Strategies to better manage stress in your work and life, and build your emotional resilience

  1. stress

Strategies to better manage stress in your work and life, and build your emotional resilienceStress is so personal, one person’s stress is another’s idea of a thrill, so learning to overcome and manage stress is equally very personal.

Take relocation. Some people love it, whilst others may be exhausted by it, physically and emotionally. Moving house is stressful in itself but when that move is to a foreign country, the impact is multiplied. Many people adapt quickly, yet for many others it can be an isolating and frustrating experience, where people say to me “sometimes I feel like I am the child, back at school.”

For many who have adapted and settled, they are now waiting to hear if they are facing early repatriation as organisations make job cuts. In the last couple of months, I have helped more and more accompanying spouses who are now looking to return to work, to help keep the family here and share the responsibility.  For the working partner, there is the stress of losing a job or moving roles again. Equally, for the partner who has been out of work, there is the anxiety and dip in confidence around what job role to even look for, as it seems such a gap between being at home and working professionally.

Whatever your stress is, there are strategies and coping mechanisms that you can use, to help build your emotional resilience; so that you can adapt well in the face of adversity; and even use it as a catalyst for positive change.

  1. Cultivate friendships with hopeful people – in challenging situations, people are best able to call on their own resilience and inner strength if people around them are positive, confident and encouraging.  Optimism and hope can be contagious; as can negativity. So, look at your own social circle. What do people around you tend to focus on – do they leave you energised or drained? Do you need to seek out some new groups, who consider relocation as an opportunity; who can bring some positivity and hope to stress at work?

  2. Finding meaning, purpose and growth – when we engage in an activity that calls on our favourite strengths and skills, we experience flow: “we are completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement and thought follows inevitable from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”(Geirland, 1996). This could be your time to truly explore and ask yourself:

  • When does time fly by for me; what are my key strengths and how can I bring them to this situation?

  • What is something I have always wanted to do/try and time/fear has held me back?

  • If I was in my home country, what would I do? It may well be possible to do the same or a variety of that here; and not be held back by limiting beliefs of “I can’t speak French; I don’t have the skills…”

  1. Practice positive thinking – this may seem like a stretch if this is a particularly stressful time yet it is practice positive thinking possible. Notice what is good and what you can be grateful for.  What is within your control to influence? What is another perspective here?

  2. Refute negative thinking – identify each negative thought and then challenge its accuracy. Ask yourself, am I exaggerating the potential negative impact of this scenario or letting it impede all areas of my life? What is the opportunity in this situation, even if it feels like 2% opportunity/ positivity?

  3. Resilient Role Models – Who inspires you? Why? Look for people who recover quickly from hardship whom you could learn from, members of your own family, colleagues, trainers, historical figures..even fictional figures all can serve as resilient role models! What do they do? What rules do they live by/structures they put in place when they need support?

  4. Accepting challenges/stretching yourself – if you deliberately take on increasingly difficult challenges, you will gradually learn to handle higher levels of stress. Such challenges should be outside your comfort zone but not so intense as unmanageable. This inoculation principle of graded exposure can apply to a broad range of activities:

  • A person who is afraid of speeches/presentations may sign up for public speaking workshops and then commit to accept a speaking engagement!

  • A person who says “I can’t run, I am too overweight” may accept the challenge to run a 5km charity run.

  • Someone who finds themselves holding back speaking French through shyness/ embarrassment, may commit to a workshop/programme and set a goal of having at least 3 conversations a day; using 2 new words a day etc. Within days, you will be raising your game to more!

  1. Make physical activity part of your routine – not only does physical exercise improve your health and fitness, it also affects your behaviour and how you feel emotionally. The impact of movement allows you to see scenarios in a new light, enabling you to find a new perspective; which opens up possibilities.

Begin by choosing one or two of the above strategies that align with your personal  values and beliefs; fit well with your lifestyle and that resonate when you read them.

So, if you have a personal value around people/connection/community but fear has held you back, take a courageous step and identify a club you can join, something that grabs your interest so you are in a group with a shared passion. If shyness is holding you back, remember that “you can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people, than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you”. To make a friend, be a friend.

George Vallant, psychologist, describes resilient individuals as resembling “a twig with a fresh, green living core. When twisted out of shape, such a twig bends, but it does not break; instead it springs back and continues growing.


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