressure work environment. Here’s five ways you can master resilience and thrive at work.

As a professional counsellor I’ve seen how stress triggers self-doubt which, in turn, creates a domino effect on resilience. Yet, by using a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), solution-focused therapy (SFT), and mindfulness, I empower clients to bounce back.

In today’s fast-paced work environment, emotional resilience isn’t just a nice-to-have—it’s essential. The ability to adapt to stress, remain calm under pressure, and recover quickly from setbacks can make a significant difference in your overall well-being and productivity. Let’s delve into five powerful strategies to help you build this crucial skill at work.

1. Mindfulness: your daily stress shield

Mindfulness is about being present and non-judgemental. It’s a powerful tool for reducing stress and increasing resilience. In the workplace, mindfulness can help you stay grounded amidst chaos, improve focus, and enhance emotional regulation.

How to practise mindfulness

  • Daily quiet time: Set aside 5 minutes each morning to focus on your breath. Feel your feet on the ground.
  • Awareness pause: Take a moment during your day to observe your surroundings. Ground yourself in the present.

Practical example: Meet Sarah, a high-performing manager who felt like she was constantly treading water. Each morning, she arrives 10 minutes early to her office, sits quietly, and practises mindful breathing. Throughout the day, whenever she feels overwhelmed, she takes a brief pause to focus on her breath and ground herself in the present moment. To do this in meetings, Sarah focuses on the sensation of her chair’s backrest making contact with her back. Mindful practices like these help Sarah remain calm and make thoughtful decisions, improving her team’s overall productivity and morale.

2. Embrace Cognitive Behavioural Techniques (CBT)

CBT helps us identify and change negative thought patterns that affect our emotions and behaviours. At work, this can translate to better handling of stressful situations, reducing anxiety, and improving problem-solving skills. By challenging unhelpful thoughts, you can maintain a more balanced and positive outlook.

In her book The Anxiety Survival Guide for Teens, Jennifer Shannon explains the anxiety cycle with such simplicity and clarity. Teen or adult, the cycle begins with a negative thought, leading to increased anxiety, which then triggers more negative thoughts. By recognising and challenging these thoughts, you can break the cycle and reduce anxiety at work.

CBT steps:

  • Identify negative thoughts: Pay attention to your automatic negative thoughts.
  • Challenge them: Use evidence to question these thoughts.
  • Replace them: Substitute with more balanced thoughts.

Practical example: Consider John, a project manager who frequently experiences anxiety before presentations. John notices that his thoughts are filled with self-doubt and fear of failure. Using CBT, he identifies these negative thoughts: “I’m going to mess up” and “Everyone will think I’m incompetent.” He challenges these thoughts by reviewing past successful presentations and feedback from colleagues. John replaces his negative thoughts with balanced ones: “I’ve prepared well and can handle this” and “I’ve received positive feedback before, I can do it again.” By doing this, John feels less anxious and more confident, improving his performance and reducing stress.

3. Use Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

ACT encourages us to accept what we cannot control and commit to actions that align with our values. In the workplace, this means recognising stressors and emotional challenges without letting them derail you. ACT promotes psychological flexibility, helping you adapt and thrive in changing environments.

ACT techniques:

  • Acceptance: Recognise and accept your emotions without trying to change them.
  • Values: Clarify your values and act according to them.
  • Mindfulness: Stay connected to the present moment.

Practical example: Imagine Emily, a team leader who often feels frustrated by unexpected changes in project deadlines. Instead of resisting these changes, Emily practises ACT by accepting her initial frustration and refocusing on her core value of delivering quality work. She commits to proactive communication with her team and stakeholders, ensuring everyone stays informed and aligned. This approach helps Emily manage her stress better and maintain a positive work environment.

4. Focus on solutions with Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT)

SFT is a forward-looking approach that emphasises solutions over problems. In a work context, it helps you focus on what’s working well and leverage these successes to tackle challenges. By concentrating on your strengths and resources, you can set and achieve realistic goals, enhancing your resilience.

SFT techniques:

  • Identify what works: Notice what’s working and do more of it.
  • Set goals: Establish small, achievable goals.
  • Reflect on success: Apply past successful strategies to current challenges.

Practical example: Take the example of Alex, a department head dealing with declining team performance. Instead of dwelling on what’s going wrong, Alex uses SFT to identify what has worked well in the past. He recalls a period when regular team-building activities boosted morale and productivity. Alex reintegrates these activities, sets small goals to improve specific performance metrics, and continuously reflects on the positive outcomes. This solution-focused approach helps the team regain its footing and enhances their collective resilience.

5. Build a support network

A strong support network is crucial for emotional resilience. Building connections with colleagues can provide emotional support, advice, and a sense of belonging. This network can help you navigate workplace challenges more effectively and foster a positive work environment.

How to build a support network:

  • Team-building activities: Engage in activities that foster team spirit.
  • Open communication: Create a safe space for honest conversations.
  • Seek support: Offer and ask for support from colleagues.

Practical example: Imagine Lisa, a new employee feeling overwhelmed by her workload. Lisa decides to participate in team-building activities and openly communicates her challenges during team meetings. She reaches out to her more experienced colleagues for advice and support. This network not only helps Lisa manage her workload more effectively but also provides her with a sense of belonging and support. Together, these solution-focused strategies enhance Lisa’s emotional resilience.

Building emotional resilience isn’t just about coping with stress; it’s about thriving and finding fulfilment in your professional life. By integrating mindfulness, CBT, ACT, SFT, and building a support network, you can enhance your resilience and well-being.

Ready to transform your work stress into unstoppable resilience? Book your online counselling session today. Let’s build a stronger, more resilient you. Put an end to self-doubt being the domino that knocks down your potential.

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