Social Resilience

What is Social Resilience?

In today’s increasingly busy world, we are under pressure to perform, to handle more, to always be at our best. Simply put, life is stressful and commonly full of personal and occupational challenges that can affect mental health and well-being. However, it is equally important to recognize that life without activity, without stress, is not in fact living. Social stress is a component of this overall stress and is part of a productive and rich psychosocial experience (Selye, 1981). 

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Nearly half of North American employees struggle with a variety of aspects of stress from work, family and social demands, physical illness, poor sleep, lack of physical activity, and low mood.

Resilience is typically defined clinically as the process of adapting well to adversity, trauma, challenges, or other significant sources of stress in one’s life (www.apa.org). Stress comes in many forms, from relationship problems to intense physical exercise, to health issues, poor sleep, workplace demands, or financial stressors. Resilience involves overcoming (i.e. “bouncing back” from) these difficult experiences and is generally accompanied by profound personal growth or performance improvement . To sustain such growth and development, stress must be matched with recovery. Thus, there is a need for individuals to understand their level of stress and to actively seek elements of recovery in order for there to be a healthy balance.

Stress and recovery need to exist in a balance where depleted resources during stressful episodes or events are adequately restored in recovery phases. This equilibrium or balance enables the realization of the full functional physical, psychological, and social potential of the individual.

Coping with Crisis: Expected reactions to abnormal events

When a disaster like wildfires hits, it puts a lot of stress on those who are impacted. Those who live through crisis situations are very likely to experience extreme stress, and it’s important to remember that this reaction is entirely normal. 

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Extreme stress can seriously affect your health, working ability, and day-to-day life. You may experience physical and emotional reactions such as:

  • Sleeping problems
  • Muscle tension and bodily pains
  • Headaches
  • Poor concentration
  • Guilt
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Trying to avoid being reminded of the crisis situation
  • Nausea
  • Fixating on the event
  • Withdrawing from other people
  • Some people may not feel anything at all

 Recovering from these feelings can take a long time but there are some ways that may help you cope:

  • Allow yourself to feel sad and grieve when you experience a traumatic event
  • Accept support and assistance, there are many who want to help
  • Take time to socialize with others people, this could be as simple as meeting a friend for a coffee, or going for a walk with someone
  • Make plans for the future, but don’t take on too much too fast
  • Give someone a hug
  • Take time to take care of yourself. Eat healthy foods, get sleep, and exercise if possible
  • Maintain daily routines
  • When you can, take time off to do things that make you feel happy
  • Consider seeing a doctor or other health professional if you are concerned about yourself or someone in your care if you are struggling to function, or if you are still feeling extreme stress

Children and teens are especially vulnerable during times of crisis. For information resources about how to help kids recover, check out this guide to disaster recovery for parents and caregivers

 

Surviving Change: Tips to help you cope

Although change is an inevitable part of life, it can sometimes be stressful, isolating, or even debilitating. Employers can support mental health resiliency by promoting self-care and coping strategies in the workplace and steering at-risk employees to employee assistance programs.

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Are you moving to a new house? Is your workplace reorganizing? Are you going through a divorce? Everyone handles change differently, but for many of us, a shift to a new routine or setting can be challenging. Learn more about our normal response to change, and how we can make the experience more positive.

The highs and lows

Research shows that stressful change can have a negative impact on our physical and emotional well-being. It can also affect our work performance and even our relationships. But a change doesn’t always mean we’re facing something dire: change can often be a positive event if it improves our day-to-day life. Plus, experiencing change can make us better at adapting in general. If you think about it, there are many examples in which we actively seek out a change to some aspect of our lives.

Why can change be tough to handle?

  • It can be intimidating or even frightening to face a situation that’s new and unfamiliar.
  • You may not welcome the change. You don’t want it, or perhaps you don’t believe the change is necessary.
  • You may feel a lack of control over your own life.
  • Change always involves a loss—even when you’re transitioning to something better.
Attitude makes a difference

The way you think about the change can directly affect how you cope with it. Try these useful tips:

  • Accept that it’s normal to be emotional. You may feel unhappy, uneasy, angry, or excited.
  • Stop over-analyzing. Avoid blaming yourself or others, or focusing too much on why something happened.
  • Be realistic. What is a reasonable outcome? If your expectations are too high, it only adds to the stress and disappointment when they aren’t met.
  • Look for the lessons. Every experience, no matter how difficult, teaches us something useful and can help us grow as individuals.
  • Find the positives. Try not to dwell on the negative aspects of the situation.
  • Remind yourself that it’s not forever.

Eventually, you’ll adjust to the new situation. Be patient, and give yourself time.

Actions you can take

You may not be able to prevent the change that’s happening, but there are concrete steps you can take that will make the change a lot easier.

  • Address any problems that are solvable. There may be some aspects to the change that have immediate solutions.
  • Spend time with your friends and family—being around your support network can be helpful.
  • Communicate with your supervisor. In the case of workplace change, it will help you to learn more about why the change is happening, share any concerns, and develop strategies.
  • Take steps to de-stress: get regular exercise, breathe deeply for a few minutes a day, pray/meditate, or distract yourself with a funny movie. Try different things to help improve the way you feel, both physically and emotionally.
When to seek help

Despite your best efforts to handle the change, you may be struggling. Watch for warning signs that you might need additional help, i.e., trouble sleeping, changes in appetite, anxiety that’s disrupting your daily life, excessive drinking, loss of motivation, or feelings of hopelessness. If this is happening, talk with your doctor or therapist, or take advantage of your employment assistance program.

 

Caregivers: How to care for your loved ones—and yourself

Approximately three million Canadians are caring for a family member or friend who is elderly, has chronic health conditions, or is disabled.  Employees with caregiving responsibilities at home are most at risk for stress and burnout and can benefit from the expert support and resources we share here.

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Caregivers: How to Care for Your Loved Ones—and Yourself

Caregivers provide support to people whose health conditions restrict their ability to care for themselves. The elderly, those with chronic health conditions, or people with disabilities may need assistance with daily tasks and physical maintenance. While professional caregivers provide this type of support for a wage, there are also informal caregivers (e.g., family members, friends, or neighbours) who care for loved ones with no monetary compensation. In Canada, approximately three million people care for a family member or friend.

Managing multiple responsibilities can take its toll on you—physically and emotionally—but the secret to caregiver success is recognizing signs of stress early on or preventing it altogether. So how do you keep your stress in check? Keep reading to find out how to care for your loved ones—and yourself.

Caregiver burnout

Because informal caregivers are caring for a loved one, they may feel obligated to cope with the added stress without complaint. But keeping your stress to yourself can lead to caregiver burnout, also known as “compassion fatigue.” Burnout occurs when a caregiver experiences both physical and emotional exhaustion that comes from caring for a loved one. Generally, burnout occurs when care demands are high and lasting, or if the caregiver is taking care of multiple people (e.g., ageing parents and young children) at the same time.

If a caregiver’s needs continue to go unmet, they may become irritable, angry, resentful, and anxious. Caregivers need to understand that feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and scared is not unnatural or uncommon. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of burnout; however, as with any symptoms you may experience, make sure to consult your doctor for specific advice and recommendations.

Find some simple strategies for avoiding burnout and staying healthy in the Caregiver’s Support Guide or at the Living Lessons website, a Health Canada recommended caregiver resource.

Respite and day programs

If you need a break from your caregiving duties, there are public and private programs across the country that care for individuals in need for short periods of time. While your loved one is under the care of experienced professionals, you can rest up to avoid burnout. These programs also give the patient a chance to interact with peers and take part in activities.

Admission into a respite program depends on both availability and the urgency of your situation. If you live in a rural or northern area, respite programs may be hard to find. Health Canada provides a chart that includes the types of publicly funded programs available in each province, including the general services they offer.

If you are an informal caregiver, you may be eligible for some tax benefits and financial support. Visit the Canada Revenue Agency to learn more about the

If your caregiving responsibilities are simply becoming too much, you may want to consider other options, such as retirement residences, long-term care facilities, or home care. You can also visit to determine which assistive services would be most helpful for your situation.

 Resources for caregivers

To help you stay on top of your caregiving responsibilities and keep your stress at bay, End of Life Canada provides some helpful resources specifically designed with caregivers in mind.

Always remember that it is important to take some time out to care for yourself. The best way to avoid the damaging effects of caregiver burnout is to prevent it, or, at the very least, recognize the symptoms and take action early on. Take advantage of respite programs for much-needed breaks and make good use of the caregiver resources available across Canada. As a caregiver, you may feel that you’re facing a tough road ahead, but setting aside some ‘me’ time will help you achieve that balance you need.

Withstanding Grief

Loss is one of life’s most stressful events. It takes time to heal, and everyone responds differently. We may need help to cope with the changes in our lives. Grief is part of being human, but that doesn’t mean we have to go through the journey alone. 

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What is grief?

Grief (also called bereavement) is the experience of loss. Many people associate grief with the death of an important person or pet. However, people experience grief after any important loss that affects their life, such as the loss of a job or relationship. Grief after diagnosis of an illness or other health problem is also common.

People experience grief in many different ways—and experience many different thoughts or feelings during the journey. People may feel shocked, sad, angry, scared, or anxious. Some feel numb or have a hard time feeling emotions at all. At times, many people even feel relief or peace after a loss.

Grief is complicated. There is no one way to experience grief. Feelings, thoughts, reactions, and challenges related to grief are very personal. Some people have thoughts or feelings that seem at odds with each other. For example, someone may feel very depressed about their loss but accept the loss at the same time. Many people find that the intensity of their grief changes a lot over time. Holidays can often bring up strong feelings, for example. People work through grief in their own time and on their own path.

What can I do about it?

People express or talk about grief in different ways, but we all feel grief after a loss. In most cases, people navigate through grief with help from loved ones and other supporters and, in time, go back to their daily life.

Some people need extra help from a mental health professional. Grief can be more complicated when the loss is sudden or unexpected, frightening, the result of an accident or disaster, or the result of a crime. Other factors also play a role. A person’s experience of mental illness, lack of personal and social supports, and difficult personal relationships can also affect the impact of grief. A type of counselling called grief counselling supports people through difficulties around grief.

Here are some tips to help you through your journey:

  • Connect with caring and supportive people. This might include loved ones, neighbours, and co-workers. It could also include a bereavement support group or community organization.
  • Give yourself enough time. Everyone reacts differently to a loss and there is no normal grieving period.
  • Let yourself feel sadness, anger, or whatever you need to feel. Find healthy ways to share your feelings and express yourself, such as talking with friends or writing in a journal.
  • Recognize that your life has changed. You may feel less engaged with work or relationships for some time. This is a natural part of loss and grief.
  • Reach out for help. Loved ones may want to give you privacy and may not feel comfortable asking you how you’re doing, so don’t be afraid to ask for their support.
  • Holidays and other important days can be very hard. It may be helpful to plan ahead and think about new traditions or celebrations that support healing.
  • Take care of your physical health. Be aware of any physical signs of stress or illness, and speak with your doctor if you feel that your grief is affecting your health.
  • Offer support to other loved ones who are grieving. Reaching out to others may be helpful in your own journey.
  • Be honest with young people about what has happened and about how you feel, and encourage them to share their feelings, too.
  • Work through difficult feelings like bitterness and blame. These feelings can make it harder to move forward in your life.
  • Make a new beginning. As the feelings of grief become less intense, return to interests and activities you may have dropped and think about trying something new.
  • Think about waiting before making major life decisions. You may feel differently as your feelings of grief lose their intensity, and the changes may add to the stress you’re already experiencing.

How can I help a loved one?

Many people feel like they don’t know what to do or say when a loved one if experiencing loss. If the loss also affected you, you may be working through your own experiences of grief. One of the most important things you can do is to simply be there for your loved one. Grief can feel overwhelming, but support and understanding can make a huge difference.

Here are some tips for supporting a loved one:

  • Understand that a loved one needs to follow their own journey in their own way and express their feelings in their own way.
  • Ask your loved one what they need, and regularly remind them that you’re there for support if they aren’t ready to talk with others yet. Remember to offer practical help, too.
  • Talk about the loss. It’s common to avoid the topic and focus on a loved one’s feelings instead, but many people find sharing thoughts, memories, and stories helpful or comforting.
  • Remember that grief may be bigger than the loss. For example, someone who loses a partner may also experience a lot of fear or stress around financial security and other important matters.
  • Include your loved one in social activities. Even if they often decline, it’s important to show that they are still an important member of your community.
  • Help your loved one connect with support services if they experience a lot of difficulties.
  • Take care of your own well-being and seek extra help for yourself if you need it.

Do you need more help?

Contact a community organization like the Canadian Mental Health Association to learn more about support and resources in your area.

Founded in 1918, The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is a national charity that helps maintain and improve mental health for all Canadians. As the nation-wide leader and champion for mental health, CMHA helps people access the community resources they need to build resilience and support recovery from mental illness.

You’ve Got The Power: A woman’s guide to developing inner strength

With women making up 50% of the workplace (more or less, depending upon the industry), employers need to understand and support the unique ways female employees feel and respond to stress. Here’s an article written just for them.

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Women are more likely than men to feel significant stress in their day-to-day lives. When we’re empowered – by developing our confidence, by improving our relationships, by gaining satisfaction at work, and by caring for our own needs – we can reduce stress and get more joy from life.

Stronger emphasis on your needs

How often do you put your own needs first? A recent survey found that 70 percent of Canadian mothers don’t list themselves among their top three priorities. It’s hard to feel personally empowered when you don’t consider your own needs important. Here are some ideas to help you focus on your own needs:

  • Carve out time for yourself. Focus on your hobbies, take a hot bath, take a deep breath.
  • Sometimes, say no. Setting boundaries or assigning tasks to other people will give you more control and less overload.
  • Let go of perfection. Are you pressuring yourself to do everything yourself and flawlessly? Be more realistic, and cut yourself slack.
  • Don’t neglect your physical and mental health. Over half the women surveyed admitted putting off a doctor’s appointment, a physical activity or better food choices because they put other people’s needs first.

Stronger self-image

In a study of thousands of women around the world, only 13% were satisfied with their beauty, and 13% reported satisfaction with their body weight and shape. As our looks and even limitations change with age, how can we feel more confident about ourselves?

  • Nurture positive thoughts about yourself and others. Avoid speaking negatively about the people around you, be proud of your strengths, and think of mistakes as learning lessons. An easy way to start being more positive is to keep a top 10 list of things you like most about yourself.
  • Focus on how aging makes you better. Perhaps you’re wiser, more patient, more connected, better at coping… celebrate the ever-improving you.
  • Get regular exercise. Not only will physical activity help you stay healthy and stave off disease, studies have found that it’s linked to higher self-esteem. If you are looking for some ideas, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) has several programs and workshops to offer.

Stronger relationships

A study by Focus on the Family Canada found that Canadians consider a stable relationship to be a high priority. How can you have a healthy, balanced relationship?

  • Don’t depend on a partner for everything. Develop your own interests and enjoy your social circle.
  • Don’t ignore problems. Discuss them fairly, respect your partner’s viewpoint, be supportive, and try solutions that will work for both of you.
  • Be prepared to compromise. You’re different people with different needs.
  • Leave if it’s not working. If a relationship isn’t healthy despite your efforts, you’re better off calling it quits. Learn more about signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships.
  • Nourish all the interpersonal relationships in your life. Your ties to friends and neighbours can contribute to your health and longevity!

Stronger at work

Working women spend more time than men on household chores and child care, and are less likely to be happy with their work-life balance. A feeling of empowerment at work can keep you from getting snowed under and feeling overwhelmed by stress. Here are a few ideas on how to feel more empowered at your workplace:

  • Don’t downplay what you do. Workers feel more empowered when their accomplishments are recognized and valued.
  • Seize the opportunity to take part in extra training, or take on challenges in your job.
  • If you can, team up with a supervisor who appreciates your abilities, encourages your professional development and gives you opportunities for choice.
  • Speak up. If you want to revise your job duties or embrace a new challenge, it may never happen unless you ask for it. Hone your negotiation skills, and go after your goals.
  • Consider self-employment. One study found that 92 per cent of those who own their own businesses consider it a “rewarding” career move. If you are self-employed or manage a team at work, you can use the Women’s Empowerment Principles, which are guidelines established by the United Nations, to promote equality and empowerment for women in the workplace.

The role of EQ Resilience

The EQ Resilience questionnaire contains 37 questions. These measure various aspects of stress and recovery using psychological assessment tools that have been clinically utilized for over two decades. 

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The EQ platform then uses an evidence-informed algorithm to determine a Resilience score, represented by a colour, to help paint a picture or video of your resilience through time. This measurement over time is important, as it allows you to manage you to finding your best recovery path.

Actually implementing your recovery is a task that requires self-informing objective assessment and then self-actuation. Once an equilibrium of stress and recovery are attained, then the resources depleted during stressful periods can be adequately restored. This recovery is an active process of restoring, regenerating, recuperating, reviving, and repair.

The Importance of Recovery

The key to maintaining equilibrium and therefore performance,  is regularly monitoring one’s stress and recovery and actively taking steps to maintain the balance between them on a daily and weekly basis: 

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Getting better sleep, practicing mindfulness, eating better, reading for enjoyment, listening to music, expanding a social network, etc. As identified earlier, stress is an important part of living but when a person experiences stress, one of the more important features of psychological and biological functioning needs to occuractive choices of recovery to achieve equilibrium. Athletic performance, intellectual performance, and social engagement all create stress and are key elements of a life fulfilled. However, while an excess of stress without balanced recovery may produce superior intellectual or physical results,  it is not sustainable beyond the short term. Recovery must be regularly sought out in order to sustain the performance that we aspire to achieve in our physical, intellectual, and social endeavours.

The 5 EQ Resilience Assessment Results

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Rocking It!

You’ve built your resilience and are challenging yourself significantly. Firing on all cylinders -way to go!

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Now’s the time

You are doing well in your strategies to balance your stress with recovery. You’ve built some reserves and because of this you have an opportunity to “push a little harder”. This is the time to look for opportunities, try new things or work on personal bests!

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Now's the time

You are doing well in your strategies to balance your stress with recovery. You’ve built some reserves and because of this you have an opportunity to “push a little harder”. This is the time to look for opportunities, try new things or work on personal bests!

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Room to grow

Stress is an important positive part of an active and fulfilling life. Productivity and success in academics, athletics, workplace, and relationships means trying your best, and this creates stress. You’ve built an excess of recovery and can now take on more with confidence. You need to consider new challenges and opportunities. It’s time to push yourself and see what you can do!

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High stress

Stress is becoming an increasing burden and you are not obtaining enough recovery time to balance this load. It is very important now that you actively seek ways to obtain more recovery in order to achieve a better balance. While you continue to push and achieve, you must pay more attention to having personal time where you can replenish your reserves. It might be helpful for you to consult a healthcare practitioner on recovery strategies best suited to you.

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Overstressed

You are in a significant stress state. It is important to start balancing this by actively seeking more opportunities for recovery. Recovery can come in many forms: time with friends or family, meditating, or simply going for a walk in a natural setting. If this persists for more than two weeks, you should also consider speaking with a healthcare professional.

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Overstressed

You are in a significant stress state. It is important to start balancing this by actively seeking more opportunities for recovery. Recovery can come in many forms: time with friends or family, meditating, or simply going for a walk in a natural setting. If this persists for more than two weeks, you should also consider speaking with a healthcare professional.