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‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ Personal Emotional Resilience and Work Part One

Whilst strolling along the seafront where I live recently I noticed a man wearing a bright pink T-shirt emblazoned with the logo ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ and it struck me that this apparently wry, whimsical message was all about promoting a Resilient mind-set.

Indeed it was. First dreamt up by the Ministry of Information in 1939 it was designed as a motivational message to the population of Britain facing the impending onslaught and trauma of World War 2. Embracing the values of the British ‘stiff upper lip’, it was followed by campaigns encouraging the virtues of resilience,  ‘Make do and mend’, ‘Dig for Victory’ and the magnificent ‘Your courage, your cheerfulness and your resolution will bring us Victory’…..all interspersed with stirring motivational speeches from Winston Churchill of course. Resilience was indeed then sensed and valued as a major ‘weapon in our armoury’ in facing adversity.

Fast forward to today and Mindfulness, Resilience and, more latterly, Emotional Resilience have attracted much interest, debate and action in Management and Learning circles over the last few years….and unsurprisingly so, given the seismic changes that have occurred over the last 20 years. The Globalised Economy, Boom and Bust Economic cycles, and the astonishing advances in automation and technology have meant that the world of work has changed forever and will continue changing rapidly. This constant and rapid pace of change, economic uncertainty, restructures, redundancies, doing more with less, demanding performance targets and competing priorities, cost pressures, increased competition, commuting, and being constantly connected or wired in - are just some of the pressures and challenges facing the leaders and employees in the modern workplace and industry today.


So how do we as individuals adapt to the challenges these external and ongoing changes pose? A nod to Darwinism dramatically suggests that it’s the ‘survival of the fittest’ or those ‘most able to adapt’ that will thrive when the external environment changes. There are some worrying health statistics that might add credence to that view in that absence from work due to work-related stress remains stubbornly high.

Figures published by the HSE in October 2013 highlights:

  • 428,000* cases of Work Related Stress (40%) of 1,073,000 work-related illnesses reported.
  • 10.4* million work days lost
  • Main causes were work pressure, lack of managerial support and work-related violence and bullying.
  • Average length of time off work 24* days
  • Cost to British Economy £6.5* Billion

(*all figures relate to 2011/2012)

I would suggest that these figures are merely the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as they take no account of unrecorded or self-certified absence or people simply leaving their jobs when their work pressures become unmanageable. Taking these hidden figures into account, the true cost to the British economy is probably nearer to £15 billion per annum.

In addition to these statistics, a recent Mental Health Foundation Survey found that:

  • 59% of British adults say their life is more stressful than it was five years ago
  • Work (28%) and Money (26%) were top survey results as main causes of stress in Britain
  • People are three times more likely to drink alcohol (18%) to help deal with stress than they would be to go to a GP (6%)
  • When asked how they deal with stress 41% of those affected answered ‘spending time alone’ and 40% ‘talking to friends and family’

Given these sobering figures, I would suggest that becoming more Resilient is now a priority in addressing the wellbeing of people and the effectiveness of the organisations they work in………Resilient people are fundamental in supporting and developing Resilient organisations.

So, how do we understand how resilient we are as individuals, given that we may lack the self-awareness to understand how resilient we are until we actually experience change, adversity or trauma? Being blissfully unaware, or in denial, is a highly risky ‘state of being’ as when rapid change or adversity hits, the inability to cope can often result in emotional breakdown, burn-out, and depression, all of which can be life-changing.

Keep an eye out for next weeks blog for my tips on becoming more resilient in order to reduce stress levels and improve your work/home life quality.

Contact us to find out more about our Resilience Programme and the benefits it can have on you and your people.


David Allgood, Bray Leino Learning

Copyright © 2014 Bray Leino Learning

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