How to Boost Resilience in High-Stress Careers

A man is sitting at a desk with computers, camera, cell phones
A man is sitting at a desk with computers, camera, cell phones
How to Boost Resilience in High-Stress Careers

How to boost resilience in high-stress careers? In the face of high-stress careers, resilience becomes a pivotal skill to master. We’ve gathered seven expert strategies, including insights from career coaches, to bolster your mental fortitude. From practicing cognitive reappraisal to cultivating key resilience habits, these professionals, including a counseling psychologist and a CEO, share their single most effective method for enhancing resilience.

  • Practice Cognitive Reappraisal
  • Integrate Mindful Meditation
  • Distinguish “Can” from “Cannot”
  • Engage in Active Recovery
  • Find a Non-Work-Related Outlet
  • Strengthen Social Bonds and Support
  • Cultivate Key Resilience Habits

Practice Cognitive Reappraisal

Resilience is not about being immune to stress or hardship. It’s the ability to bounce back, adapt, and even find growth in difficult times.

Think of resilience like a muscle; we can strengthen it with practice and intention. Utilize cognitive reappraisal when a negative thought arises (‘I’m going to fail this project’), question its validity. Look for evidence to the contrary or reframe it more realistically (‘This is challenging, but I’ve tackled tough things before’). The main thing to remember is that building resilience takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself.

Dr. Jameca Woody Cooper, Board certified Counseling Psychologist and Criminal Psychology consultant, Dr. Jameca

Integrate Mindful Meditation

One effective method to work on your resilience is to regularly practice mindful meditation. I’ve been doing it for years, and over time, you become more grounded and present, while being aware of your internal chatter and feelings without letting them overwhelm you. It allows you to take a step back, observe them from a distance, and remain in a state of calmness and clarity, even when things get tough.

I’d recommend integrating this practice into your daily routine, starting with only a few minutes each day, then increasing as you get more comfortable and start seeing the results in your daily life.

Bayu Prihandito, Founder, Psychology Consultant, Life Coach for Men, Life Architekture

Distinguish “Can” from “Cannot”

The main reason we’re stressed is because our minds can’t distinguish between what we can do about the situation and what we have no control over. This way, our thoughts run on autopilot and try to find a solution. We cannot let things go and end up thinking about it even when we’ve finished working and need to relax or go to sleep.

So, to build up your resilience, do this very simple but effective exercise: every single time you get stressed or worried about something, write down what exactly you are stressed about (putting it out of your head and on paper already helps, because the most uncomfortable state we can be in is feeling badly and not knowing why), and then simply draw two circles underneath it.

Now write “can” over the left one and “cannot” over the right one. Write everything you can do about the situation in the “can” circle and everything that is outside of your control in the “cannot” circle on the right. Spoiler: What other people do, think, or whether they like you or not, is never in your zone of control. The same goes for changing the past.

What is always in your “can” circle, though, is clearly communicating what you want or need and lessons learned from the past. Every time your thoughts want to run wild with stress about the situation again, check with yourself: Is it something I can do something about? Is it in my “can” circle? Great, then do it or schedule it on your calendar. Is it in your “cannot” circle? You have to let it go then. No amount of thinking or worrying is going to change it.

Do this exercise at least for three different stressful situations on paper to train your thoughts to clearly distinguish between if you can do something about it or not. You’ll notice you can let go of thoughts much quicker and don’t get stressed about things nearly as much as if you just keep them in your head.

Irina Palatai, Coach for Personal Development, Irina Palatai Coaching

Engage in Active Recovery

People in high-stress careers often start with a high baseline stress level, making it challenging to deal with the extra curveballs work throws their way. Improving resilience hinges on many factors, and one specific strategy I highly recommend is practicing active recovery.

Active recovery isn’t about passive rest; it’s about engaging in deliberate activities that help your mind and body recuperate from stress. This approach acknowledges that everyone has unique ways of unwinding and recharging.

For instance, if you disconnect from stress through quiet contemplation, activities like reading, meditation, or gentle yoga can be incredibly beneficial. Alternatively, if you need to be highly occupied to stop thinking about your sources of stress, then physical exercise, exploring nature, or diving into a creative hobby might be your pathway to resilience.

The key is to identify what specifically helps you to disconnect from the sources of stress and engage in those activities regularly. Intentionally focusing on recovery makes you more resilient and better equipped to handle the demands of your high-stress career with greater effectiveness and clarity.

Eliz Greene, Stress Researcher, Speaker, Consultant, Stress-Proof

Find a Non-Work-Related Outlet

One of the best ways to build resilience in a high-stress career is to find an outlet completely unrelated to your work. This gives your mind a much-needed break and helps you recharge.

Think of activities that help you truly switch off—maybe it’s getting into a creative hobby, exploring nature, or learning a new skill. The key is to find something that fully engages your mind in a way that’s different from your everyday work challenges.

Juliet Dreamhunter, Founder & AI Strategist, Juliety

Strengthen Social Bonds and Support

Along with working in a high-stress career myself (in the healthcare sector, as a physician assistant in a general medical practice), I help other PAs and healthcare professionals find the right roles to advance their careers through the platform PA Career Hub. Here is the top advice I’d give on how to improve resilience in this kind of setting:

Strengthen your social bonds and support network, both within the workplace and in your personal life. The truth is, no matter how skilled or strong someone is, nobody can do everything on their own. Within the workplace, having a strong professional network gives you people you can reach out to for advice or support when you’re going through a stressful or difficult period. If they’re within your organization, you can also support each other by helping out with each other’s tasks as you’re able to.

People who are outside the organization, including mentors as well as peers, can serve as both a supportive shoulder and a sounding board for your struggles. It can be just as beneficial to have friends and family members you can turn to for emotional support, or to take care of life tasks that you need to shift off of your to-do list because of work stressors. When you have this kind of support network, it’s much easier to believe in yourself and have confidence in your ability to persevere, and that is a crucial component of resilience.

This kind of support system can also help prevent you from burning yourself out because of the help they can offer, and that allows you to bounce back faster from the stressful times in your life or career.

Carlos da Silva, Physician Assistant, PA Career Hub

Cultivate Key Resilience Habits

In my experience, improving resilience in a high-stress career requires cultivating three key habits.

First, prioritize self-care. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and take time off to recharge. It’s easy to let these things slide when you’re under pressure, but they provide the foundation for handling stress. I’ve found simple things like going for a walk at lunch or taking a relaxing bath at night can make a big difference.

Second, build your support network. Having people you can confide in and get advice from is invaluable. I try to check in regularly with mentors, close colleagues, and loved ones to share what I’m dealing with. Their outside perspective helps me gain clarity and stay focused.

Lastly, practice mindfulness. Carve out time each day for reflection and self-awareness. Meditation, journaling, and gratitude exercises allow me to process emotions, regain perspective, and boost resilience when things get difficult. I credit mindfulness with helping me thrive despite the daily pressures of my field.

By making self-care, relationships, and mindfulness ongoing habits, anyone can develop the resilience needed for a stressful yet rewarding career. I firmly believe these practices have allowed me to not just survive, but excel through the ups and downs.

Gauri Manglik, CEO and Co-Founder, Instrumentl

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