You may know resilience as someone’s ability to adapt to life’s adversities. A formal definition describes resilience as a “dynamic process encompassing positive adaptation within the context of significant adversity (Robertson et al., 2016).” Although absolutely true, we have a few bones to pick with the delivery and timing of resilience trainings. Resilience is considered to be a long-term developmental strategy versus a short-term tactical strategy used for comfort. So why is that many organizations respond to negative outcomes such as burnout by slapping everyone in the face by offering resilience trainings? In fact, I would argue that many healthcare professionals demonstrate strong resilience and high persistence- I mean, we got this far through the hurdles and challenges in our grueling education and training. Important in and of itself, it is just one piece of the pie for being your best self and NOT an end-all, be-all solution to solving burnout. Burnout is a symptom of a dysfunctional work environment and/or work and social factors that impact the individual with what you would define as burnout. Anyhow, we explore the six major factors, or “Six P’s” of resilience in this episode with a bonus factor thrown in there, because why not.
Resilience doesn’t guarantee you won’t burn out. However, resilience for healthcare professionals can prove to be a positive resource to reconnect with purpose, maintain a positive outlook, and thrive in their roles.
1. THE FUNDAMENTALS OF RESILIENCE: PRESENCE AND PURPOSE
Self-awareness and remaining present is the foundation for the house. If you default to responding to a stressor a certain way (i.e. with overwhelm), you must first activate your awareness in order to in the moment make a new choice (i.e. take a deep breath and respond calmly). Next, define your purpose. This can easily get lost in the day-to-day work. What is your purpose in your role? Do you feel trapped in your current position? A sense of purpose with your work can be found in small ways (i.e. I helped this patient today to do xyz) as well as in big ways (i.e. I have professional goals and I feel growth in this role).
2. CHANGE YOUR LENS AND LEAN ON YOUR WORK BFF
Perspective is everything. EVERYTHING. Two different people with two different perspectives can approach the same scenario in two completely different ways with outstanding implications for personal outcomes. Like that cliche phrase you’ve heard probably a hundred times: “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Choose a perspective that frees you from being a victim to empowered when it comes to work problems (or anything, for that matter. Of course, this is not an excuse to tolerate any form of bullying or harassment). Better yet- are they problems or challenges? Can you find opportunities in these challenges? It will definitely take presence, reflection, and active problem-solving to work on shifting your perspective. Lean on your coworkers for support and create beneficial alliances. Beware of forming relationships at work that center around negativity (i.e. bitching about your boss, your patients- everything). Burnout is contagious at work through the spread of toxic vibes; likewise, positivity is contagious as well. If no one’s stepping up to the spreading of positive experiences plate, role model that behavior for others. Where you focus your energy, you thrive.
3. BE PRO-ACTIVE AND PRACTICE ON THE REG
As mentioned in the previous paragraph: if you don’t see the change, BE the change! Don’t be afraid to do something new. Sometimes, organizations can get stuck in a space where there’s low psychological energy, meaning there is a high risk for stepping outside of the comfort zone. When there is high psychological energy, there is a space for safety, trust, and courage. Having the safety at work to take action is also related to job autonomy. When employees have greater job autonomy, there is a greater sense of empowerment. Lastly, put all of this into practice. Although we know that practice doesn’t make perfect, it gets you to closer and closer to making something the norm and more easily available in your life. Practice also refers to actually practicing restorative mind-body practices to take care of the multiple dimensions of your health. You are like a little plant my friend- you must water yourself to grow! You can’t just not focus on watering and nurturing your social health or emotional health because you’re ‘good.’ Last time I checked, we are humans with many facets and needs! Foster your friendships, set priorities for self-care, move your body, and drink enough water are examples of practicing restorative practices.
Remember, we all face challenges at work. From difficult patients to butting heads with our coworkers, from organizational issues to lack of sufficient resources, sometimes we’re in a pickle. Pressures coming from work can be overwhelming. You most likely will have days you cry at work (ahem, I can attest to that). Resilience doesn’t guarantee you won’t burnout. However, resilience for healthcare professionals can prove to be a positive resource to reconnect with purpose, maintain a positive outlook, and thrive in their roles.