What is resiliency and why does it matter?

The concept of resiliency has captured the attention of mental health professionals around the globe. And for good reason. Resiliency is our emotional fitness, or ability to bounce back from, cope with and adapt to adversity. Think of that old saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We all experience unfavorable or stressful situations. But what defines us is our openness to learn and grow from those experiences.

Given that resiliency is the ability to “bounce back,” it is particularly relevant to the workers’ compensation population, who has experienced some sort of work-related accident or traumatic event. Injured workers may experience physical pain, emotional distress, financial hardship or psychosocial issues. Without the right tools to overcome obstacles, these stressors — along with everyday struggles like transportation challenges or relationship conflicts that may also result from injury and stress — can build and become more difficult to manage. This can cause a ripple effect leading to an employee experiencing mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. As a result, workers may be unable to return to work, or when they do, they don’t feel as valuable or productive.

So what does an emotionally resilient person look like? Someone who is emotionally resilient believes that they have impact and influence over their situation. They are not victims; rather they are active participants in everyday life. They work hard to forgive others (and themselves); they do not hold grudges. Emotionally resilient people strive to rid themselves of negative self-talk; they stay away from cognitive distortions like “would, should and could” or “what-ifs.” Emotionally resilient people practice mindfulness and are cognitively flexible. They are empathetic, compassionate, grateful, and think about others as well as themselves. They have boundaries and are able to say no without guilt. They communicate effectively and make realistic plans for their future. They are able to problem solve and have confidence in their ability to manage difficult situations.

To become emotionally resilient takes practice, but it’s certainly attainable. Think of how an athlete trains to become physically fit. They’re consistent in their workouts, get adequate sleep, fuel their body with healthy food and repeat the process until it becomes ingrained in them. Emotional resilience can be achieved in much the same manner. Encourage employees to challenge themselves, set aside time for rest, fuel their mind with optimism and remove irrational thought patterns. They’ll begin to notice an improvement in their mental health, much like an athlete would with their physical health by following a similar approach.

Steps toward resiliency

The American Psychological Association outlines ten steps to increase resiliency. Keep these in mind when guiding employees through the challenges of a workplace injury or event. First and foremost is making positive connections with others. Having a strong support system and being a support to others strengthens resilience. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable or unsolvable and accept that change is a part of life. Keep things in perspective; avoid blowing things out of proportion. Maintain an optimistic and hopeful outlook. Look for opportunities for self-discovery and nurture a positive self-view. Develop realistic goals and take decisive action to move towards them.  

Encourage self-care on all levels. Stress can be greatly reduced when engaging in activities that provide joy, relaxation and fitness. Have fun; laugh! Maintaining a healthy body and mind keeps you primed and ready to deal with whatever situations life might have in store. 

Additional resources

Behavioral health services (BHS) are a useful resource in supporting employees impacted by injury or illness; at Sedgwick, these are available to address issues of emotional resiliency and encourage return to work. Through telephonic support, a BHS specialist can work with employees to identify barriers to recovery, promote positive decision making and support self-efficacy through accountability and action planning.

> For more helpful tips on building resilience, visit https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience

> Read more on behavioral health from Sedgwick's experts in the latest issue of edge magazine – Time matters: Improving access to behavioral health resources in the workplace

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