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Developing protective factors

In this article, Dr Suzanne Ross explains how we can develop protective factors, to better understand and regulate our emotions.
Person reading a newspaper, their face is obscured by the paper.

So we’ve considered some of the strategies we could put in place to help us to cope or adapt during challenging times. Many of these strategies don’t require us to learn new skills or capabilities, they just need us to act on things we may already know how to do, for example, taking time out to exercise or to connect with friends or keeping to consistent sleeping patterns.

When we consider protective factors, those things that act as a ‘buffer’ to stress during difficult times, it may be that some of these are developmental. Developing our skills, in, for example, problem solving and influencing, can help improve our sense of confidence and of being in control.

Developing emotional and social competency can help us to better understand our emotions and regulate these as well as helping us to communicate our needs and build good relationships with others.

As leaders, a sense of optimism can be important in instilling confidence, particularly during times of change, however, it can sometimes be difficult to retain our optimism when faced with setbacks. There can be a sense that we’re either an optimist by nature or a pessimist. You may have heard the saying ‘glass half full or half empty’ to describe people who are optimistic or pessimistic. Positive Psychologist Martin Seligman maintains through his research on learned optimism that we can cultivate optimism through the way we reframe situations. If we believe that a situation is temporary (it will pass at some point), local (it impacts only certain areas of our life) and it is changeable (we can do something about it), we can feel more empowered to act. When we believe something to be ‘never ending’, impacting everything we do and nothing makes any difference, we can feel more helpless and disempowered.

A diagram highlighting the Temporary/Local/Changeable model.

As a leader, it can be useful to work with a coach who can support you in identifying strengths and development areas in the context of your work, and who can help you to reflect on, make sense of, and learn from your experiences.

When considering protective factors, it is important to pay attention to our external environment and how this contributes to ongoing stress or adverse situations. As a leader, it is important to consider the culture of the organisation and the impact this has on mental health and wellbeing – what is being role modelled by leaders? Do leaders role model healthy work / life boundaries for example? Are workloads manageable? Is there a culture of teamwork and collaboration? Reviewing organisational culture ensures that some of the causes of workplace stress are addressed.

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How to Build Leadership Resilience

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