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How to build stress resiliency in your team

According to the World Health Organization, “Stress can be defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation.” While everyone experiences stress, stress is personal, and how people respond to it varies based on their circumstances. Additionally, what someone considers stressful might not be stressful for another individual. This doesn’t mean either experience is wrong, but rather that we all have unique lived experiences and distinct thresholds when it comes to stress. There are different ways we can prepare ourselves for when difficult times come, but it’s also important to recognize the systemic barriers that may prevent an individual from being resilient. As a leader, it’s crucial to recognize what these barriers may be and to create a workplace environment that strives to remove them.

Money concerns, discrimination, having a long-term physical health condition or a mental health problem are all factors that can cause stress in someone’s life and hinder them from being resilient. While leaders can’t remove all barriers when it comes to stress, there are certain steps leaders can take to create a more accommodating workplace. Before we talk about ways to build stress resiliency in your team though, we need to understand what resiliency means. As explained by the Mayo Clinic, “Resilience means being able to cope with tough events. When something bad happens, you still feel anger, grief and pain. But you’re able to keep going, both physically and psychologically.” Simply put, stress resiliency is a person’s ability to deal with a stressful situation. 

Building a resilient team

It can feel discouraging not being able to help your team members who are going through a stressful time in their personal lives, but it is possible to help your team build stress resiliency skills in the workplace that can translate to their own lives. Here are 5 practical steps to building stress resiliency in your team:

  1. Create safe spaces for dialogue
    Cultivating a workplace environment where team members feel safe to share their thoughts without fear of being reprimanded is essential when it comes to building a stress resilient team. “Resilient teams are able to speak truth to each other in order to collectively identify and solve for the challenges they face,” writes Harvard Business Review. By fostering a supportive environment where team members are comfortable having candid conversations, you can help your team members forge stronger connections with one another. Alternatively, you can opt for individual check-ins with team members who may not feel comfortable in a larger group setting or provide options for anonymous feedback. Creating safe spaces for dialogue ensures you are aware of when your team might be having a difficult time at work and be able to support them accordingly.
  2. Empower your team members to take the initiative
    Stressful situations can oftentimes make your employees feel helpless or frustrated, which is why empowerment is so important as a tool for building stress resiliency in your team. You can delegate tasks and responsibilities to the strengths of your employees and encourage decision-making among your team members. Allowing your team to take initiative will give them opportunities to gain confidence that can empower them when challenges inevitably arise. When you let your team members take charge, you demonstrate to them that you trust them and their ability to succeed. 
  3. Be open and willing to ask for help
    While it can be daunting to admit you were wrong, leaders must be willing to admit when they’ve made a mistake. After all, it’s essential to lead by example. Leaders need to demonstrate that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness and that everyone experiences stress at some point. By taking the lead on discussions regarding dealing with stress, you can break down stigmas surrounding mental health and encourage team members to seek the support they need, whether from a professional resource, a mental health day, etc.
  4. Model adaptability
    Being adaptable is a crucial skill in overcoming challenges and being able to stay resilient when things go awry. By modelling adaptability, you encourage your team members to treat change as opportunities for growth rather than threats to stability. Moreover, modelling adaptability and embracing change in your organization will show your employees that you value innovation and experimentation. Instead of ruminating on the things that went wrong or focusing on placing blame, an adaptable leader will seek out ways to pivot and learn from the setbacks. Overall, modelling adaptability in your leadership will position your team for long-term success.
  5. Foster a growth mindset
    A growth mindset is essential to building stress resiliency in a team because it affects a person’s ability to grow in the face of adversity. As a leader, you can manage fixed mindset triggers by fostering an environment that actively provides opportunities for open communication and feedback. It’s helpful to find the root cause of a fixed mindset—whether that’s low self-confidence, a different perspective from lived experience, or hesitancy in adopting something new—before providing support and encouragement to team members struggling with fixed mindset thinking. Providing opportunities for skill-building and reinforcing the idea that abilities can be developed through practice can also strengthen your team’s growth mindset.

Building stress resiliency in your team is an ongoing process that takes time. Still, by proactively empowering your team members to become more resilient individuals, you can cultivate an environment where everyone can be equipped with the tools necessary to feel supported, valued, and capable of thriving, even during difficult times.