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April: Stress Awareness Month and time for us to introduce our next Key of Focus, Resilience…. 
 
As providers of mental fitness support and resources Strive is very familiar with the increasing impact of stress both in and out of the workplace. With this in mind, we are spending a little time at the start of this year’s Stress Awareness Month to consider the impact of stress on both individuals and those around them. 
 
In our latest blog we consider how our Key of Focus for April, Resilience, can be developed and utilised to not only help reduce stress but also to recognise the build up of stress and enable us to take a proactive role in managing it’s causes and our response to it. 
What is Resilience? 
 
Resilience is the ability to persevere in the face of challenge, the ability to adapt in the face of change, the ability to bounce back after a setback, and the ability to manage both the physical and emotional consequences of adversity. 
 
Resilience is not simply an ability to push through every difficult situation and come out stronger on the other side.  
It is a complex combination of Awareness, Adaptation, Action, and Acceptance 
 
Awareness 
• Being aware of the reality of a situation so that you can plan how best to manage it effectively. 
 
• Being self-aware enough to know your strengths and weaknesses so that you can make confident and thoughtful decisions about what you can manage and where you might need to seek support. 
 
• Being aware of other people, their needs, their strengths and their weaknesses, so that you can work effectively and compassionately to reach the best possible outcome for all. 
 
Adaptation 
• Being flexible in the face of change involves being both emotionally and physically responsive. 
 
• Being confident in your understanding of yourself and those around you enables you to seek change when a situation can’t be sustained or when it could simply be improved by embracing a new approach or adjusting an existing one. 
 
• Being able to adapt to changes that are beyond your control, whether they be big and sudden or smaller and slower, in the knowledge that someway and somehow you will find the resources that you need to navigate whatever is thrown in your direction.  
 
Action 
• Being able to plan and take action in situations that are uncertain or challenging, knowing that you have the awareness and adaptability to do the best with what you have and to move towards the best possible outcome for you and those around you. 
 
• Being able to take action in situations where it feels like it might well be easier to sit back and wait for someone else to provide direction, and guidance, and initiative. 
 
• Being able to differentiate between a situation where action is helpful and required, and one where acceptance is necessary instead, is often one of the hardest and most resilient actions any of us will ever have to take. 
 
Acceptance 
When awareness, adaptability, and action fail us. 
When we have tried as hard as we possibly can to change the unchangeable. 
When acceptance is the only option... 
This is often when our resilience is tested most. 
The role of resilience in stress reduction and management 
 
Resilience plays a crucial role in stress reduction and management. It equips us with the psychological and emotional tools needed to effectively cope with adversity; it can encourage a positive outlook, where potential stressors are not only seen as manageable but also as opportunities for growth and learning; it can improve emotional regulation, so that those confident in their ability to cope with adversity are also able to identify and manage their emotions in a way that does not exacerbate feelings of stress or stressful situations; it can improve adaptability and confidence in the face of uncertainty; it can help to identify and enhance coping strategies, such as seeking support from others or having confidence in your own experience and abilities; it can be both the result of, and a contributing factor towards, a positive self-image, self-efficacy, and life lived authentically; it can empower us to live our lives in a way that is assured, fulfilling, and true to our values and interests; it is both a protective factor against stress AND a tool that can be utilised to reduce the impact of stress when it does occur; it is an essential component of the 10 Keys of Happiness framework which Strive uses to help our members to improve their mental fitness and, no matter how resilient you think you are (or are not), it is something that can we can all improve and build upon. 
Why does stress reduction and stress management matter? 
 
Whether it’s due to an increased prevalence or an increased awareness, it is clear that stress is significant factor in our modern lives both at home and in the workplace. Strive’s holistic approach to mental fitness recognises that, regardless of where the stress occurs, it will have an impact on all areas of a person’s life… 
 
Stress can impact memory, concentration, and decision making whilst also reducing focus and motivation  
- all of which can lead to an increase in errors and a noticeable reduction in productivity. 
 
Stress can impact both physical and mental health - exacerbating pre-existing disabilities and conditions and increasing the chances of developing a new long-term illness or chronic condition and the likelihood of picking up short-term illnesses and infections. 
 
It can cause sleep disruptions which have the potential to exacerbate everything! 
 
It can make relationships both in and out of the workplace significantly more difficult and, for some, stress will trigger behavioural changes, especially for those who turn to maladaptive coping techniques. 
 
In summary, while stress is a natural response to challenging situations, chronic or excessive stress can have a detrimental effect on physical health, mental well-being, relationships, and overall quality of life. Managing stress effectively through healthy coping strategies and seeking support when needed is essential for maintaining optimal health and well-being. 
How can Strive help me or my team improve their resilience and manage their stress? 
 
At Strive our non-medicalised, compassion focussed, and responsive approach empowers our members to take personal responsibility for their own mental fitness and wellbeing. Informed by quarterly Wellness Assessments, the Strive team, our online resources, and growing community are all available to Strive members as they build on the foundations of their existing knowledge, skills, and resources to develop new knowledge, skills and resources that will enable them to take a proactive role in improving their lives and working towards a happier and healthier future. 
 
Whether it’s helping members who are already experiencing the impact of chronic stress, or helping members develop the tools needed to reduce the prevalence and impact of stress in the future, our resources can be adapted to the needs of all individuals and organisations. With some members better suited to finding their own way around the online platform to utilise the many and varied resources, activities, videos, and relaxation audios we have available, and others requiring a little guidance and encouragement by way of an online 1:1 with one of our dedicated mental fitness mentors every few weeks, Strive’s holistic and compassionate approach is adaptable, measurable, AND effective. 
Stress and Burnout: What’s the difference anyway? 
 
Stress is a normal and unavoidable reality of life. Despite this, stress can be extremely difficult for some of us to deal with and can have a significantly detrimental impact on a person’s wellbeing if not managed appropriately and effectively. Unmanaged, chronic, or excessive stress can go far beyond short-term impacts and over time can cause burnout, a significant and now well-documented phenomenon, that is characterised by feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy.* 
*On a side note, The World Health Organization describes burnout as an exclusively occupational phenomenon. However, in their inaugural Burnout Report, Mental Health UK argue (very convincingly) that, with the lines between work and home becoming increasingly blurred over recent years, it is becoming impossible separate the two and, at Strive we’d tend to agree. We would also add though, that in our work helping individual and organisations to improve their mental fitness, trying to divide our complex and multifaceted lives into neat and unconnected little boxes is not only impossible but also unhelpful. Anyway, back to the blog… 
How is burnout different to stress? 
 
Whilst it is clear that burnout and stress are related concepts, they differ in several key aspects: 
 
Nature and Duration: 
Stress is a natural response to demands or pressures. It is often temporary and can occur in various aspects of life, including work, relationships, and personal challenges. 
Burnout is a more prolonged and chronic state resulting from extended exposure to stress. Typically, it occurs when stressors are continuous or overwhelming, and leads to a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. 
 
Symptoms: 
Stress can manifest in various physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms such as tension, irritability, anxiety, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. 
Burnout symptoms on the other hand include feelings of cynicism or detachment, reduced professional efficacy, emotional exhaustion, and a sense of being overwhelmed or unable to meet demands. 
 
Cause: 
Stress can stem from various sources, including work pressure, relationship issues, financial problems, or major life events. 
Burnout is typically associated with prolonged exposure to stress in the workplace, often resulting from factors such as excessive workload, lack of control or autonomy, unclear job expectations, or a mismatch between an individual's values and the demands of their job. 
 
Impact: 
While stress can impair performance and well-being, it is often manageable with coping strategies and support systems. In some cases, it can also serve as a motivating factor for positive development and change. 
Burnout, the result of chronic or excessive stress, on the other hand, can have significant and severe consequences. It can reduce productivity and increase mistakes, it can decrease job satisfaction, strain relationships, and impact both physical and mental health over a prolonged period. 
 
In summary, while stress is a natural response to demands or pressures, chronic or excessive stress can cause burnout, a more severe, prolonged, and ultimately harder to manage condition. 
Why is it burnout so bad and why does it seem to be impacting more and more of us? 
 
Whether it’s due to increased awareness or factors specific to our modern world, burnout appears to be becoming increasingly prevalent, and increasingly researched and reported on. 
 
Mental Health UK’s first annual Burnout Report published earlier this year highlights some stark findings regarding burnout in the UK and we have listed just a few of these below: 
 
Key findings from Mental Health UKs 2024 Burnout Report 
• 9 out of 10 adults experienced extreme levels of stress in 2023. 
 
• 1 in 5 workers had to take time away from work due to mental health concerns that related to work pressure and stress. 
 
• Almost a quarter of UK adults feel unable to manage stress and pressure in their lives. 
 
• 49% felt that their workplace does not have the means to identify, or plans to support, staff at risk of burnout. 
 
• 35% of working adults in the UK say that they’d feel ‘not very comfortable’ or ‘not comfortable at all’ with discussing their stress levels with a manager. 
 
Mental Health UKs research has also identified high or increased workload; increases in unpaid work and overtime; feeling isolated at work; decreased job security and fear of job loss or redundancy; having to take on additional paid work due to the ‘cost of living crisis’; and feeling intimidated by or being bullied by colleagues as factors in the workplace that contribute to stress and burnout. 
 
Outside of the workplace factors such as poor sleep; poor physical health; caring responsibilities; feeling isolated; problems in personal relationships; and financial uncertainty due and the cost-of-living crisis and more general money worries have also been cited as contributing factors. 
 
The Burnout Report is not all doom and gloom though as it also identifies a number of factors that can help protect against the burnout. 
 
These factors include a good work-life balance; regular exercise; connection with others by way of supportive networks outside of work, supportive colleagues and professional networks and supportive line managers in the workplace. Other in work factors that help to prevent burnout include reasonable adjustments, professional mental health support for individuals who need it, and wider mental health training at an organisational level. 
 
With social and technological changes in recent years both impacting expectations in the workplace and causing the line between work and home to become increasingly blurred, it is not hard to see how our modern world can lead to increased workloads and greater workplace demands. Which, in turn, can lead to longer hours, more unpaid overtime, less time to regulate away from the demands of the workplace, and more difficulties trying to establish an effective work-life balance. With all of this taking place whilst we are still navigating the aftermath of the global Covid-19 pandemic, and in the middle of a national cost-of-living crisis, it is no wonder that many of us are experiencing immense pressure which can leave us more susceptible to burnout. 
But why does any of this really matter? 
 
Stress isn’t inherently bad. 
Burnout is. 
 
When you and your staff are exposed to too much stress too often, one way or another, it will have negative consequences and, if left unchecked, will inevitably lead burnout. 
 
Burnout not only has a personal cost to the individual experiencing it but will, in almost all cases, have a detrimental impact on those around them too. In the workplace it can lead to mistakes and decreased productivity, it can impact customer service and reduce morale throughout an organisation, it can increase absence and absenteeism and will ultimately incur a cost to your organisation. 
 
In turn, taking steps to reduce the risk of burnout in your organisation will not only safeguard the well-being and performance of you and your people but will also encourage a more positive and supportive work environment. An environment that enables everyone to achieve their best for themselves, their colleagues, your organisation and your clients, customers, and collaborators, is an environment that not only safeguards your workforce's potential, but also contributes to the long-term success and sustainability of your organisation. 
 
Whatever its cause, tackling burnout and reducing and manging the workplace stress that causes it is a necessity that we cannot afford to ignore, and Mental Health UK’s findings should be a call to action for us all. 
How can Strive help you and your people,  
and why would you want us to? 
 
At Strive we believe that, like physical fitness, looking after your mental fitness is an active process. We also believe that when given the right resources everyone can reach their potential, and that with a little practice, perseverance, (and perhaps a little guidance and cheerleading along the way), we can all prosper. 
 
We have combined that philosophy with the 10 Keys of Happiness (an evidence-based framework) and quarterly Wellness Assessments to produce a measurable and effective means by which Strive Members can take personal responsibility for their mental fitness and work towards becoming the best version of themselves that they can be. 
 
Our compassion focus enables us to seek out individuals who want to show themselves care and invest in their own wellbeing, as well as compassionate collaborators who refer new members to us through our Strive Together programme, and compassionate leaders who not only want to invest in the well-being of their workforce but also recognise that investment as something that will ultimately support them and their organisations too. 
 
These are just some of the ways that the Strive team, our community, and our online resources can and do help to mitigate the risk of burnout in a range of organisations: 
 
• By providing a framework for ongoing personal development with real-life applications and measurable impacts. 
 
• By helping our members to recognise and assess their strengths and weaknesses, in order to curb perfectionism and encourage collaboration. 
 
• By promoting a growth mindset in our community that embraces learning from setbacks and approaching new challenges with optimism. 
 
• By shining a light on the importance of self-care as a means to helping us to show up in the world as the best possible version of ourselves. 
 
• By asking questions that encourage introspection, critical thinking, and taking a self-aware and proactive role in decision making and planning. 
 
• By helping our members to actively consider their support networks and other protective factors. 
 
• By compassionately and non-judgementally challenging maladaptive thought processes and coping mechanisms that can contribute to stress and burnout, whilst also providing realistic and accessible alternatives. 
 
• By offering guidance on how to develop and enforce boundaries, improve communication, and manage conflict both in and out of the workplace. 
 
• By leading by example and encouraging open and authentic communication whilst also responding patiently, empathetically, and supportively to the needs of those who find this more challenging. 
 
• By providing time and space for members to look back on their personal and professional progress, reminding them how much they have achieved and overcome already, whilst also helping to plan appropriate and sustainable next steps. 
 
• By encouraging members to reflect on their sense of purpose in order to find meaning in what they do and better align their work with their values. 
 
• By helping members to develop personalised strategies for building resilience, improving self-esteem, and increasing confidence. 
 
• By collaborating with members to develop understanding and techniques to manage stress and anxiety in the moment and to reduce stress in their day to day lives before it becomes overwhelming. 
 
• By taking an impartial and objective approach that helps members to take a step back from stressful situations and problems, so that they can consider alternative perspectives and potential solutions. 
 
• By providing professional, compassionate, and friendly support to members that extends beyond the workplace and helps to develop tools that will improve functioning and wellbeing in all areas of their lives. 
 
• By advocating for personal responsibility, collaboration, and compassion (for the self and others) in the pursuit of personal and professional goals. 
 
• By creating a safe and non-judgmental environment, and a supportive community where members can share experiences, insights, challenges, and ideas. 
 
• And, ultimately, by supporting you and your teams to take proactive steps towards cultivating a supported, engaged, and motivated workforce that are resilient in the face of unavoidable challenges and can contribute effectively and enthusiastically to an inclusive, thriving, and dynamic organisational culture. 
**On another side note, In The Burnout Report, Mental Heath UK state that, “Less than a third (29%) of working adults said their workplace had plans in place to help colleagues spot the signs of chronic stress and prevent burnout in employees, while almost half (49%) of workers said it did not and 22% said they did not know.” And that, “By ‘plans’, we mean either a personally-tailored wellbeing action plan to help individuals to think about what they need to do to stay well at work and what kind of support needed if they became unwell/ too stressed – or an organisation-wide plan or risk assessment for stress, which identifies a risk for staff and explores ways of removing or reducing the risk.” And yeh, the too long didn’t read message of this (and essentially every other blog or podcast or message that we have put out into the world) is that... “This is us! This is what we do. It’s what Strive was created for. It’s what we’re good at and it’s what we love!”. We can provide an approach to mental fitness that can not only risk assess everyone in your organisation for stress and signs of burnout but can also provide that ‘personally-tailored wellbeing action plan to help individuals’ as well as effective and measurable outcomes for your organisation. Honestly, we’re kind of gobsmacked that we are already established and ready to tick all of those boxes for you and really would love to hear from you if you’d like to take proactive action towards tackling both the cause and effect of chronic stress and burnout in your workplace. 
For an introduction to Strive’s philosophy and framework please see our Founder and CEO Linda’s introduction video on our website HERE
 
And to find out more please consider visiting our website: www.strive-online.co.uk, connecting with us on LinkedIn, following us on Facebook, or Spotify, subscribing to our mailing list, dropping us an email at info@strive-online.co.uk, or giving us a call on 0116 340 0630
 
- We’d love to hear from you! 
 
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