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Building Change Resilience

The emotional toll of the covid pandemic is creating global worry about the longer- term mental health concerns and challenges. Such a huge, sudden and unexpected change wave was destined to leave tsunami-like chaos on retreat of the waters.

And whilst the world grapples with unimaginable changes to the world of work, it starts to sink in that we’re in this for the long haul.

Many people are feeling weary; others are anxious. As Brené Brown reminds us, anxiety needs to be addressed very early as it’s a function of groups and not individuals. One anxious person in your team will infect many others, as it’s such a highly contagious emotion.

Uncertainty greets you in the mornings, and packs you off to bed at night. How you feel about it matters, and tapping into your resilience matters even more.

Companies are learning fast and hard about what it means to have their people scattered, and how to cope with unpredictability and fluctuating emotional responses.

The Headspace for Work: 2020 Mental Health Trends Report states that “many more people in the workforce need extra resources to support a wide range of mental health concerns – on the job and at home” as the line between work stress and life stress blurs and dissolves. Home schooling whilst navigating Teams/Zoom meetings presents big challenges.

In a recent blog, Ariana Huffington warns of the fallout in mental health following on from covid, and how building resilience matters now more than ever.                    

We’ll get through this pandemic, and another tsunami like wave is sure to follow. Change is constant, normal and something you need to make friends with, not resist.

But how?  

In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Martin Seligman explains that optimism is key.

His research showed that about a third of the people who experience inescapable shocks never become helpless because they were optimistic. When people believe their setbacks won’t last forever and can improve with effort, they do better overall. Those who feel powerless, and believe their situation is permanent and pervasive tend to struggle more.

I’m often asked to recommend practical ways to grow resilience through change, and have created a 7- Point Resilience Plan (RP) for leaders to implement in their workplaces:

  1. Introduce emotional intelligence rituals into every meeting. When people have the chance to talk about how they’re feeling, the intensity of the emotion lessens. I like to use a VEA (what I valued/what excited or energised me/what made me anxious?). 5 minutes at the end of a meeting is all it takes for every person to speak to a VEA and it can shift a culture from one of anxiety to one of calm.
  2. Use an Emotions Wheel to help people name their feelings. Start your virtual meetings by with the wheel, and invite every person to write down the 3 emotions they’re experiencing in the chat room. In the neuroscience world, we call it “Name it to Tame it” and it really helps.
  • Practice Gratitude at every opportunity ~ it builds optimism. Start the day by sharing a message of Gratitude to the team, start meetings having each person name 1 thing they’re grateful for that day (no matter how small). Have a Gratitude segment in your newsletters & invite employees to contribute.
  • The antidote to anxiety is CALM. Role model being present, slow your breath and drop your shoulders. Speak more slowly when there’s anxiety showing up in a meeting; your CALM will be felt by others and lessen their anxiety. Teach your people to do the same ~ it takes practice. Learn different ways to better navigate the anxiety being experienced in your teams.
  • Introduce Mindful practice into your workplace. Start a meeting by inviting everyone to be present, and to take a few deep breaths; to let go of any tension or negative energy hanging on from their previous meeting. Create a list of Mindful resources to share. A few that come to mind are Insight Timer, Headspace and Breethe. Even 5 minutes a day listening to a Mindful App grows CALM and resilience.
  • Move more. Encourage Walking meetings and standing desks. Introduce yoga sessions at lunch time. Send your people a home fitness pack and arrange to have fitness and yoga live streamed into their home offices once a week. Have brief 15 second interruptions in virtual meetings by making everyone stand and do 10 squats. Whatever it takes to get people moving and countering the huge hours spent sitting.
  • Focus on connection. Schedule daily or weekly team virtual catch ups where your multi-local team comes together and the agenda is to say hello, talk about wins and challenges, highs and lows. To have some fun ~ invite one person to share a joke/play a favourite song of the week/have a quiz. One idea is to play online bingo – use the Reaction tab in Zoom to clap/thumbs up when you have the correct answer. 3 reactions in a row = bingo!

These things seem small, but embedded in ritual and practiced over time will grow the resilience of your people.

Always remember the power of that small word ‘YET’. It grows optimism.

We’re not through this YET. We haven’t quite mastered resilience YET. But we’re working on it!


I look forward to hearing how you go.

Cheers, Alison

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