Career advice

Strategies to boost your emotional resilience

Avoid burnout and enjoy your career more by learning how to improve your mental wellbeing by building up emotional resilience

Avoid burnout and enjoy your career more by learning how to improve your mental wellbeing by building up emotional resilience

Picture: John Behets

My dad is one of life’s true survivors: faced with redundancy, family illness, the death of his wife and now a cancer diagnosis, still he doesn’t let himself get dragged down. Yes, he can feel and show deep sadness, but neither his emotions nor what he is going through define him.

There’s no denying dad is resilient, but he didn’t win the ‘resilience lottery’– it isn’t something you either have or you don’t. Instead, as Dr Russ Newman said, resilience ‘is a process of adapting to adversity that can be developed and learned’.

Stresses of nursing

Given the stresses and demands of nursing, it’s essential to invest in your mental wellbeing. Emotional resilience is a vital part of this, enabling you to develop ways to cope better and return to work stronger on your next shift.

I appreciate that this may simply feel like another task you need to do. The temptation is to just battle on, and in the short term that may prove effective. But if you want to avoid burnout and sustain a lengthy career you must take a pro-active approach towards becoming a resilient practitioner. Why not start now? As the saying goes: ‘Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning how to dance in the rain’.

Everyone copes differently

Everyone copes differently with life’s twist and turns. Some nursing colleagues may appear to be calm and collected regardless of the pressure they are under, while others become visibly stressed. If you are finding it hard, you won’t be alone but nor will you feel exactly the same as anyone else in your team.

The road to resilience is a personal journey, with no exact route or destination. But research has shown that the following five strategies help to develop resilience in nurses:

  • Building and maintaining positive professional relationships.
  • Maintaining positivity through laughter, optimism and positive emotions, such as gratitude and hope.
  • Developing your emotional insight to understand what you need as well as identify what are your risk factors, such as for stress.
  • Striving for ways to achieve a work-life balance and investing time in things that give your life meaning outside of work.
  • Becoming more reflective. This helps to access hidden emotional strengths, gives situations meaning and lets you move on.

Remember that as with a physical training programme, working on your emotional fitness or resilience can take time. So be patient and try to set yourself up for success. Look after your basic health needs, set realistic goals and expectations for yourself and don’t be afraid to seek extra help if you feel you need it.

Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and health/life coach


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