How to build and maintain resilience at work [+ free mental health training course]

Written by Anna Bishop
Dec 16, 2021

Anna is a Training Product Manager at Red Cross Training responsible for the development and review of our training products.

In this blog, we’ve covered the basics on how to build and maintain resilience so that you can better cope with stressful situations at work. You can also enrol in our free mental health training course to start developing your resilience skills and put your knowledge into practice!


No time to read? Enroll in our free mental health training course now 


Stress is an inevitable part of life, whether we experience it at home or at work. Stressful situations can impact how we think, feel and behave, and affect those around us - but it’s how we deal with stress that can make all the difference.

Resilience, or the ability to ‘bounce back’ from challenging situations, has now become an essential skill for dealing with the stresses at work. According to the HSE, in 2019/20 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health cases, and 55% of all working days lost due to work-related ill health. 

The demands of working life coupled with increased technology use, an ‘always on’ mentality and the lasting impact of the Covid-19 pandemic make developing resilience skills more essential than ever before.

Table of contents:

  • What do we mean by resilience?
  • Why resilience is important? 
  • How to practice resilience (+ how it can help at work)?
  • Applying resilience skills throughout your life?
  • Where to start?


What do we mean by resilience?

Resilience is a person’s ability to recover or ‘bounce back’ from a challenging situation. Being resilient doesn’t mean that you don’t experience stress or emotion. It means that when faced with adversity, trauma, or crisis you are able to cope and manage your mental health effectively.

Resilience isn’t a skill people are born with, but an active process that can be learned through practice. More than five decades of research suggests that resilience is built by attitudes, behaviours and social supports that can be adopted by anyone. It simply takes time.


Why resilience is important

Throughout life, all people will face challenges and adversity. This could be down to a personal crisis such as illness, abuse, job loss, or the death of a loved one; or a collective experience of a tragic event, such as a terrorist attack, natural disaster, and more recently, the Covid-19 pandemic.

Regardless of the situation, building resilience is the key to coping with and recovering from a traumatic or challenging experience. Since stressful events that are out of our control happen all the time, it helps for us to have coping mechanisms already in place that we can draw from when we start to feel ourselves struggling. 

Work in particular is found to be one of, if not the most stressful factor in people’s lives, with 4 in 5 people believing that stress has become a ‘way of life’ for the modern workforce. Building personal resilience (both at work and home) ensures that when something happens, you have the tools and resources to cope.


Build your resilience skills in our free mental health training course

Enrol now


How to build resilience (+how it can help at work)

At British Red Cross Training, we look at practicing resilience through what we call The 6 Rs: Responsibility, Reflection, Relaxation, Relationships, Refuelling and Recreation. These can prepare you to better bounce back from a challenging situation. 


The first step towards building resilience is taking responsibility for your own mental health and wellbeing. Your employer is responsible for your wellbeing during working hours, but ultimately the only person who has to live with your mental health is you. 

Of course, your happiness at work is important, but your sense of wellbeing extends far beyond the workplace and into all aspects of your life. Mental wellbeing isn’t something you should consider every once in a while or when you reach a crisis point, but all the time. As an individual, you need to put emphasis on your own wellbeing to thrive in the often fast-paced work environment. 

That doesn’t mean employers can’t help build resilience, just that we ultimately have to motivate ourselves to engage and focus on resilience across all aspects of our lives. It can be useful to be aware of what the signs of stress are, so you know how to take care of yourself when you feel stressed and need to focus on your self care and resilience.


Reflecting on how you are, what is happening and how you are feeling about a situation or event can help you recognise when you’re struggling and can motivate you to take the time to recover.  Reflection can be a powerful tool when used correctly and taking stock of your thoughts, emotions, and actions can help you identify ways to improve your response to future experiences. 

This means that when you are faced with a difficult situation, you’re better able to reflect-in-action because you are more aware of yourself, and can draw on past experiences. For example, if you face a conflict at work, you can reflect on what went well or badly in similar past experiences to help you achieve a positive outcome. 


Finding opportunities to relax is important in building your resilience.  This shouldn’t just be as a response to feeling stressed, but something you try to incorporate into your life regularly to help you maintain wellbeing, and equip you to face situations in the future.

Relaxing when you already feel stressed can be a real challenge. Try to identify activities that have helped you relax  in the past, such as watching your favourite movie, reading a book, or meditating. 

For times when you are feeling particularly stressed, read our practical ways to ease negative emotions. There are several things you can do to help you relax if you are facing a challenging situation or are struggling. Simple things like stepping away from your desk when you feel stressed, focusing on your breathing, or simply making yourself a glass of water all enable you to reset and refocus on your wellbeing. No matter which techniques you use, having strategies in place can help you better manage stress in the future, improving your ability to bounce back.


Having a good support network is essential for building resilience - whether it’s with family, a friend or work colleague. Knowing who to turn to when times are tough can help you recover much more quickly. At work, this could mean having a colleague that you feel comfortable talking to when you are feeling stressed, where you are able to openly and honestly communicate.  Social relationships also help with overall mental wellbeing, finding opportunities to connect with supportive others can help us feel happier and face challenges from a more positive place.

For advice on how to build a strong support network, and how to deal with loneliness, read our free resources. 


With busy lives at work and home it can be difficult to take care of your physical health - but it can make a huge difference to your ability to bounce back.

In general, make sure you’re eating a reasonably healthy diet, are getting enough sleep, and be conscious of your alcohol intake. 


Doing things that make you happy is essential in building resilience, because it allows you to metaphorically escape. You should try and find time in your life to do things that you enjoy, such as hobbies or exercise. 

Check out these 7 mindfulness activities you may surprisingly enjoy

Download now


Applying resilience skills throughout your life

Stressors in one part of our lives can impact another. Your reaction to a stressful event may be a result of home, work and other issues that, when combined, push you to a point where you are struggling to cope. 

This means that negative feelings brought on by personal circumstances can affect your working life, and vice versa. In scenarios such as this, it’s best to build resilience holistically across every aspect of your life to see the most positive outcomes.

An example

A common scenario is having a stressful job that at times, can feel overwhelming. To build resilience at work, you should make sure you make time to apply the 6 Rs across your life. This means finding the time to do things like:

  • Do a hobby you enjoy, such as gardening or yoga
  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Make sure you’re eating well, and are not drinking too much alcohol
  • Finding time to relax throughout your day - both at work and home

Finding small, manageable ways to deal with stress can help you become more resilient, so the stress you face at work is less impactful on your wellbeing. 

One of the best ways to manage and adjust to stress is through recognising its existence. Often, strong emotions can be all-encompassing. However, by acknowledging the problem, you can evaluate how you will ‘bounce back’ based on how you have coped in the past. 

Practicing this each time you’re faced with a challenge is how you will become resilient.

Where to start

Remember, while we often can’t control how we react to stress, we can control how we respond and adapt. Building and maintaining resilience at work comes from knowing how to deal with stressors throughout different aspects of your life, and applying this to situations as they arise. 

Our free mental health training course walks you through how to build and maintain resilience, drawing on stressors created by the Covid-19 pandemic. You will learn how to build and maintain resilience during challenging times, as well as how you can improve the mental health and wellbeing of yourself and others - covering topics such as: 

  • What psychosocial support is
  • Reactions to an abnormal event
  • Common reactions to crisis
  • Powerful emotions
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Resilience and wellbeing
  • The 6Rs of resilience
  • The CALMER framework

Want to know more about how to build resilience? Simply enrol on our free course to get started. 

Topics: Mental health & wellbeing

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