Stress is a fact of life. Whether it’s stress caused by personal issues, work demands, or global events, we all experience some form of negative stress in our lives. Indeed, about half of Americans report experiencing a “major stressful event” in the previous year. Fortunately, your workplace can be a surprisingly effective force for good when it comes to reducing your employees’ stress levels. Not only can you make sure your workplace isn’t unnecessarily stressful, but you can use your corporate wellness program to help employees bounce back faster and more fully when stress—from any source—does occur.
How? By helping employees strengthen their emotional resilience.
What Is Emotional Resilience?
The American Psychological Association says psychologists define resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.”
The APA goes on to point out that emotional resilience involves “bouncing back” from tough experiences, but also “profound personal growth.” In other words, resilient people not only survive stressful life events, they learn from them and even use them to improve their lives.
Some people are naturally resilient, while others of us have a harder time recovering from adversity. Fortunately, as a study in the American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal points out, “Emotional resilience is a skill that can be taught and learned, but to be effective, these skills need to be practiced and incorporated into a healthy lifestyle and a healthy work style.”
How can you help your employees build and practice resilience? Here are a few strategies:
In the ACSMH study that we cited above, researchers followed a group of employees at a healthcare company before and after they participated in group emotional wellness coaching programs. A year after the program, the researchers reported that employees exhibited statistically significant improvements in factors such as total health potential, quality of life, and job satisfaction.
The researchers concluded that coaching can be highly effective at encouraging employees “not only to bring their best self to work but also to be their best self at home and in the community.”
As it turns out, just having someone in your corner can make all the difference between burning out and thriving. Whether in group sessions, one-on-one, in person, or online, a wellness coach can provide the expert guidance, support, and encouragement your employees need to get through difficult times.
Coaches can serve as a sympathetic ear and steer your employees toward healthy, constructive outlets for relieving their stress.
Mindfulness teaches us to be fully present in the moment, acknowledging our own thoughts without judgment. Mindfulness helps us approach moments of high stress more rationally, without projecting our fears into the future or fretting about the past.
Mindfulness is also one of the most cost-effective stress-management techniques to learn and practice.
You can promote mindfulness in your workplace through classes and workshops (after, during, or before work), online tutorials, and daily activities such as breaks for simple yoga poses or mindful breathing. You might be astounded by the results. A UnitedHealthcare survey found that close to 90% of employees report an improvement in their health and wellbeing after learning mindfulness skills.
Promote Physical Health and Wellness
The body, mind, and emotions are inextricably intertwined. When people feel unwell physically, it alters their ability to handle emotional stress. Just think of how draining a high-pressure work task can be when you’re already fatigued.
An employee wellness program that encourages physical fitness, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and other healthy practices can also help your employees build up the energy reserves they need to power through challenging times and bounce back rapidly when life takes a bad turn.
Encourage Positive Social Connections
U.C. Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine quotes a resiliency expert who says, “The availability of social support in all its forms—instrumental support, emotional support, support with how you think about things—they all matter and help us in facing challenges.”
Our emotional resilience may depend almost as much on our relationships as our inner states.
You can help your employees build supportive social relationships by including collaborative team activities among the challenges in your wellness program. Working together towards a common goal—such as achieving a target number of steps or miles in a walking challenge—teaches people to rely on each other to overcome difficulties.
Emotional resiliency is a powerful tool, helping us cope with whatever life throws at us and then rise up, stronger than before. By creating a culture of caring in your workplace and providing the support to help your employees develop their own emotional resilience, you help set up your team for strength in the face of adversity, not only at work, but at life—no matter what it may bring.
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