Helping Our Clients Become More Resilient
By Stacey Bevill
For those in career transition, a common attribute listed for an ideal position is a stress-free work environment. For many, it is hard to imagine a genuinely stress-free job. Even if there were stress-free work positions, many people would still have personal stress that would impact work.
Why Be Concerned About Stress?
While stress is a part of daily life, 75% to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments, complaints, and concerns (NeuroScience, 2020). If coping mechanisms are in place, day-to-day stress can be relatively harmless. When the career practitioner’s clients experience chronic or acute stress, they are more likely to:
- communicate less effectively
- make more mistakes
- suffer from burnout, depression, and anxiety.
Under stress, clients have less access to their prefrontal cortex (the thinking part of the brain) and are more likely to make poor decisions undermining performance. This can impact interviews, networking, follow-up, and other critical components of a successful career transition.
From a holistic view, stress affects each of the four domains of healthy individuals: emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual. For example, if a client had an altercation that resulted in depleted emotions, and then went to their office to work, they would be more likely to make a mistake. Once one or more mistakes occur, they are more likely to experience stress responses in the physical domain such as a headache or tension in their neck or shoulders. Then, when someone comes into their office to ask for help, they may not offer assistance at their typical level of enthusiasm or proficiency. This reduction in the preference for altruism may be reflected in their spiritual domain.
Hormonal Responses to Stress
Is stress contagious? According to a study by the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, 2014), stress is contagious; even observing a person in stress can cause our bodies to release the stress hormone cortisol. Most of us are familiar with cortisol, a hormone that helps regulate the body’s reaction to stress, but few know that over a thousand other harmful hormones flood the body under stress. The effects can impact the body for several hours. When we are in a resilient state, also known as coherence, DHEA and over a thousand other helpful hormones flow through the body. DHEA is a vitality hormone that leads to better health and longevity. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is considered an anti-aging therapy that can also enhance physical performance and treat depression. (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2021)
A personal example is from a few years ago when my doctor asked me what I was doing differently as my health indicators were consistently improving. I was no longer having difficulty sleeping and focusing at work. I was also enjoying increased energy. I told him I was practicing techniques to grow my capacity for resilience. Soon after that conversation, I went to a HeartMath® Trainer Certification. Before I left for the training, I measured my waist for a dress I wanted to wear on a cruise. I usually would have no idea what my measurements are. Over the 3.5 days of training, I lost four inches in my abdomen! I contacted my doctor and asked him if that could be due to a release of cortisol in my stomach. He said, “Absolutely!”
Warning Signs of Stress
Stress can be indicated by a combination of physical and mental symptoms including:
- Sleep disturbances
- Lack of energy
- Trouble focusing
- Low morale
When career practitioners help clients lower stress and become more resilient, measurable and sustainable improvements can be observed in their performance as well as improved personal health.
HeartMath® defines resilience as “the ability to prepare for, recover from and adapt in the face of stress, adversity and challenge” (HeartMath Institute, n.d., para. 1). When clients are resilient and grow their capacity for resiliency, they are more likely to bounce back and recoup faster after challenging situations. Thankfully, clients can be taught how to build their capacity for resilience and manage emotional drains, leading to more energy and confidence as they navigate their career transition.
Clients who have developed resilience have both a physiological and cognitive advantage. As their resiliency grows, they will be less impacted by potentially stressful situations such as interviews and networking. It will also help them develop self-awareness as they identify their core values and strengths.
Resources and training programs are available that lead to sustainable change to increase levels of resiliency. Imagine this for your clients:
- Increased energy levels
- Improved ability to think clearly under pressure and discern solutions to problems
- Increased ability to maintain situational awareness
- Improved reaction times and coordination
- Lower rates of illness, injury or disability
- Better communication
- Enhanced creativity and innovation
To help a client determine if they would benefit from increased resiliency, ask them if they would like to
- improve their ability to maintain composure?
- be able to quickly reset after challenging experiences?
- enjoy more confidence and clarity when under stress?
- improve physical symptoms caused by stress?
- improve the length and quality of sleep?
These questions bring awareness to your clients to help them understand the benefits of an increased capacity for resilience.
Career professionals can help clients improve their resiliency by teaching them to:
- Embrace optimism by identifying the gift in each situation
- Pay attention to the attitudes of the people they spend the most time with – are they energizing or depleting?
- Identify their purpose in life and make time for their passions
- Create time to laugh, which releases endorphins to increase happiness
- Practice feeling gratitude, which is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. (Harvard Health, 2021)
The resilient client embodies sustainable techniques to reduce their reaction to stress in their daily lives. They are better able to adapt to change and grow regardless of challenges. Clients can become resilient and even increase their capacity for resilience in each of the four domains of health: emotional, mental, physical and spiritual. Increased resiliency leads to increased health (LaMotte, 2021).
According to Harvard Health, resiliency is associated with longevity, lower rates of depression, and greater satisfaction with life. A lack of resilience means that you may not handle stress well in difficult situations. (Harvard Health, 2017). Supporting client ability to build resilience is a valuable development process for client career transitions.
Harvard Health Publishing. (2017, November 1). Ramp up your resilience! https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/ramp-up-your-resilience
Harvard Health Publishing. (2021, August 14). Giving thanks can make you happier. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier#:~:text=In%20positive%20psychology%20research%2C%20gratitude
HeartMath Institute. (n.d.). Importance of resilience. https://www.heartmath.org/resources/videos/importance-of-resilience/
LaMotte, S. (2021, December 7). How to become more resilient, according to the research. CNN. https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2021/12/07/health/resilience-tips-wellness/index.html
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. (2014). Your stress is my stress. https://www.mpg.de/research/stress-empathy
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2021, February 12). DHEA. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-dhea/art-20364199
NeuroScience. (2020, July 9). The effects of stress and anxiousness on your health. https://www.neuroscienceinc.com/news/2020/the-effects-of-stress-and-anxiousness-on-your-health#:~:text=75%25%20to%2090%25%20of%20all,ailments%2C%20complaints%2C%20and%20concerns
Stacey Bevill, PCC, BCC, is the CEO of Golden Career Strategies. She is passionate about helping organizations improve communication, trust, resiliency, and employee engagement. She supports individuals in transition and those interested in personal leadership and vision, resiliency, and more. Stacey is highly credentialed, including many assessments and credentials, including Certified HeartMath® Trainer and Laughter Yoga Instructor. She also has training specific to supporting manufacturing and service companies. Learn more or schedule a complimentary introduction at https://www.goldencareerstrategies.com. She can be reached at email@example.com