Thought LeadershipUK

Steph Peltier – Resilience: Put your own oxygen mask on first

By 27 November 2020 No Comments

“I’m running on empty”, “I’m so drained”.  

It’s highly likely that you have experienced moments of very low energy and noticed that on these days everything seems to be much more complicated. It’s hard to think clearly, to make (the right) decisions and even harder to take on challenges and bounce back from difficulties. As a senior leader, it becomes difficult to inspire your teams to put your vision into action and to guide and support them. Never has this been felt more so than during these challenging times.

These are all signs of low resilience.

So what is resilience exactly?

Resilience can be thought of as your inner battery; the energy that you have available to prepare for a challenge, to adapt during this challenge and to quickly recover from it.

Recent research demonstrates that when our resilience levels are high, we keep our cool in the face of adversity; we feel strong and energised. We think more clearly and we make smarter decisions. We are able to engage with life from a perspective of opportunity, we take risks and we grow. We bounce back quickly from difficulties.

Even though some of us seem more resilient than others, resilience is not something that you have or you don’t have. It is something that you can build and maintain as you go through life.

Building resilience – this inner battery -  is an everyday job because each and every challenge we encounter in life, big or small, drains it, and as we go along, we must find ways not only to patch up some of these energy leaks but also to find ways to replenish the battery.

There are 4 primary domains of resilience:

  • Physical: flexibility, endurance, strength
  • Mental: flexibility, attention span, ability to incorporate different points of view
  • Emotional: flexibility, ability to self-regulate your emotions, optimism
  • Existential: purpose, commitment to your beliefs, tolerance of others’ beliefs

To be fully resilient, you need to pay attention to all of these domains as they interact with one another. The emotional domain depletes us of our internal reserves of energy more than any other, especially in the workplace.

Feelings of frustration, resentment, anger and anxiety burn a lot of energy. Some of the hormones produced during a stressful interaction (emotional domain) stay in your system for many hours and can disrupt your ability to get renewing sleep (physical domain) and can diminish your ability to focus (mental domain).

Here are my 4 top tips for efficient resilience energy management:

1. Know your energy drains

Start by making an exhaustive list of all your energy drains (stress triggers) and make a note of how they affect your emotional resilience (how you feel).  Do not underestimate the little ones because these can accumulate into a much larger drain than you may think.  It is only with the awareness of what these are that you can start taking action to reduce their impact on your resilience.

2. Take action for the ones you can control

From this list, identify all the drains over which you can exercise some form of control and identify what action you could take today to reduce the intensity of the drain, or patch it up entirely. You will be surprised how, by patching up little drains, you can seriously protect your capacity for resilience.

3. Know how to nourish yourself

Make a list of all the activities, situations and people that nourish and energise you. This could be anything from a good nights sleep, playing the guitar, taking a bath, cooking or having a chat with someone you care about. Again, with this awareness, you can audit your life and make sure that you do set time aside to schedule these activities into your busy life.

4. Learn how to self-regulate your emotions

This is probably the most valuable tip and the trickiest one too because it requires a little practice. When you notice that your emotions are getting the best of you, it is time to self-regulate and consciously take action to move from draining emotions like frustration, anxiety, anger to a state of calm. This is particularly important for you as a senior leader because these emotions will impact your vision for the business, the way you engage with your team and your ability to motivate and inspire them. The technique here is to combine the use of your breath and imagination: take 10 slow deep breaths and bring to mind a memory of a time when you felt very grateful.

Slow, deep breathing activates the vagus nerve which induces relaxation and facilitates the regulation of emotions. The brain makes no distinction between a thought and reality so the simple fact of connecting with a past memory of gratitude, will bring up the emotions associated with it and will release chemicals that allow for better regulation.

When you have a high level of resilience or a fully charged inner battery, you have a greater capacity to remain calm, think clearly and be in control of your emotions so you don’t overreact.

In other words, you can more easily “roll with the punches” and flow through challenges rather than become stressed, which further drains your energy reserves.

And remember, looking after your own resilience is never a selfish act. You can’t pour from an empty cup! Looking after your own personal resilience has a true beneficial ripple effect on the world around you, your loved ones as well as your teams and your business. Looking after your own resilience is the only way to help yourself and others navigate efficiently through the changes and uncertainties we are all facing today.

Steph is an Associate at leading workplace wellbeing provider, Work Well Being.

Since 2014, Work Well Being have been supporting some of the UK’s leading organisations and their people to thrive. Their workplace wellbeing solutions make it simple for smart businesses to start building healthy workplaces immediately.

Work Well Being deliver wellbeing workshops on topics including Stress, Sleep, Anxiety, Nutrition and Productivity; provide mental health at work training courses and 1:1 support and they have recently launched a flexible and affordable on-demand wellbeing programme, Work Well Being Play.

To find out more about Work Well Being Play, click here.

Tim Brann

Tim Brann

Tim started working with Oxford HR in 2018, having graduated with a BSc in Product Design from Brunel University London. Although initially trained as a Product Designer, he has worked on a diverse range of projects across graphic design, 3D installations and website design and development. Tim has a keen interest in design as a tool for positive social change, especially among children's social care, and has pursued this through previous work for the GravityLight Foundation, small not-for-profit startups, and now at Oxford HR.