Personal resilience - a ‘stress beater’ for the City

Julie Courtney

As has been widely reported, stress is a leading cause of ill health and the World Health Organisation predicts that by 2020 depression will be the leading cause of disability.

Anyone who has been subject to stress, or has a condition that can worsen during stress, knows it can affect our ability to think clearly, perform at our best and communicate. Chronic stress can even cause mental health disorders. However, in the past, the topic has been taboo in the City despite growing scientific evidence that living on adrenaline can increase the chances of burnout! Indeed, both Lloyds and Barclays have reportedly had high profile individuals taking a leave of absence due to stress.

The pressures brought on by the global financial crisis has led to the City being branded a pariah sector due to the failings of a few bankers. The effect on many working in the sector is that they are becoming tired and ill, and engagement levels are lower than ever despite banking posts still being sought after.

What can be done ?

There are numerous treatments that go some way towards helping an individual cope through a challenging period. These can be anything from cognitive behavioural therapy (as recommended by the National Institution for Clinical Excellence) to complementary therapies such as osteopathy or massage. However, many treatments are coping strategies and they don’t necessarily help an individual to combat stress in ‘real time’, when the stress is actually taking place. Finding a way of dealing with stress as it’s happening, rather than dealing with the after effects, can have multiple positive effects – and one way to do this is through building personal resilience.

Dealing with stress ‘in the moment’

One tried and trusted way to build resilience and deal with stress ‘in the moment’ is a technique called HeartMath®. HeartMath has been established in the US for over 20 years and is recognised as one of the most effective personal resilience coaching solutions.

In essence, HeartMath teaches the use of innovative yet simple and practical techniques to lower stress responses, preventing damage both to mind and body. Supporting technology allows the client to measure results through biometric feedback and see improvements – perfect for results-orientated City people!

HeartMath is now being widely used to better facilitate balanced risk-taking by the financial sector in the US and some of the more forward-thinking banks here in the UK are considering following suit. In addition, 50 officers from Sandhurst military academy were recently trained in the HeartMath techniques. This happened prior to the officers taking up roles as mentors to the Afghan National Army – a vital strategic role.

Personal resilience in a corporate setting

Resilience has become somewhat of a buzzword in the City. For some, it’s jargon, yet others realise that inaction on this topic will affect commercial results, as well as long-term health and performance, and they are now taking action.

There are several ways that personal resilience programmes can be applied in business. For instance, coaching can be offered to key members of the management team, especially during change transition, in order to help them diffuse their own stress and lead their team effectively. Or coaching can be targeted at a particular area of the workforce engaged in a fast-paced function, such as call centre workers or traders in the dealing room.

Patrick Watt, previously Executive Director and Head of Wellness at Goldman Sachs and now with Bupa, advised during a webinar on wellness that 'rather than get caught up on the metrics, happier, healthier, more engaged employees makes good business sense'. And Julie Courtney, expert on human resources issues in the financial sector, says, 'at a recent conference, personal resilience was discussed as arguably the most important resource'. What follows is the Holy Grail for HR directors: a fully engaged staff performing at their peak, with the ready ability to face the challenge when the going gets tough.

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