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WHAT IS RESILIENCE? And why is it Important?

It is good to see that the subject of wellbeing is now seriously examined in the workplace. Many workplaces have begun to introduce programs to improve wellbeing and resilience.

However, as the authors of a 2015 study (Robertson, Cooper, Sarkar & Curran) noted, many workplace programs are selected on the basis of intuition and how the programs are marketed, rather than a clear understanding of what resilience is and how it can be improved.


Resilience is the HOW of WELLBEING Resilience comprises six key skills areas: VISION Having a sense of purpose & direction, a sense of control, self-worth & confidence in

your abilities COMPOSURE Being able to regulate emotions and manage negative environments REASONING Problem solving & resourcefulness, readiness for change TENACITY Bouncing back, maintaining optimism through adversity COLLABORATION Having support networks, healthy connections, being able to manage perceptions HEALTH Maintaining healthy habits in exercise, nutrition and sleep


STRESS AND RESILIENCE To understand resilience, we firstly need to understand the impact of stress on the mind and body. Negative stress arises when the problems we are dealing with require more of our energy and resources than what we have available.

The digital economy is bringing about fundamental changes in the workplace, causing disruption through competition and rapid change. Manufacturing industries have been experiencing this for years. Service industries, including professional firms, are also now impacted. As a result, workplaces are increasingly stressful environments. Stressors include work overload, lack of resources, role ambiguity, relationship tension and threats to job security. Ongoing negative stress threatens our health and wellbeing.

A leader’s well-being determines the level of personal resources available for effective leadership behaviour.

When these resources are compromised, leadership can become ineffective and even destructive. Negative stress affects a leader’s capacity to manage competing priorities. Poor quality decisions can leave others confused and disengaged. Negative stress can be contagious, undermining teamwork, creativity & morale.

BRAIN PATTERNS OF STRESS AND RESILIENCE From a brain perspective, stress-based responses develop into neural patterns (or habits) of disconnection that threaten our sense of belonging, our energy and motivation. They also interrupt our capacity to learn and improvise.

Resilience is the flipside of disconnection. Resilience acts as an antidote to stress, helping us to respond to challenges in a way that leaves us and others well. Resilience is an ability that can mean the difference between adapting and thriving or burnout.

MEASURING RESILIENCE Resilience can also be measured, and this has several advantages, including:

  • Helps identify areas of strength and weakness, and priorities to focus on

  • Provides a baseline to track whether our resilience is improving

  • In a work context, provides tangible indicators of wellbeing at an individual and team level

ONGOING BENEFITS Because resilience is about increasing capacity, there are many advantages beyond managing stress. These include:

  • Being really present, even when things are tough

  • Not having your perceptions and judgment clouded by concerns or agitation

  • Working through difficult situations and learning from the experience

  • Being more effective

  • Growing wiser

Scientific research on resilience goes back a few decades now. The most recent advances have been in the neuroscience of resilience. It is now possible to measure resilience according to cortical blood flow, which shows the areas of the brain that are firing in response to environmental challenges. This knowledge increases our confidence in the usefulness of resilience as a concept, and as a set of skills that can be learned – regardless of age.


Anne Ward is principal psychologist of Mindinsight, providing evidence-based psychology services to adults, children and adolescents. Mindinsight is located in the T&G Building at 45 Hunter Street Newcastle. Visit for more information or email


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