The Gift of Resilience
December is here, and that means a lot of things.
It means year-end renewals and budget deadlines. It means holidays, office parties, food and drink. It means reconnecting with family and missing those who are no longer with us. It means excessive shopping and even more excessive traffic. It means the kids are home from college, the in-laws are in town, and the gym is calling.
In a word, it means stress.
While stress is a normal part of life, excessive or chronic stress costs the U.S. economy $300 billion in sick time, long-term disability, and job turnover annually, according to the American Institute of Stress (AIS). The effects of stress—employee burnout, poor performance, poor employee health, higher absenteeism—have a negative impact on organizations.
That’s why, a few weeks ago, we brought in the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute (HPI) to speak to a group of executives from Council member firms across the country. The topic: corporate resilience.
We couldn’t have teed up a more perfect time for this discussion. We gathered on the cusp of one of the busiest times of the year, with work stress and life stress often converging all at once, which is no laughing matter. According to AIS, 65% of adults cite work as a top source of significant stress, with 77% of stressed employees reporting above-average levels of fatigue.
Resilience is about taking care of yourself when you are being pulled in 12 different directions. By definition, resilience is the acquired ability to regularly recover, adapt, and grow from stress. For employers, corporate resilience is a strategy to combat lost productivity and increasing healthcare costs related to stress by teaching employees how to manage stressful triggers and deal with them, enabling higher performance.
The key to resilience is figuring out how to alternate times of stress with strategic recovery time. Instead of allowing little moments of stress to pile up (and potentially send us into a coffee-bingeing, pull-your-hair-out spiral), being resilient puts you in control of your stressors. The very way you perceive stress is one of the most important factors influencing how it affects your health and happiness. That traffic jam? Be thankful you’re not the one in the fender-bender. Shut off the radio, sit quietly, and clear your head. That deadline? Consider it a challenge (“training” stress) and get after it. That added assignment? Close your books for the day, get a good night’s sleep, and tackle it tomorrow. It’s not going anywhere.
Self-awareness is central to HPI’s exercises. Ask yourself a series of questions. How much energy do I have? Where am I putting it? Is that the most important place? Answering these questions will help you show up as your best self in all aspects of your life.
Another cool feature is you choose what “recovery” means to you. It can be a walk with your dog, a spin class, a nap, reading a (non-work) book or all of the above, as long as it’s intentional and restores your energy.
Learning how to redefine and reframe stress in ways that help you perform better, both personally and professionally, is a skill that will serve you well in any workplace (or at any holiday gathering!). Easier said than done, perhaps, but by tweaking your thinking to be aware of your stressors and view them not as obstacles but as tools for growth, you are developing your capacity to better handle those moments.
So don’t worry so much about that seemingly never-ending to-do list. Smile. Breathe. The work will get done, the presents will get wrapped, the tenderloin will be perfect. December is here. Happy holidays!