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If Resilience was a washing powder, would you be using it to wash your whites?
Who wouldn’t want a powder that cleans, freshens and makes your clothes more resistant to wear and tear at the same time?

But it isn’t.
Workplace resilience is the frequently the topic for discussion around stress, mental health and mental wellbeing. My beef is that too often it’s being used as a euphemism.

Resilience is something I look for in my non-stick cookware, so the pan will last longer than six months.
It’s being able to battle through and survive despite challenging odds, such as demonstrated by Turia Pitt.

Is mental toughness really what we are trying to build here?

What I think we’re really talking about about, isn’t resilience per se, it’s about how we feel about the work we do, the people we work with and how we respond to ongoing and growing challenge, change and uncertainty.

If we want to get really serious about dealing with workplace stress and mental wellbeing, let’s cut the euphemism and call it for what it is.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, overworked and over it all, being offered some tips on building resilience isn’t really going to cut it. But what if you were asked, “What would make the biggest difference to how you feel about yourself, your role in the workplace and make you happier?”

It’s about how we adapt using our emotional intelligence.

Possibly. Resilience sounds neat and tidy.
How we feel can be messy and uncomfortable.

Instead of talking resilience, let’s talk about what matters to people, to you and me and dealing with the tough stuff.

Euphemisms dilute and deceive.
With depression and anxiety currently the second cause of disability in the Australian workplace, and twenty percent of the adult Australian population at risk of mental illness in any given 12 months, we can’t afford any dilution or deception around the severity of the situation.

We are human and we connect.
We are human and we feel.
We are frightened by the prospect of loss of connection and of our emotions.

Neuroscience shows us not only how our brain deals with stress but also how to minimise its negative impact on our cognition, mood and performance.To make a difference, to enable us to respond appropriately and in a positive way can be achieved by creating a brain friendly work environment.

Our adaptability allows us to evolve to deal with those changes in our environment. Historically humans have always been very good at that. It’s what has led us to be so successful as a species.

Adaptability builds a positive attitude towards stress and promotes mental wellbeing.
It offers a broader perspective to what may work and challenges our limiting self-beliefs.
It incorporates strengthening those values we hold dear and revives a sense of purpose and meaning.

Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly talks about how “armoring up” (building resilience) vs. our vulnerability denies us the opportunity to face uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure and utilize our courage, compassion and connection.

Is she right?

Which would you rather have?
Greater resilience or greater adaptability?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.


  • CG says:

    I definitely go for adaptability! Agree that the word "resilience" as used by Brown and others sells superficial "re-run" books. Great article!

  • guest says:

    Heck yeah, it is. In fact ,I’m tired of this talk about resilience. It’s a Darwinist word for people to conform blindly to. If people want to be weak, let ’em be.

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