Resilience: (n) the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress. (Merriam-Webster online dictionary)
I attended a resilience training workshop this past Friday. As I have mentioned before, I work in healthcare and have done for most of the past 13 years. In our workshop, we were told burnout is high in healthcare, ranking just behind police/fire and military service. This isn’t surprising to me as I have quite working for my last employer due to burnout (and a rotten work environment). The idea behind this training was to retain good employees but also combat burn out and become more resilient.
We were given several techniques to improve our resilience. The first idea mentioned came from Duke University Patient Safety Center and it is called “Three Good Things”. The idea behind Three Good Things is to get people focusing on the positive in their day versus the negative. We were shown a video of Dr. J. Bryan Sexton talking about his research into positive focus. He stated we are hard wired to think of the negative. In caveman times, quickly identifying a positive or negative kept us alive. Sound of a rattlesnake?? Negative. Your brain tells your body to “Run!” thus allowing you to evade injury. In our modern world, the body reacts to stress the same way it was hard wired to do in the cave man days. The problem is, most of what we encounter will not actually kill us but our body doesn’t know that. Our body can remain on “high alert” if we are under stress for a prolonged period of time. This high alert mode raises our cortisol (the fight or flight hormone). The heart rate rises and our body reacts as if there was a threat. For short bursts, that’s how the body is supposed to react. Over the course of a day, we exhaust the body’s resources. An engine can’t run at super high RPM’s all the time without burning out. Neither can the human body. We’ll deplete what fuels us and crash, just like a hot-rod on the racetrack when it loses power. I read that stock brokers only can do the job for about a year due to the high stress. Have you seen the madness of the trading floor?! I wouldn’t last a week much less a year!
My boss first introduced our department to the concept of “three good things” last year. We started sharing the good that had happened during the past weeks at our meetings. My boss had already implemented a positive sharing time into each monthly meeting. This gave us the opportunity to recognize our coworker’s positive points. When I first started working for Banner Health, this was the strangest but most wonderful difference I’d ever seen in a company. I do not think it’s across Banner but as a company, they do promote a positive work environment.
There were a few other techniques shared in that workshop which were geared toward calming oneself after a stressful event. Evidence was presented on how the mind effects our physical body and how a generally negative mindset can effect health. This, I felt, was incredibly important and interesting given all the negativity I see daily. I know for myself, when I am mentally off in some way, my body shuts down. My energy drains and very little gets done. In the light of all the stressful news stories about world events, I felt this resilience course came along at the right time. I’ve included links (highlighted in blue in the text above) to Dr Sexton’s video and to Duke University website where you can sign up and participate in their research on how the “three good things” model improves our mental health. My department took a month and signed up for the daily reminders. I can say for myself that it did help me shift my thinking.
I have never wanted to be the “smiling rain cloud”. What does that mean? A smiling rain cloud is a person who has a pessimistic core and wears a fake smile. I don’t want my happiness to be fake because that doesn’t feel good. I want to be genuinely happy, not so folks can tolerate me but so I can tolerate myself. Happiness doesn’t drop in our laps often. We must look for the good, especially when life get hairy and our world feels like it’s closing in. I’d challenge you to recall the positives at the end of your day and see if it changes how your perspective.