We have been talking about resilience a lot at work lately, I am currently working with an organisation that is undergoing a great deal of change and increasingly we are trying to do more with less, to achieve higher targets whilst our world is changing around us. How do we keep focused and moving forwards? How do we manage to overcome the obstacles and setbacks whilst responding to the continually changing internal and external environment?

What is resilience?

Resilience is generally described as the ability to recover from adversity; the ability to bounce back; adapt and recover. Resilience is essential in every aspect of life, from young children in the playground to students sitting exams and of course in the workplace and life in general. Resilience is what keeps us going when the odds are stacked against us.

Which factors positively influence our resilience?

•      Individual health and wellbeing will affect our resilience  – We’re much better able to deal with adversity if we are feeling fit, healthy and raring to go! Looking after ourselves is critical. Our resilience is also affected by the ‘other things’ that we have going on, at home, in the family, and with friends.

•      Life History, Experience and Personality will all play a part in our ability to be resilient. Our previous experiences shape us and affect our perception and interpretation of events.  Imagine yourself taking a flight, are you the person sitting having a gin and tonic and reading a book, or are you gripping the arm rest frantically, imagining the worst…

•      Organisational Support is important through a structured Change programme – your line manager, functional director, HR, change champions, the communications team and the Change team should all be there to assist – with 1-2-1 support, information and updates, roadshows, briefings and training and development where appropriate. Your team support will also be vital, encouraging positive behaviours and supporting each other through the difficult periods can really help.

•      Social and Community support – can provide both a ‘distraction’ from the work day and vital connection with others. It can also provide an invaluable network outside of the workplace that can support and assist. Examples of social and community support might include involvement in a choir, attending the WI, volunteering, joining a book club, going to the cinema with a friend, walking with friends, team sports, or a new activity like dance.

What drains our resilience?

•      Unsupportive Environments – a place where there is little or no concern for the individual and their experience. An environment where there is a lack of information.

•      Lack of connection to others – Social interaction is vital for us to thrive, even if we are introverts. Think about how you feel after you have had lunch with a friend or have been at a social event. Try to work collaboratively wherever possible.

•      Not looking after yourself emotionally or physically- Physical exercise that works for you is really important.  It doesn’t need to be the gym or anything overly physical, it can be yoga, Tai Chi, Walking. Walking is GREAT for you and costs next to nothing. Walking with others is doubly beneficial! Supporting yourself emotionally is also vital, each of us need to take responsibility for our own emotional health. Talking to others is great but there are things that we can do to support ourselves ‘in the moment’ Take care of yourself as you would your best friend or a family member. Kristen Neff [1] has done some wonderful work on self-compassion

•      Our own perception of events – ‘everything is what we think it is’ Take time to think through your reactions, are you interpreting the situation clearly, logically and from an objective stand point or is our reaction an emotional one? Ask yourself – is this a repeated behaviour, if it is how did I deal with it previously? How might the situation be interpreted differently by others?


Building our resilience – how do we know what to work on?

There are lots of resilience models around and they broadly cover similar areas, one of the most comprehensive is the model below


diagram of resilience



Being able to measure our resilience ‘start point’ can be really useful, because once we understand our ‘gaps’ we can build from there to develop our resilience by putting together a personalised action plan.

Dr Matthew Critchlow at the University of Westminster [2] has developed a psychometric tool to measure resilience called RQI – Resilience Quotient Inventory, it measures all areas of resilience and also provides a full report and suggested resources and activities in order for you to develop a personalised resilience plan. Activities proven to protect against stress and burnout, enabling you to take a more focussed approach to your personal resilience and to support yourself through times of difficulty or challenge.


Resilience interventions can often be quite simple but it’s the implementation that’s critical. We need to be able to know ourselves and to be say to be able to say things like;


·      “I need a break from this, I’m going for a walk at lunchtime” (Managing Physiology)

·      “You’re not communicating with me in a meaningful manner, I’d like us to change that” (Supportive relationships)

·      “I can’t alter what’s happened, how can I change the way that I think about what’s happened” (Managing emotions – Positive reframing)


Resilience is not a fixed characteristic, it’s something that you can learn and strengthen over time. It involves behaviours, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.” [3] American Psychological Association (APA) and it can be used in any aspect of life; professional, social or personal. Here’s to a more resilient you.

[1] Kristen Neff – Centre for mindful self-compassion https://centerformsc.org

[2] Dr Matthew Critchlow– University of Westminster. ‘This is Thrive’ https://www.thisisthrive.com

[3] American Psychological Association (APA) http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx


About the author: Janette Kirk-Willis


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