Keep Calm and Carry On!
Building resilience whilst reducing stress.

With the economic climate as unpredictable as the weather, organisations are continuing to survive on a lean people strategy….but for how long?

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) UK, an estimated 10.8 million days were lost due to work-related stress in the last 12 months 2010/2011.

A look at a typical cycle of stress within the workplace:

During times of increased pressure, such as during an economic downturn this cycle is often repeated at pace, when this occurs, the ‘recovery’ and ‘calm’ stages become weaker eventually leading to a cycle like this:

At the stage of “Withdrawal” the individual will often start taking one or two days off sick and at “Burn Out” stage it is more likely they will need a longer term absence to recover.

So, how do we change this cycle?

Remember the old adage “Prevention is better than cure”, well psychologists believe that resilience is the key to success in this area.
Resilience is the way in which people are able to face challenges and deal with adversity, it’s often referred to as ‘bounce-back’ or as the title of this newsless 'Keep Calm and Carry On'!

Resilience is something which most people have within them, some people use it naturally and others sometimes need some help in sourcing this strength within them. The good news is that it is something which can be developed and improved over time.

What’s the process for improving resilience?

Many companies offer resilience courses or workshops designed to improve individual resilience, these can be highly effective.

Another option is to work with a coach or to start with an assessment tool, for example the EQ-i 2.0 which measures emotional intelligence and within that, measures traits of emotional resilience.

Wanting to provide you with something of value to take away from this newsletter, here’s a self-help guide to improving resilience.

1.       Self-awareness, as with all forms of development, the first step is self-awareness
*      What are your challenges? What causes you stress?
*      How do you currently deal with these?
*      Do you think you handle stress well?
*      What could be improved about the way you handle stressful situations?
2.       A realistic view, it’s a fact of life that few of us exist in a world with no challenges, stress or setbacks. So, it would be very unhelpful to suggest “Just be positive”.
*      Acknowledge that life has ups and downs – for all people
*      Plan some ‘time out’ to think and respond to stressful situations
*      Accept no-one is perfect and you will do your best in a given situation
3.       Take responsibility to face and deal with challenging situations. It’s surprising how anxiety can impede our ability to take responsibility if we allow it. Taking responsibility can reduce the anxiety by sending a message to the brain that we are dealing with the situation.
*      Avoid blaming others and outside circumstances when it’s your situation to deal with
*      Avoid soothers and comforters – yes really! Ever had a “medicinal glass of wine” or a ‘tot of whiskey’ to help make the right decision? Or heard of the chain-smoking Marketing Executive who felt she couldn’t handle the pressure?
4.       Step away
*      Gain some perspective by removing yourself from the situation and taking the planned ‘time out’ from step 2
*      Take a 3rd party view, what would you advise a colleague to do? What would your colleague advise you to do?
*      Remind yourself of the benefits of building resilience and that this is work in progress, how will you feel when you’ve dealt with this effectively?
*      Consider an external coach to help you work through the situation
5.       Action and Review
*      Once you’ve made your decision, take the necessary action
*      Review the situation with the benefit of hindsight and use it as an experiential learning experience to identify
  • What went well?
  • What could have been done differently?
Helping employees improve their resilience is not only beneficial because it can reduce absenteeism, but it also shows that your organisation values its’ employees enough to help them improve this life enhancing skill.

Think for a moment what it will be like when the economic climate is buoyant, people will be choosing their employer of choice, will that be your organisation?

As a specialist in your organisation, which do you choose?

A – Increased absenteeism caused by work-related stress
B – Resilience skills development

If you would like to talk more about this article, please get in touch with Zoé at

Article by Zoé Lewis, Harvard Lewis Associates.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.
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A testimonial from an EQ360® and corporate coaching client

“Zoé is an excellent, patient coach. She is pro-active and has enabled me to deal with challenging situations in a constructive and straight forward way. Her interpretation of the EQ360® felt personal and every detail rang true. I feel I thoroughly benefitted from the sessions and would recommend Zoé to anyone!”


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