I love the word resiliency.  It’s a fun word to say and I love the way it sounds.  It just sounds hopeful.  Even more than how is sounds, I like what it means.  To be resilient means to possess the ability to bounce back and recover one’s emotional and spiritual center in the midst of difficult conditions.  Resiliency is not so much a trait a person possesses, but rather a skill that a person can learn and there are certain habits that a person can cultivate that will help them become more resilient.
I had the joy of facilitating a conversation about emotional resiliency in the work place with forty church administrators this week.  As in many work settings, those in administration are the ones that hold the place together and when there is stress in the workplace, they are often the one’s most affected.  It doesn’t matter where you work–whether in the church or just about any other setting–stress in the work place is on the rise.  Some of the reasons for the increasing stress are people working longer hours or multiple jobs, they are taking on more increased workloads,  and they are finding that with smartphones, computers, and email it is harder than ever to keep personal time separate from work time.
Perhaps you are one who is experiencing stress in the workplace right now.  Or perhaps you are experiencing stress in your personal or family life.  Whatever the nature of your stress here are a few suggestions that emerged from the conversation I had with some wise church administrators.  These suggestions can help any of us become more emotionally resilient in the face of stress.
The first thing we all agreed upon was the importance of awareness–being able to honestly recognize the early warning signs that stress is building up and becoming a problem in one’s life.  At our workshop I asked the group, “How do you know when stress is becoming a problem for you?”  Here are some of their answers:

  • I get irritable and snap at people, either at work, or at home.
  • I have trouble sleeping.
  • I eat poorly, eating comfort food that’s not good for me.
  • I shut down and pull away from everyone.
  • I get sick a lot.
  • My allergies get much worse.
  • I feel really anxious and have what feel like panic attacks.
  • I cry a lot.
  • I work more hours, but get less done because I’m tired and unfocussed.
  • I stop exercising–the very thing I need to do more!

Our group agreed that the earlier we can pay attention to these warning signs that we are stressed, the easier it is for us to make the changes or adjustments necessary to recover our emotional balance.
Our group discussed several other vital habits that help them maintain or recover their emotional center in the midst of stress.

  • Develop and nurture one’s spiritual life.
  • Exercise on a regular basis.  It will do as much for one’s moods as for one’s body.
  • Create healthy boundaries.  Know your limits and practice saying, “No.”
  • Cultivate optimism.  Whatever we pay attention to is what will grow.
  • Create or find a social support network.  No need to go it alone.  Resist the urge to either isolate from others, or to become irritable and short with them.
  • Keep your sense of humor!

Stress happens.  It is ubiquitous these days.  Emotional resiliency happens, too, though.  The key difference though, is that stress happens whether we want it to or not, while emotional resiliency is something that we have to choose to make happen.   I am grateful for our wise group of church administrators for reminding us all of the habits and practices we can create to help us thrive, even in the midst of stress.

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