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Health & Wellness
Resiliency: The Buzzword That Could Take Your Career to New Heights
Oprah believes in it—as well as researchers at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, which is debuting a new Corporate Athlete® Resilience program. See how this coachable mental skill can help you in the workplace.

Resiliency. It’s one of the hottest concepts in mental health these days. The military believes in its power. So does Oprah.

And so do the researchers at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute (HPI) in Orlando.

In fact, they hold such faith in the benefits of resiliency that HPI coaches recently taught a workshop in cutting-edge resiliency training at the Vital Voices conference in San Francisco, where 100 up-and-coming female leaders from around the globe got the chance to meet top female executives from the U.S.

“Women leaders are up against many challenges, so their ability to build resilience is tremendously important for their performance—both personally and professionally,” says Jennifer Lea Jennifer LeaPerformance Coach at HPI, a performance coach at HPI.

And this month, the institute is launching a new Corporate Athlete® Resilience program, which trains people how to redefine stress so they can grow—and even perform better—because of it.

The thinking goes like this: Resiliency, or the ability to bounce back in the face of adversity, is an acquired skill—something that can be taught and learned. The key is to figure out how to alternate times of stress with periods of crucial recovery time.

“Resilience allows you to [mediate] your response to stress,” Lea explains. “When we let little moments of stress get to us, they pile up over time. But resiliency allows us not to worry about them—instead of stress controlling you, you want to be in control of it.”

Whether you’re working in the top echelons of a Fortune 500 company, launching your own small business or just starting out in your career, everyone can use a little resiliency training. So we asked the pros at HPI for their top four tips for tapping into the power of mental pliancy.

1.
Boost Your Resiliency By … Using Stress to Your Advantage

Yes, you heard right. Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely get rid of anxiety-producing moments in life. But take heart: Some kinds of stress are actually positive—if you learn to spin them the right way.

“There are several types of stress, not all of which are ‘bad,’ ” explains Raphaela F. O’Day Raphaela F. O’Day, Ph.D.Senior Manager, Strategic Health Content, Behavioral Science, Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions, Ph.D., Senior Manager, Strategic Health Content, Behavioral Science, Johnson & Johnson Health and Wellness Solutions. “We believe that there is a great opportunity to help people identify the different kinds in their lives and reframe how they think about—and act—upon them.”

So how, exactly, do you do that? By tweaking your thinking to view stress not as an obstacle—but as a tool for growth.

Consider work situations that send your tension levels skyrocketing: Do you hate saying “no” to your superiors, or giving negative feedback to colleagues? Instead of avoiding or delegating such tasks to other people, actively challenge yourself to do them when the need arises.

It may feel uncomfortable at first, but with practice, you can develop your capacity to better handle those moments—and acquire skills in the process that can serve you well in any workplace.

2.
Boost Your Resiliency By … Making Recovery Time a Priority

Say you’ve been working 80-hour weeks for the past three months. Not surprisingly, that kind of intense schedule can cause excessive stress and fatigue.

And yet most hard-charging personalities don’t give themselves the time—or, perhaps, the permission—to truly take a rest once in a while. “Recovery is seen as a weakness,” Lea says. “Everybody is stressed out; everyone has to drive hard.”

What’s more, when most people hear the word “recovery,” they tend to think of passive pursuits, like long walks on the beach or an afternoon spent catching up on all those recorded TV shows—activities that may not appeal to those who prefer to go, go, go 24/7.

But low-key activities aren’t the only ways to reinvigorate and reenergize. Vigorous exercise—be it a brisk jog or a spin class—can also be great for helping to reboot and redirect your tired brain.

Bottom line: Whatever works best for you, “those are the things you should seek to do regularly to help with these periods of stress we all face,” Lea says.

3.
Boost Your Resiliency By … Identifying Ongoing From Occasional Stress

Stressors come in many insidious shapes and forms. Think about the biggest sources in your life: Are they chronic, everyday annoyances, like a finicky child who refuses to eat every night, or a coworker who habitually drops the ball? Or is it something with an end date, such as planning a wedding or an important work presentation?

Once you determine the type of stress you’re facing, you can then figure out how to best manage, minimize or get through it. “Stress with strategic recovery allows us to grow incrementally and therefore become more resilient to the challenges we face,” explains Lea.

Translation: Tailor your recovery time to the type of burdens you’re currently encountering. If they’re the ongoing kind, make a point of scheduling regular and recurring chunks of downtime on your calendar. But if you know they’ll be over by a certain point, keep your eyes on the prize—and plan serious recovery time as a reward at the end. Hello, honeymoon!

4.
Boost Your Resiliency By … Reframing How You Think About Failure

Much like stress, failure at some point in life is not just normal, but inevitable. So the next time you get something wrong at work, don’t view it as a character flaw or a sign that you’re incapable and underqualified—view it as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes.

So if you’ve missed an important deadline, for instance, think about how you can better manage your time to make the next one promptly. Or if you blanked out on showing up for a meeting, figure out what calendar alerts or reminders you can put in place so it doesn’t happen again.

In other words, instead of berating yourself, focus on recovering quickly from failure—and how you can make better decisions in the future to help you avoid it.

“That,” says Lea, “is the [true] measurement of resilience.”