We recently hosted a webinar on workplace resilience and coping with change, particularly in these challenging times.
Top of the agenda was workplace resilience and how we can cope with change, particularly in a period when everyone has been coping with an incredible amount of change. The goal was to leave everyone with a better understanding and some practical advice on how you can practice resilience in the workplace.
A recap of the webinar is also available as:
After finishing a degree in Arts and Psychology, Claire took a job in the corporate world where she worked for KPMG and the Financial Times. She ended up walking away from the corporate world to follow a dream of creating a fine jewellery brand. “During that time when I was working on my business and I was managing staff, managing cash flow, managing lots and lots of things - I suffered. Now it feels like a distant memory, but I was burnt out.”
She turned to something that had been part of her life for a while, which was clinical hypnotherapy. “I spent a year seeing a clinical hypnotherapist to just destress myself because I was incredibly stressed - so stressed that I think I developed a thyroid issue, an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's.”
“And I just really worked with her on destressing and understanding that I was in control of my stress and the perception of stress in my mind,” she continued. “I learnt what I could do to control my reactions and start to self regulate and how I let stress affect my body.
I found it an incredible experience so from there I trained as a clinical hypnotherapist and I developed my practice working with people on two key issues, one of which is stress, which manifests itself individually for all of us because we're all individual - so the way I deal with stress and what is stressful for me will be different from you. Although I must say Covid is universal in that we’re all universally stressed out by Covid.”
“The second key issue is confidence. And the two are quite interconnected because if you can develop confidence in yourself, which brings about self esteem and self belief, you can maybe stand up to more stressful situations or set boundaries and say ‘no’, then you will manage the stress in your life. So from there, after a lot of work with different people, I wanted to create something digital and scalable - like a toolkit for individuals to listen to in their own time, in the privacy of their own home. And that's what became my ideology, the app and the workshops and the platform.”
This was for Claire a journey which has been twenty years in the making. She noticed that people were starting to accept and acknowledge how much of a profound impact stress levels that have on their bodies, their health and their wellbeing.
She also noticed mindfulness was becoming more widely accepted, and how being more aware of how one is processing one’s emotions can actually lead to massive improvements. She believes that this is why resilience is particularly important right now with Covid.
She noted how resilient we can be as humans without being aware of it. The pandemic is the perfect example: “If I had said to you two years ago that for a period of time, you're not going to be able to leave your home. You can't see your family and friends. You'll have to Zoom everyone. You could maybe go for a walk for up to an hour. You're going to be stuck at home. And if you have children, you have to home-school them. You would say, ‘No way can I do that!’ Absolutely! Yet we have all globally done that.”
“My number one point on resilience, is that often you are much stronger than you give yourselves credit for. So if you think back to all the challenges that you've been through, you've survived them. I'm not saying they don't hurt and they're not emotional and yes they can wear you down.”
“I think the big point that's come out of Covid and particularly what the corporate world is starting to acknowledge, is that when you go through stress and trauma and pressure like an athlete, you need downtime. And for some individuals, that that might be one to two days and they bounce back. For other individuals, it may take a little bit longer, but it's giving that time to cope and time to heal and recover and then come back.”
“This is becoming more accepted rather than work, work, work - with needing downtime being a sign of weakness. Having downtime, recovering, processing what's happened to you, dealing with the emotions, putting it in perspective and then feeling okay to bounce back - this is a great cycle to build resilience.”
“Taking stock of what's happened to you and how you have coped and what strategies you've used to cope. And that downtime is really important. And I hope that's what corporates are accepting as part of a culture.”
Eva agreed that a lot of corporates have a responsibility and that HR departments are now listening much more because they want to know what's actually happening with their employees and they’re recognising how important this is. She asked what kind of strategies Claire thinks employers can put into practise to help build their employee strength in these areas.
“Talking to your staff and opening the conversation through surveys and gathering information is the first step because each company is unique and as such has its own unique personality. The first step is understanding what your company personality wants in general, because you can't please every individual in your company.”
“You have to create this collective persona and ask them what they want. Ask them what's important to them and then build around that. Most people do want to tell, often anonymously, but they do want to provide feedback and drive what's happening to their companies.”
Claire believes it’s about building a culture and a strategy that suits your company: “For some companies this will be focusing on something for resilience. It could be training, it could be mindfulness practise, it could be awareness. The key element of resilience is building self awareness around emotions - understanding what is actually happening to you - building and understanding self regulation.”
The idea, particularly in the corporate world, is to find positive ways of dealing with emotions caused by stress rather than lashing out at a colleague saying something that you later regret. This is the bigger picture for the company's point of view of helping an individual understand what's going on for them and then helping them manage that.”
She believes that it's been particularly difficult during Covid times because we're all facing an extreme amount of stress on the outside. She says: “Sometimes you lash out and you don't realise it or you'll talk to a colleague probably in a way that you wouldn't otherwise. And then you realise: ‘What? Hang on a second, let me check this! This is because I'm stressed and I probably don't need to deal with this this way.’”
She gave the following example: “I had a conversation with a colleague the other day where I said, ‘You seem very impatient with me. Have I done something?’ By opening up and having those conversations one on one, first of all, they could say, ‘Well, I'm waiting for you to do something and you haven't done it.’
Great. I can do something about that. Or they could say ‘I'm having a really stressful day because some of my clients have no power and it’s been a difficult morning doing Zoom calls and presentations on their mobile phones.’ So sometimes there's so much that we don't actually know.”
“People are responding much more to surveys than they were ever before, especially from companies. However some businesses are afraid to get the information out there because they know or they feel there's nothing they can do about it because Covid has forced their hand.”
“But when you have the data, there's something you can do about it and that’s the most important learnings for why businesses should be trying to make changes. There are some really great strategies into building into your culture and being in those conversations.”
“When you have the data, it's interesting what comes out of it, because agendas do start to appear rather than you just assuming what everyone wants. The other thing is that so much is happening now on Zoom. When we meet face to face, we pick up so much more information about each other, which ties into emotional intelligence - being aware of other people's emotions and your own. When we are in the Zoom world, those cues and that information is shot down.”
“So actually it's even more essential to understand the emotions of yourself and others and what all that means, and how you manage to build self-awareness and self regulation is even more important because so much information is not available, because we're not face-to-face anymore. It’s even more important for companies to offer some resources, to say ‘this is available for you, come to us if you have questions.’ This is a great first approach.”
When asked about her positive experiences in building resilience with hypnotherapy and the misinformation about the therapy, she had the following to say “Hypnosis or hypnotic state is something that every one of us is highly likely to have been in.”
“A hypnotic state is considered when for example you are watching your favourite show and you've zoned into the show and all other thoughts are paused. You’re just focused on that show. This is a hypnotic state. So it's a very natural, relaxed, meditative state.”
“Hypnotherapy is when you take yourself into that relaxed, calm, meditative state and you’ve left the conscious mind that reminds us to pay the mortgage and the credit card bills. We access our subconscious mind, and a hypnotherapist makes aligned suggestions towards whatever your goal is to connect with the subconscious mind and make changes at a subconscious level.”
“There is a real similarity between meditation and hypnotherapy in that it's about that relaxed, calm, meditative state. The reason we term hypnotherapy as ‘therapy’ is because we want to make changes to the individual at a subconscious level.”
“When we are children we are often in a hypnotic, dreamlike state, open to suggestion, and little ideas get popped into our heads when we're little. For example a teacher might say ‘Oh, you're not very good at Maths’, and that can get stuck into your head - words about who we are, even if it’s just our interpretation. With therapy we're wanting to change that subconscious, focusing on those limiting beliefs and changing them to stop us from perpetuating them.”
“You hear people all the time: ‘I'm not a very good sportsperson, I'm not a good cook, I’m not confident, I'm not outgoing.’ And you're perpetuating it. Your hypnotherapist is working on a goal for you and using words which are powerful to change that story deep down so that you move into behaving in a more positive way for yourself.”
Claire continued as to how she practises this in an everyday sense: “I have my own daily routine. Obviously when you wake up in the morning and you are still a bit fuzzy, the conscious mind hasn’t quite kicked off yet. This is a good time to practice some self hypnosis. In fact all hypnosis can be considered self hypnosis, because a hypnotherapist can never make an individual do anything that they don’t want to do.”
“The individual has to want to be part of that relaxed state. I consider self hypnosis to be like intentional meditation. I tell myself what I want for myself: that I'm going to be calm and relaxed and focused on the individual and be confident in my responses. I also see myself in my upcoming day, for example if I have a meeting, I'll run through it in my head, how I want my posture, what I want my outcome to be - not in exact detail, but just setting that intention in my mind.”
“At the end of the day, I repeat the process and I literally flush out stress from my body. So I do an imaginary body scan and see all the stress leaving all the cells and muscles in my body just floating out because my body doesn't need it. And then I drift off to sleep. Intentional meditation or intentional focus is really just self hypnosis.”
“This is something that sports people, business leaders, surgeons and even top musicians will do to get themselves in the zone to tell their mind exactly what they want for themselves, focusing on that positive and the direction they want themselves, as opposed to what we can naturally fall into, which is negativity and self-doubt. So redirect yourself, tell yourself where you want to go, what you want for yourself, for your day, and try to frame it in the positive.”
“Say things like ‘I'm not going to be anxious today. I'm going to be calm today. I'm going to cope with the day.’” Claire stressed that anyone who really suffers from severe mental health should seek professional help to offer additional resources and support.
“Hypnotherapy is a great tool that we have at our disposal. Starting the day by voicing the intention in the space you want to be in. But things don’t always go according to plan. Your train might be late, your power goes off or the kids are screaming at you, just before a really difficult meeting.”
“Part of being resilient is accepting that life is stressful and things don’t always work out and remembering that every day is a new day and persevering. Allow yourself time out to get back on track. And don’t listen to your subconscious mind when you fail. You didn’t stop running because you’re bad at running - you just had a bad week and need more time to figure out the right way. Build a positive story.”
“I do believe that self care and self development is an ongoing philosophy or mindset. It’s not about fixing yourself right now and you’re fine for the rest of your life, because your goals, your aspirations, your challenges and your lifestyle changes. I see it as having a friend as part of your life who is caring for your mindset and helping you.”
“For some people, that'll be yoga and meditation. For others, it'll be Mindology and cooking, or having a retreat every now and then. It’s about building your own unique self-care tool kit - a mindset on how you look after yourself, which is really, really important. And I hope to continue to build offerings and add to the toolkit in Mindology for individuals to support them.”
When asked about building this intention into the workplace, particularly when working from home, Claire had the following to say: “A great way is, first thing in the day as you're doing your virtual commute, for example as you're making your coffee or setting up the Zoom call, is just taking some really deep breaths. Three or four really deep breaths - see the breath coming in as a calming breath and then the exhale breath as a cleansing breath, getting rid of nerves and self-doubt, actually directing what you want for yourself, relaxing your mind. The breath is a powerful tool that we don't tap into enough. Add your affirmations and suggestions to yourself to your breathing.”
“Anyone who loves to write often writes down their goals for themselves for the day, which is meditative, as it is setting the intention that you want for the day. You can easily bring self hypnosis into your morning routine. And then at the end of the day - it is harder now without a commute home, but you could create your new routine - shut down the computer as though you’re going to pack it and tell yourself the day is over.”
“If you've closed the computer, you’ve closed the work mindset and can now go into the family mindset, I know it is hard and requires practice. So self hypnosis is about practice. It's about repetition. So that it becomes the new neural pathway in your mind as opposed to old habits.”
Claire believes that some people, particularly those in leadership roles, might feel a huge sense of responsibility and struggle to shut down because they feel that they are constantly needed, and there may be fear around showing any kind of vulnerability, and for them, resilience is about being able to do everything without any issues.
She does however think that the pandemic has brought some change in the last year and that people are allowing themselves to become more vulnerable: “A leader can be worried about sharing vulnerability and losing respect, and softer skills can be seen as a sign of weakness.”
On the contrary, “emotional intelligence is based on understanding your own emotions and the emotions of others. A great way for a leader to show vulnerability is sharing the story of what's happened, giving the journey and what they did. Sharing the life cycle of what they’ve gone through can be a great way for a leader to not only show vulnerability but also offer a learning experience for their team. This can help open up the dialogue for other team members to say, ‘Hey, I'm finding it tough. Right, I could try that.’”
Claire believes that leaders set the tone, the culture and the responsibility to the rest of the business. “Leadership actually is about leading a team. So that is what a true leader does. They collaborate, they delegate, they build motivation, and they lead a team towards whatever the common goal is.
“We are emotional people. We respond to stories, we respond to hearing what other people have been through and it makes us connect with people. So sharing the journey or sharing insight with your team can be very, very empowering.”
You obviously have to do what you feel comfortable with. And I'm not saying overshare things as everyone has their boundaries, but you can definitely inspire your team by saying ‘I'm not sure’, which means they don't have all the answers and that's normal, but they’ll get there. It’s a lovely facet to a leader to be that little bit vulnerable.”
Claire was then asked how employees should respond if they feel like they are reaching the limits of that resilience or if their leader is not supporting this kind of culture. Her response was that it’s all about being in control: “The big element to building resilience is remembering what you're in control of.”
“For an employee who is in a situation where they are not connecting with their boss or colleagues or they don’t feel inspired or empowered, they must remember what they are still in control of and focus on that.”
“Remember what got you through tough times in the past, friends that you can have a good vent to who you trust, setting boundaries and sharing what you're comfortable with. And remembering that even people we admire and think have it easy - everyone has adversity as we know it.”
“This is a really great concept of the emotional moment - get stuck in it for the moment, for a short period of time, but not months of anger or disappointment or resentment. You need to find that circuit breaker for yourself. Self hypnosis is a great way to find this, and you can bring gratitude into the self hypnosis, because we know gratitude and connecting back to what we're grateful for is a really simple way of moving your mindset from the negative soundtrack to the more positive soundtrack.”
Claire believes that the HR department should be fostering this resilience and offers the following practical advice: “If I was an HR manager, I'd be doing a group Mindology session altogether, talking about the important topics. For example speaking about coping with criticism - how to bounce back - and bringing these concepts to the table to speak openly about them within the context of your company culture.”
“I talked about every company having its own personality. So it’s about bringing it out into the open, discussing, offering your staff resources and solutions and access to information so that they can start to build these new techniques for themselves.”
Claire does stress though that HR individuals also really need to look after themselves particularly with the amount of responsibility they’ve had this last year as office administrators have really taken the brunt of this. “Remember you need to take time out for yourself because you've probably had a lot of people coming to you to offload, share worries, concerns and stresses.”
Claire ended the webinar by offering the following three practical ways to build resilience in ourselves:
“Firstly, have a self care routine - whatever that means for you. Remind yourself what you have already been through - break-ups, divorces, deaths. Remind yourself that things do always change, and that doesn't mean it's going to always work out, but we can come out the other end. Remind yourself who your support network is, which is particularly important now with so much being on Zoom.”
“Secondly, be aware of what you're saying to yourself. What are the thoughts that you repeat and embed in your mindset? Are they positive or are they negative? And if they're negative, what can you do to change that self talk? For example using self hypnosis in the morning as you wake up and then at the end of the day, clearing out the stress from the day.”
“Finally remember that resilience is a skill - something you can build. We hear of confidence muscles and leadership muscles and the outgoing muscle - resilience is exactly that - a mindset muscle that you can build over time. And leaders sharing vulnerability, what they do and what gets them through, and talking to others, which was the social aspect of connecting to your network and relying on your network, having that support, even just a few close friends.”
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