Energy is the Fuel for Resilience: How to Tap into It
What’s on your plate today? If you’re a business leader, you likely have a full slate of meetings and a lengthy to-do list. How will you make it through all those demands?
Are you relying on having enough time to handle them? If so, you’re already out of luck.
Even as many of us continue working remotely, we’re still reporting more work hours than ever. We can’t manage the overwhelming responsibility unless we’re relying on something greater than the hours available in our day.
Energy is the fuel for resilience. When we rely on energy to meet greater demands, we expand our capacity for productivity, leadership, and engagement.
How does resilience work?
People often think of resilience as a means to recover from stress quickly and efficiently – and that’s true. But the second part of resilience is the one that can be a game-changer.
Along with the ability to recover, resilience also raises the threshold for stress, so you can competently handle more without burning yourself down.
When we regularly cultivate resilience, we are stronger in the face of challenges and uncertainty. We’re more able to deal with the relentless onslaught of the modern workplace and an always-on culture.
I’ve personally experienced the need for resilience. In fact, it led me to work in this field and guide others to greater personal sustainability. Career changes, a move to a new city, and a serious medical diagnosis for my son – they all hit me at once.
I wanted to be able to take it all on, to prove myself as a professional and be the hero for my family.
However, as demands on my time and focus increased, my ability and capacity to meet those demands diminished. I was splitting my focus, trying to handle it all in a finite number of hours.
I took my capacity for granted. I was able to juggle a lot – until I wasn’t. The strain I was experiencing – physically, emotionally, and mentally – was wearing me down.
What Changed for Me, and How to Make the Change for Yourself
A conversation with my son sparked a mindset shift regarding my personal bandwidth and priorities.
Recognizing the need for change, I did a cognitive reassessment regarding the way I was working and living. Then I began making purposeful changes to the ways I worked, connected, and recharged.
Gaining a higher level of resilience didn’t happen overnight. Instead, I had to work at it, building my toolbox for handling stress and shifting my response to external factors.
I talk often about challenge stress. It’s the stress that drives us when we’re working through a crisis, trying to land a key sales deal, or pushing our teams to meet deadlines.
Challenge stress can be beautiful and empowering. Many of us do our best work under its influence.
However, you can only do your best work under pressure if you’ve cultivated skills and resilience before the challenge is staring you in the face. When you focus on building your resilience in times of peace, you can call upon it in times of difficulty.
Start with the brain as you make the necessary shifts to stay strong during challenging times. You have the power to choose which part of it responds when you face a challenge.
The amygdala is the primitive, reactive part of the brain, the part that generates knee-jerk, fight-or-flight responses. When you give your amygdala free rein, you push your body into a state of chronic stress and increase its production of stress-related hormones, all of which inflame you and reduce your capacity.
You may notice your reactivity when you snap under stress or when you respond angrily in conversations with coworkers. When you’re depleted, your body and your mind are on the defensive. Thinking from that primitive portion of your brain makes you more likely to take offense or perceive an innocent comment as a negative slight because you don’t have much capacity left to give.
You can change your response by keeping your antennae up for your own reactivity, then working with your brain. A pause can shift your response and move you from the amygdala – caught in the grip of perceived fear and conflict – to your pre-frontal cortex, the beautiful domain of your brain where you can make higher-level, more reasoned decisions.
That’s where resilience starts to grow – when you see stress as a tool that helps you become a stronger, more adaptable person.
Stress is not the enemy. The enemy is the absence of recovery. Once you start the shift toward this mindset, you can continue your growth by building in the appropriate recovery to ensure personal sustainability.
Stop being the hero and be there for yourself
So many leaders and achievers I work with want to be superhuman. However, being the hero doesn’t mean you’ve developed resilience.
On the contrary, I’ve worked with a client who was a star within their organization, yet spent many mornings before work miserably stress-vomiting. They put on a good face for the office but on the inside, they were running in burnout/survival mode.
We’re all going to do that – to function in survival mode – at some point. When you develop resilience, you equip yourself so that when you reach that point, you have the tools to come back stronger.
We encourage the people we work with to give themselves a frank cognitive reappraisal and to create a framework for assessing and managing their stress, rather than feeling at a loss and unable to find a way out. In this process, you ground yourself, set boundaries, and commit to giving yourself recovery time.
Resilient leaders take charge of the narrative around their own stress, so they’re running the show instead of allowing their minds/emotions to run wild. When you set yourself up for resilience and growth, you create opportunities to prepare for the challenges that you’ll face and to create the pathways to come through them.