Maintain Stress Resilience During a Crisis

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Today, we’re going to be talking about stress-resiliency.

In the video and podcast related to this week’s episode, you’ll see and hear the interview I did with stress resilience expert Brad Coulbeck. Brad is the author of the book The Resilient Mind: How to Achieve Success by Building Mental and Emotional Toughness.

Here are the most significant tips that Brad shared about how to maintain or increase your stress resilience to maintain performance under pressure. While many of you might be seeing your work slow or shut down related to the Coronavirus pandemic, others are struggling to keep up with production and even adding people to keep up with market demand.

Brad and I created a longer one-hour recorded program for leaders and a program for employees on how to remain resilient. We’ll have it up on our website soon but for now, send us an email at for more info.

From the Harvard Business Review: “More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails.” We know resilience is one of the most important factors in success in business and in any other aspect of life.

There are certain factors, characteristics, traits, and behaviors that resilient people have that non-resilient people don’t have. The more you can apply these factors in your life, the more you bolster your resilience, and the more you’re able to deal with adversity.

Resilience Factor: Maintain Routines

Some research out of Israel showed that people who maintained routines, even during extreme adversity like during the second Intifada and during rocket attacks, had lower levels of PTSD and better outcomes than people that practiced avoidance behaviors.

So even during COVID-19, I know many people have to work from home, but the more you can maintain your fitness routines and work routines, the better the outcome is going to be and the less stress you’re going to feel.

For leaders, if your work place is still working, you can use routines to help your team keep their stress levels down because when they’re busy doing things, it helps.

Remember that “Action alleviates anxiety.” Research shows that the more you can take action on problems, on whatever challenges you’re facing, it reduces anxiety and stress.

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Resilience Factor: Optimism

Being realistically optimistic is a factor that makes people more resilient as opposed to being pessimistic. It’s not a pollyanna-type of optimism where you think everything is going to be fine and you don’t really look at the reality of the situation.

During World War II, when Winston Churchill became prime minister, he gave a couple of speeches where he talked about the dark days ahead, where he talked about many, many long months of struggle and suffering. He talked about the terror they would face, but he would always talk about the victory that they would achieve in the end and how it would be their finest hour. He accepted the reality of the situation, which gave him credibility as a leader, but also gave people optimism because he talked about the victory that they would achieve in the end.

For you as a leader, be a short term realist and remain a long-term optimist. Realize that in the long term, human beings are resilient.

When you as the leader are too much of a downer, it sends a negative message to your people and only adds to their stress and your own.

Resiliency Factor: Calm is Contagious

As the leader, if you’re running around with your hair on fire, if you’re getting upset yelling at people, it sets the tone for everybody else. When people are really stressed and have a lot of anxiety, they don’t perform well.

It’s important, for a leader especially, to remain calm. Even if you have some certainty yourself about how this is going to turn out, you have to maintain that calm. Your words and actions should say, “Yeah, I’ve got this. I’ve done this before. I’ve been through similar things. We’ve got this.” Just maintain that, even if it’s just a façade, maintain that façade of calmness for the benefit of everybody around you because it is contagious. Your attitude will affect everybody else.

Staying calm is important as a leader because you are leading by example. This is just one aspect of that, being calm.

How Stress and Performance are Related

The Yerkes-Dodson Law shows the relationship between performance and stress. If you have zero stress, you’re not going to perform your best. As your stress increases, and demands are placed on you either by somebody else or yourself, your performance actually goes up. There’s a sweet spot at the top of the apex and that’s where you’re performing at your best, you’re really in the zone, but then as stress increases even more, you can hit a point of overwhelm and burnout and then your performance drops off again.

As you learn more and more resiliency factors and apply them in your life, you’ll have the ability to deal with a higher stress load, more demands, more adversity, more challenge, and still remain in that sweet spot of peak performance.

stressed worker

Recorded Programs for Your Leaders and Your Team

Even though we shared a few examples today, Brad and I recorded two programs, one for leaders and one for employees. They are available now and will be up on our website soon. In the meantime, please email us at and we’ll send you the information.

In the longer programs we go through a dozen factors that to be more resilient, including some surprising information about how caffeine and alcohol in small quantities are helpful, but in large quantities, decrease your resilience.

We’ll be covering: Having a sense of humor (appropriate of course), live in the now, finding meaning, optimism, and stress inoculation – how you get tougher over time in dealing with stress.

We’ll go into some specifics on dealing with financial pressures if you or your team are facing those, and that calm is contagious and finally, how  you can support your team when they’re stressed out about things.

Thanks again to Brad Coulbeck, our special guest.