The Power of Resilience and How to Build It at Your Workplace

Laura McCarthy, HealthTrust Communications Specialist

“Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” That was the message New England Patriots Wide Receiver Julian Edelman posted on Twitter on November 16, 2015, shortly after he broke his foot during a game. Fast forward to the next season: Edelman made a historic catch during Super Bowl LI that helped the team win their fifth Super Bowl; two years later, on February 3, 2019, Julian Edelman led the Patriots to their sixth Super Bowl title and was named MVP of the game.

Such is the power of resilience, a term Merriam Webster defines as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” Many people think resilience means being able to “bounce back” from adversity, but it’s more than that; it’s also the ability to learn from difficult experiences and to grow and improve your life, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Julian Edelman may embody resilience, but everyone is capable of it – and the good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. In fact, accepting others’ help and using the resources available to you are key strategies for staying resilient during challenging times.

The COVID-19 pandemic has called on all of us to summon our inner strength, use the resources available to us, and work together as communities to move through this crisis and come out the other side stronger, wiser and hopefully more optimistic. Here, from the APA, Harvard Medical School, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are some tips for helping you and your employees stay resilient during these challenging times and create a supportive, strong, healthy work environment for all.

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9 Tips for Building a Resilient Workplace

• Communicate! Keep an open dialogue with your employees about how the pandemic is affecting them and their work. Inform them of any updates to their benefits, and make them aware of tools including telemedicine programs (such as Anthem’s LiveHealth Online), Employee Assistance Program services, and online resources available through their coverage provider for support and medical help if they need it. For more information about connected care, see related articles in this issue.

• Stay connected. In a recent article in the journal World Psychiatry, researchers at Yale University School of Medicine noted that positive social support can have a buffering effect on physiological stress responses, possibly lessening the impact of stressful events on physical and mental health. If COVID-19 restrictions mean you can’t connect in person, you can stay in touch through phone calls, email, text messages, mailing letters or cards, video chat, and social media. Online meeting programs such as Zoom and GoToMeeting not only help get work done, they also allow co-workers to reconnect with each other while staying socially distanced.

• Be informed but know when to unplug. It’s important to know the facts about COVID-19 and share information with your employees about protecting themselves and others, but don’t overdo it. Constantly watching for the latest updates and grim pandemic statistics can make anyone feel sad and overwhelmed. Remind your employees
to take breaks from media to do something they enjoy for a while instead.

• Gain a sense of control through a daily routine. During uncertain times, the predictability of a daily routine can be comforting. Whether they’re working at home or going to your workplace, your employees may be missing their regular routine; encourage them to establish new habits such as setting a regular bedtime and wake time, turning on their computer at the same time each morning and off at the same time each afternoon, building in brief breaks during the day to stretch or walk, scheduling certain times of day to respond to emails, etc. Such routines can provide
a sense of control and accomplishment, important for staying resilient.

• Maintain good health habits. Staying as healthy as possible is especially important now. Making time for regular exercise, preparing healthy foods, and following health recommendations for vaccinations and preventing the spread of germs are all steps you and your employees can take to stay strong and resilient. For four key strategies for staying healthy during this pandemic, please related article in this issue.

• Go outside! Spending time outdoors, either being physically active or relaxing, can be rejuvenating, spirit-raising and help encourage a positive outlook. It’s easier to social distance outside, too; you can connect with others while minimizing your risk of catching COVID-19.

• Focus on the positive and practice mindfulness. Mindful journaling, yoga, and other spiritual practices like prayer or meditation can also help people build connections and restore hope, which can prime them to deal with situations that require resilience, according to the APA. Focusing on positive aspects of your life and the things you’re grateful for, even during personal trials, can help you remain optimistic.

• Lend a hand. Helping others improves your sense of control, belonging, and self-esteem – all keys to staying resilient. As an employer, you can help your employees help others by informing them about volunteer or charitable opportunities in your community (such as those available through the Granite State United Way or www.volunteernh. org). Sharing opportunities to help
others with your staff can be a bonding experience, help your employees feel connected, and help make your community stronger.

• Share resources. If you suspect an employee might be struggling with anxiety, depression, substance use or other issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, refer them to your Employee Assistance Program, or other resources available to them. If you belong to a HealthTrust Member Group that offers medical coverage, your employees can access mental health services through the LifeResources Employee Assistance Program (800.759.8122). HealthTrust covered employees also have access to the Aware Recovery Care program, for up to 52 weeks of treatment for substance use disorders from a multidisciplinary team. For more information: 844.AwareRC (603.769.8463), www.awarerecoverycare.com. For more information about behavioral health resources available to your employees, please see related articles in this issue.

Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.” The coronavirus is unique. None of us has faced this exact situation before, but by working together and using the resources available to us we may just emerge from the COVID- 19 pandemic more resilient as individuals, and safer, smarter and stronger as a society.

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Laura McCarthy is HealthTrust’s Communications Specialist.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is intended to be informational and does not constitute professional health advice or an endorsement of the resources mentioned.

Sources:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/mental-health-non-healthcare.html 
https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/how-to-help-families-and-staff-build-resilience-during-the-covid-19-outbreak/
https://ethics.harvard.edu/files/center-for-ethics/files/20schoolsduringpandemic2.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4780285/
https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience
https://www.nh.gov/covid19/resources-guidance/documents/bh-covid19-resources.pdf
https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/immunization/index.htm