How to improve your resilience

The latest thinking on resilience tells us that whilst we are all resilient to some extent, we can all develop our resilience capabilities. On National Stress Awareness Day, Dan Lucy from leadership institute, Roffey Park (, takes a look at some of the steps you can take to improve your own resilience capability and minimise the impact of stress on you.

Resilience and stress in the workplace

Latest estimates from the Health & Safety Executive (2012) suggests that two-fifths of all work-related illness is stress related. And when it comes to the cost of this type of absence on business, 10.4 million working days are lost every year at a cost of between £4 and £7 billion to the UK economy. With such a far-reaching impact, it’s clear that organisations should be doing all they can to provide a safe and enabling workplace. It is also clear that individuals can do much to support their own well-being and ability to handle stress at work.

Of course, everyone is resilient to some extent and no one is 100 per cent resilient. Instead, an individual’s level of resilience is likely to vary according to both time and place. But regardless of where you are in terms of resilience levels, it’s important to remember that you can create strategies and develop behaviours to help you increase resilience.

Taking each element of Roffey Park’s model of resilience, we outline what a specific resilience capability looks like in practice and present you with a series of questions you can ask to review your own levels of resilience, indicating steps you can take to enhance your resilience in each area.

Manage your physical energy

Keeping physically fit, eating well and giving ourselves time away from work to engage in activities we enjoy, giving us the opportunity to recuperate and helping us to maintain our energy levels.

  • Do you make time to exercise regularly?
  • Do you get enough sleep?
  • Do you make sure you eat a healthy diet?
  • Do you make time in your schedule to pursue activities that bring you joy and help you relax?

Keep everything in perspective

Leaders and managers who are resilient are able to take a step back from challenging situations and accept rather than deny their negative aspects, finding opportunity and meaning in the midst of adversity. Taking perspective expands the options and choices you have and can empower rather than disable you. The act of gaining perspective allows resilient people to focus their efforts on those things they can change and accept those things they cannot.

  • Are you able to positively reframe negative experiences and find opportunity in adversity?
  • Are you able to accept what you cannot change and focus your efforts on things you can?
  • Are you solution-driven or do you tend to get stuck in the problem?
  • Are you able to face fully negative information whilst not dwelling on it?

Focus on purpose, values and strengths

Having a clear sense of purpose in your work and a belief in the work you do is congruent with the personal values of resilient leaders. Holding a clear sense of our own values and our own moral compass help us to keep centred when all around there is change and disruption.

  • Do you have a clear sense of purpose at work?
  • Do you have a clear sense of your personal strengths and make the opportunity to use them regularly in your work?
  • Do you have a clear sense of your own values and act in a way consistent with those values?
  • Does your work fit well with your personal values and beliefs?

Enhance your emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills

Being aware of, understanding and regulating our emotions is essential to being resilient. This means not being overtaken by our emotions, rather allowing the space and time to process them. Resilient leaders are also aware of emotions and needs in others and are free and willing in the support they give. Helping others without explicit benefit to themselves, resilient leaders care for and are compassionate towards themselves and others.

  • Do you acknowledge your own feelings and express them appropriately?
  • Are you able to change your mood when you need to?
  • How intentional are you about providing support to others?

Build connections

Leaders who are able to stay resilient in challenging times have a wide network of friends and colleagues, helping them access a full range of support needs from getting things done to offering a listening ear. Connections are not only one way, however, and there is a great deal of evidence to support the strength that helping others gives us.

  • Do you have a strong and reliable network of colleagues inside and outside work that will help you through difficult times?
  • Are you able to meet your varied needs through a diverse support network?

It’s important to remember that resilience is not a static capability and is a dynamic process that is characterised by an individual adapting more or less well to changing circumstances. It’s a behaviour that you can learn and using the questions here, based around Roffey Park’s five key capabilities of resilience, you can develop your resilience capability to help you when things do get stressful at work or at home.

Dan Lucy is Head of Research at Roffey Park Institute. Roffey Park have developed an online resilience tool, based on their research, which enables individuals to assess their own resilience capabilities. To access the tool visit