In layman’s terms, resiliency is a person’s ability to bounce back from a traumatic event. Some of you may be thinking that describing one’s job as a “traumatic event” is just the melodramatic complaining of a malcontent, but that is precisely what many jobs are. Despite all the research and findings that fatigue is a killer, companies continue to literally work the employees to death. 

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More and more companies are implementing resiliency programmes, but it is too soon to see how effective these programs actually are. To scientifically judge the effectiveness of a resilience programme you would need a control group and most would agree that doing nothing to battle chronic fatigue would be immoral. So what can we say to our executive suites, how can we justify a resiliency program with no empirical evidence that such an approach would work. 

At the risk of sounding soft in the head, we really need to take a hard look at how we view workers and work.  When we put profit before people any money spent on the health and well-being of the people is considered waste as it consumes resources and does not add intrinsic value to the products or services delivered. 

Since I’m quick to criticise simple-minded solutions, I’ve turned that lens on myself for just a moment. Visit HSI to see the analysis of what I wrote on the subject of resilience for OH Professional in 2018. 

Tips for building resilience:

Maintain an optimistic outlook

No matter what the stress one is under the optimist can always see the silver lining.  Train yourself to avoid falling into the trap where you try to shield yourself from disappointment by focusing on the good in the situation. Years ago I was a chronic complainer. I would gripe about poor service in restaurants and complain about long lines, and well…just about anything you can imagine. One day I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired so I made a commitment to myself: from that point forward I would compliment three times more frequently than I complained (and I still complain a lot) it was hard at first (especially because I decided that I wanted to compliment with as much ferocity as I did when I complained. 

Soon I found myself getting better service and people treated me better. I approached situations expecting the best and when I did I generally got the best. When I complimented I started getting everything from a free drink to an upgrade on my hotel room or seat on an airplane. And most of all it allowed me to bounce back from a bad mood.” How much different is this than for the safety person to tell people just to cheer up?  This is great advice for safety professionals who are feeling fatigued, but for someone who is already fatigued it’s like saying, “look on the bright side…” or “it could be worse…” in my worst moments I never felt better after someone said these things to me. In fact, I resented it. I resented it a lot. 

Get in shape

Yes, I know I sound like your nagging doctor but it’s true. Eat right and maintain a healthy weight. You need not run marathons or spend hours working out at the gymnasium to build physical resilience but a relaxing stroll in the evening air or the leisure activity of your choosing (provided that it provides at least some physical benefit). And don’t think of exercise as a punishment—think of it as an investment in your ability to avoid illnesses and injuries and to recover more quickly in those cases where you were unable to avoid the illness or injury.” 

Did you ever try to lose weight when the stress in life was unbearable? Forget avoiding comfort food, there are physiological responses to stress that cause it to become more difficult to lose weight.  Simply telling people that they need to get into shape is like telling someone they need to be taller. Few people ENJOY being out of shape but what can we as safety guys do to get people in shape? If they won’t listen to their healthcare providers, and caring family members, how will they listen to us? 

Build healthy and close relationships

Paula Davis-Laack J.D., M.A.P.P., in her article Seven Things Resilient Employees Do Differently: The important ways developing resilience helps you work better in Psychology Today, (October 2004)” One big building block of resilience is a connection, but not just any old connection. High-quality relationships are critical to resilience. According to business and psychology professor, Dr. Jane Dutton, there are four distinct pathways for building high-quality connections at work. The first is respectfully engaging others by communicating supportively and being an effective listener. Second, facilitate another person’s success with guidance, recognition, and support. Third, build trust, which can be done by relying on another person to follow through on projects and other commitments.

Finally, have moments of play. Play evokes positive emotions and is often associated with creativity and innovation (Dutton & Spreitzer, 2014). Work can be a serious place, but so many workplaces take the world far too seriously.”” So you have me working 12 hour days, 7 days a week and I have a 90 minute commute that leaves me 11 hours and I am tired, physically drained, and cranky. You also tell me to get a good 8 hours sleep, and assume 30 minutes to shower and otherwise prepare to go to sleep, and add another hour for breakfast and dinner that leaves around an hour to get in shape and build a healthy and close relationship. I don’t even have time to take a decent bathroom break and you want me to make new friends? Not likely. 

Stay away from mental “junk food’

Instead of spending hours with your nose in your phone reading the latest trash talk on an anti-social network seek out quotes or stories that inspire you.  When you feel good mentally you tend to feel better physically.” This one is easy, if you have time to linger on social media you probably aren’t fatigued. 

Forgive someone

Life is too short to carry around bitterness and hatred, forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. So if you want to be truly resilient find a grudge that you have been carrying and let it go.  Remember sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves.” Here again, we aren’t likely to be in the state of mind where forgiveness comes easily.  We are living in an id state, ready to snap at the first provocation.