Having worked in fast-paced corporate environments for over 20 years, and as an HR Executive Leader, resilience was a key skill I looked for in candidates. I believe that a person’s level of resilience determines that individual’s level of success, not only in business but in life in general.
I often asked myself ‘why do some people bounce back with relative ease from change and challenging life experiences while others fall prey to victimhood and have difficulty getting their confidence and strength back?’ These questions led me to study the impact of emotions on individual health and performance in the context of radical corporate changes.
The pitfall of corporate change and its impact on people and business
Although corporate change projects are essential to adjust to the competition of a global economy, too many consecutive change projects without giving individuals time to recover can result in individual stresses and pressures that have significant impact on business performance and employee health.
Numerous scientific studies demonstrate that constant workplace pressures and changes without recovery time negatively impact the psychological and physiological processes of employees at all levels of organizations. This undermines performance, reduces perceptual clarity and directly impairs personal performance.
Furthermore, with the current global pandemic comes radical changes in all domains of a person’s life whether it be job loss, work re-organization, family demands with school and kids, travel restrictions, and the list goes on.
In order to properly recover from any type of radical change, people need tools and support to cope with the stress and challenges they experience. This makes understanding resilience and how to build coherence to recover from the demands of change more important than ever.
One of the ways in which organizations can support their employees through the stresses of challenging times is by understanding the importance of auto-regulation and transformation principles and techniques, and to use this to support and build coherence and resilience capacities in their teams and, ultimately, the corporation.
How is resilience defined?
The definition of resilience has evolved over time. The HeartMath® Institute, a body of scientific experts specialized in building individual and corporate resilience programs, defines it as “the capacity to prepare for, recover from and adapt to stress, challenge or adversity”.
I would like to highlight the importance of “recovering from” stress, challenge or adversity. There is a long standing belief that resilience is about “enduring” stress, challenge or adversity. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Resilience is about how we “recharge’’ our energy levels, it’s not about how we “endure’’.
We often take a militaristic approach to resilience and bravery. We believe that the longer we tough things out, the more heroic and successful we are. However, this belief is scientifically inaccurate. Science proves a direct correlation between insufficient recovery periods with our ability to be resilient and perform. Science also proves that how emotions either deplete or renew our energy directly impacts our heart coherence and brain functions.
A lack of recovery is often due to our inability to auto-regulate depleting emotions during the day. This has led to the scientific understanding that the key to building coherence and resilience capacity lies within our ability to auto-regulate our emotions. In other words, it is how quickly we can recover from depleting emotions such as anger, frustration and anxiety into renewing emotions such as care, gratitude and joy.
Daniel Goleman (2017) explains that it’s not always in the big life failures or crisis that we need to recover. Resilience capacity needs to be built in the frequent and cumulative toll of hassles, setbacks, and upsets we experience in our daily lives.
The more individuals are trained in this awareness and supported with techniques to auto-regulate emotions, the more companies will thrive and save many millions of dollars in lost productivity and health insurance costs every year.
What is coherence?
HeartMath® Institute defines coherence as the highly ordered state in which our body’s systems are synchronized for maximum efficiency. It is a state of calm, focus, heightened awareness and balance. When in a high state of coherence we operate at peak performance. Decision-making, communication skills, relationships, mental clarity, and leadership effectiveness are all enhanced.
We build higher coherence levels by shifting our states to sustained feelings of positive emotions. Emotions affect our heart rate variability (HRV) which is the beat-to-beat changes in our heart rate. The heart then communicates to our brain.
Depleting emotions such as anger or frustration create a chaotic HRV pattern that decreases our coherence and resilience levels, whereas renewing or positive emotions such as compassion and care create a smooth HRV pattern that increases our coherence and builds our resilience capacity.
Studies have shown that “coherence training into the workplace leads to improvements in personal and business performance, reduced staff turnover, improved employee health, customer satisfaction and organizational effectiveness” (HeartMath® Institute).
Techniques to help build your and your team’s coherence and resilience capacity
The good news is coherence and resilience capacity can be developed and increased in individuals with simple and very effective techniques. So, how do we recover and build coherence and resilience capacity? Following are some quick tips:
Step 1: Become aware
The first step is to start by consciously stopping throughout your day and becoming aware of your emotional landscape. When and where are you experiencing depleting emotions, such as anger, anxiety and frustration? When and where are you experiencing renewing emotions, such as compassion, gratitude and joy?
Step 2: Release and transform depleting emotions
Once you tune into your emotions and become aware of them, you can use auto-regulation techniques to release and transform any depleting emotions into renewing energy to recharge your batteries.
There are many techniques you can use to master auto-regulation to include: mindfulness, breathing, meditation, yoga, etc. HeartMath® Institute for instance, has a scientifically proven coherence system which involves techniques and technology that help harmonize heart and brain for resilience-building and optimal performance. Further down this article I will take you through a simple technique to help you achieve this.
Step 3: Prioritize and commit to strengthening your inner resilience
Incorporate a daily discipline and practice of auto-regulation and coherence-building techniques. Auto-regulation is not something that is done once but needs to be a part of living everyday life and routines. I find it easiest to insert these exercises as part of my morning and bedtime routines.
Are you interested in minimizing the impact of your stress and strengthening your coherence and resilience levels?
If you answered a hearty YES to this question, I recommend you try this very simple breathing technique by HeartMath® Institute called Heart-Focused Breathing™ which is a first step in helping you begin to stop energy drains.
You will enjoy the benefits of this technique IF you remember to practice daily. The beauty of this technique is that it can be done during your daily chores and activities, on the go, with your eyes wide opened without anyone knowing you are using it—and you can do it in one-minute intervals a couple times per day!
The benefits of Heart-Focused Breathing™
- Effectively takes the charge out of a stress reaction;
- Draws energy away from your distressed thoughts and feelings;
- Starts the process of shifting into a more resilient state; and
- Gets your nervous system in sync, which is reflected in more coherent heart rhythms and significantly improves your mental capacities.
The Heart-Focused Breathing™ technique:
- Focus your attention in the area of your heart
- Imagine your breath is flowing in and out of your heart or chest area, breathing a little slower and deeper than usual. Inhale 5 seconds, exhale 5 seconds (or whatever rhythm is comfortable).
- Sustain your focus in the area of your heart for at least one minute.
- Try doing Heart-Focused™ Breathing at different times during the day and evaluate how you feel before and after.
Transformation of emotions and auto-regulation really start by checking in, becoming aware and being honest with ourselves about our feelings. Deciding to take a step back to BREATH helps us access a wiser part of ourselves. In this state of calm, we gain better clarity and perception of the situations we are faced with, allowing us to change our mindset and transform depleting emotions into renewing ones. Practice this technique and see what it does for you!
In addition, as you see the transformation within yourself, share this practice with your teams, family members and / or friends. If every individual undertook this simple practice, imagine the good we would do for ourselves and the world, especially through these currently challenging times.
Join Marylène for a one-hour Mastermind on August 10th
Marylène is hosting a one-hour Mastermind Session for the Crisis Ready® Community on August 10th, 2020, at 11am eastern. During this session, she will take us through some Heart-Focused Breathing™ techniques and we will discuss how to build coherence and resiliency programs into your organization’s culture that support your teams and strengthen business performance.
This session is free to all Crisis Ready® Community members. If you’d like to learn more about the Crisis Ready Community and how to join our monthly Mastermind sessions, click here. All are welcome!
Daniel Goleman (2017). Resilience (HBR Emotional Intelligence Series). Harvard Business Review.