Bouncing Back Up Again

Understanding what it takes to learn resiliency skills.

In Canada, where I live, there’s a new National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. This voluntary standard has best practices that hopefully will be adopted by employers to make their organizations healthy workplaces.

But not everyone is going to volunteer to look at stress and mental health and then provide the resources, support, and direction needed to improve mental wellbeing.

Consider a recent survey from Morneau Shepell, an HR, benefits, and employee assistance outsourcing company. Nearly all the physician respondents stated that work issues affected the mental health of employees they see on a regular basis. The scary part is 98 percent of these same physicians believe workplaces play a role in worsening employee health.

While it is important to identify problems, it is critical to learn what companies can do to foster psychologically healthy workplaces. These physicians’ No. 1 recommendation was better workplace communication and social support. Next on the list was providing counseling and guidance services. And these two recommendations were regarded as more important than reducing workload or giving time off from work.


How are you supposed to bounce back up again from a life setback; stressful work situations; or adversity with health, finances, or family?

Michael H. Ballard (, who speaks and provides training on the topic of “resiliency for life,” told me having a foundation of strong beliefs and values is essential to becoming more resilient. This doesn’t have to be from a religious faith perspective, although people of faith seem to have an increased ability to cope with life’s challenges. We also are talking about the values and beliefs that corporate vision and mission statements espouse. These workplace beliefs need to be an integral part of the organizational culture and lived by as many people as possible and not just plastered on the walls.

Is it any wonder that companies such as Zappos and Southwest Airlines have culture departments and teams who actively get out on the floor or in the airports, and promote value-driven activities and events, and regularly measure how people are doing to gauge the strength of their culture?


Resiliency is all about the power and ability to get back to where you were before the present crisis had an impact on you.

Ballard had many principles to focus on to help learn how to get back on your feet. I will draw upon three of the things he told me to help make resiliency a way of life for us:

1. Control what you can. Many of you know the classic Serenity Prayer used by Alcoholics Anonymous members and authored by Reinhold Niebuhr:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change 
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

Far too often we hammer away at supposed solutions we have no control over: workload, production schedules, client expectations, etc. When we focus too much time and energy on things we have no control over, we are headed toward increased stress and risk of burnout.

Instead, start each day by exercising, eating right, and beginning with your highest priority on the job and working down your to-do list. Don’t answer e-mails until that top priority is completed. Even allow phone calls to go to voicemail. Choose specific times of the day to spend half-hour time slots on replying to e-mails and returning calls before the end of the day. Taking control of your life starts with controlling what you are given to do.

2. Commitment to making change. Taking control of your own health and wellbeing is not always easy. Running on empty is far too common a pattern for living that leaves us depleted of our inner strength.

Sometimes it requires making a written resolution or manifesto of what we will allow to happen to us in our lives and what we will not permit. This is a holistic view of your rightful needs physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. Post it on your wall or have it set as a notebook in Evernote or any other application tool you use to keep yourself on track. Start each day by reviewing your beliefs for yourself.

Choose to start each day by sending a positive e-mail of gratitude to someone as Shawn Achor suggests in his book, “The Happiness Advantage,” before replying to the pile in your inbox. Take some time out to reflect on positive affirmations. Use tools such as to have music playing to break up your computer time to be more effective if that works for you. Or use the Pomodoro technique (the tomato timer) with 25 minutes on task and five-minute breaks to keep refreshed.

Achor’s work found that when you are positive and do positive things, your brain is more engaged. And besides being more productive at work, you also will find yourself more resilient.

3. Connectedness to others. The bottom line to being resilient is having a strong and supportive network of family and friends you can count on. No wonder the Gallup Organization has statements on its Q12 measure of engagement such as “My supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me as a person” and “I have a best friend at work.” Remember, the Morneau Shepell study reported the need for social support as being one of the highest recommendations for mental wellbeing.

While developing internal strengths is essential for having a resilient mindset, having strong social support is a great offset by forming an external anchor to draw upon and hold you fast in tough times. Positive relationships within and without one’s family are a great booster for dealing with both ordinary and exceptional stressful experiences.

Ultimately, resiliency always should be considered a work in progress. You always will be striving to fill up the life jacket with air so you’re ready for whenever you’re thrown out of the boat. And for someone who doesn’t swim very well, you can be sure my life jacket is filled.

Is yours?

Roy Saunderson is author of “GIVING the Real Recognition Way” and Chief Learning Officer of Rideau’s Recognition Management Institute, a consulting and training firm specializing in helping companies “get recognition right.” Its focus is on showing leaders how to give real recognition to create positive relationships, better workplaces, and real results. For more information, contact or visit

Roy Saunderson, MA, CRP, is author of “GIVING the Real Recognition Way” and Chief Learning Officer at Rideau Recognition Solutions. His consulting and learning skills focus on helping companies “give real recognition the right way wherever they are.” For recognition insights, visit: For more information, e-mail him at or visit