Making a Resilience Plan with Dr. Marie-Helene Pelletier

How to Make a Resilience Plan with Dr. Marie-Helene Pelletier

On this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit, Jenn talks to Dr. Marie-Helene (MH) Pelletier about resilience. This topic is incredibly important as people are struggling with resilience in a way that they haven’t been before. 

Meet Dr. MH Pelletier

Throughout her career in business, Dr. MH Pelletier earned a Ph.D. in psychology and later also an MBA. She has spearheaded an international dialogue and the importance of leadership, resilience, and workplace health as key pillars of overall health. She’s a bilingual practicing psychologist with over 20 years of experience in clinical psychology and advisory workplace psychology. 

Marie-Helene, or MH as she is often called, is a member of the Global Clinical Practice Network of the World Health Organization. She has presented, authored and co-authored a number of industry and academic publications and has won numerous academic and industry awards. 

Now, MH is coming out with her first book, The Resilience Plan: A Strategic Approach to Optimizing Your Work Performance and Mental Health (MacMillan), in February of 2024. In this book, she debunks the myths of resilience, how to adopt a holistic approach to mental health, and offers practical strategies for people to make real changes. 

Are You Struggling with Resilience? 

As the episode opens, Jenn and MH talk about the importance of resilience. Jenn mentions that she read a statistic recently pointing out that people think they are more resilient than they are. She feels that people have been really trying to push through the challenges of the last few years and feeling burned out and overwhelmed. However, now they are wondering why they are not as resilient as they used to be or as they thought they were. 

MH agrees and replies that often, people are told they are resilient or they are “the rock” for a team or their family. Then, resilience is a demand rather than something positive. She points out that demands can be positive or negative, but they take a toll on mental health. 

The Demands of Life 

MH explains, “So whether it’s a new promotion that you’ve wanted, so it’s positive, it’s a demand. You’re going through a change in your relationship, you’re going through a divorce. Maybe you wanted that, maybe you didn’t, but it will be a demand as well. When we’re thinking about our overall resilience, we want to look at all the demands we’re facing. 

In the past few years, we’ve all continued to have our individual demands. And as life goes on, we all tend to have more demands with life. And therefore, that also takes a toll. 

And it continues today, there are what I call chronic demands that are part of the world. The pandemic was one example. There are other things going on that weigh on us either more directly or more indirectly at times. But they’re going on, and they contribute. 

Then there are economic situations. That will mean that many people’s employers are going through a lot of uncertainty and a lot of changes. That adds to it as well. And so, at some point, yes, we will feel it even more, which makes this topic even more important. In fact, resilience is a skill that many organizations see as the one skill will need moving forward.”  

Why is Resilience Important in the Workplace

Later, Jenn and MH discuss why leaders should be concerned about resilience in the workplace. MH explains that a higher level of resilience increases employees’ ability to navigate increasingly complex challenges. Building resilience is the key to managing stress, solving problems and staying healthy enough to do the work. 

Defining Resilience

MH defines resilience as the ability to go through adversity and come out even stronger. She says that if we want to build resilience, we have to become self-aware. We have to be proactive in recognizing when we are struggling with resilience. Being able to cope with stress in a healthy way requires self-awareness. 

She reminds the audience that our resilience is not entirely in our own hands. We can work to increase it so we are ready for challenges and demands. However, sometimes the environment brings a level of demand that is impossible to meet. 

In those cases, there will be an imbalance. But if we have built our resilience, we can make decisions to protect ourselves and manage the situation. 

Why Do People Struggle with Resilience? 

Later, Jenn asks MH for examples of how or why people may struggle with resilience in the workplace. MH explains, “One of the ways I see it happen, as we were saying earlier, is the assumption that we are the rock. Very capable, very efficacious. We can say yes to even more, and it will all work out, right? 

So it comes from that mindset. Then additional demands happen, usually from both the workplace and our personal lives. They tend to happen this way. They happen all at the same time. And then the person continues to make the assumption that I can do anything, I am that rock. 

So they work to meet all the demands over here, all the demands over here. They start feeling it. They start having signs that their resilience is not staying as solid as it used to be. But, they ignore the signs because they say to themselves, I can do this. I am the rock. 

So they keep going, they ignore the signs, they put their head down and get whatever needs to get done, they get done. They are absolutely not doing the care part of self-care. That is not happening. Zero. Because they say I don’t have time and I’m here to take care of others. 

And so, at some point, they end up in my office. And they say I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I used to be able to handle everything right now. I am feeling levels of anxiety I’ve never experienced. They’re experiencing burnout, different things. And they’re like, I, what’s wrong with me?”

The Signs You Need to Make a Resilience Plan

Next, Jenn and MH discuss the need to pay attention to the signs you are struggling with the demands of life. She lists 5 telltale signs: 

  1. Problems with sleep. 
  2. Trouble concentrating. 
  3. Struggling with decision-making. 
  4. Becoming impatient or irritable. 
  5. Feeling numb or feeling flat. 

If you experience the above symptoms for more than a day or two, it is time to take care of yourself by making a resilience plan. 

How Do You Make a Plan for Resilience

Then, Jenn asks MH how people can start to make their own resilience plan. MH explains that a resilience plan is much like a business plan. When you launch a new product or service, you don’t just have the idea and immediately start doing it. You have to make a plan, make a SWOT analysis, etc. 

MH explains that we have to do the same thing to plan for resilience. In her book, The Resilience Plan, she lays out short exercises to help clarify your plan. First, she guides you to identify your values. Then, the positive and negative demands on your life. 

Then, she helps you create your realistic action plan. She recommends starting with one small action that you can commit to. Something you can do in the next one or two days is ideal. Start small, so it is not another overwhelming task on your list. 

Then, Jenn and MH go through an example of creating a resilience plan for an imagined scenario. MH walks through identifying values and then looking at our supply of energy and our demands. She then outlines creating pillars of action to start rebuilding your resilience to cope with demands. 

Strategic Resilience

As the episode closes, MH offers her final advice: 

“I would say we want to keep in mind that, yes, you are fabulous! But you’re not a rock, you’re a human. There is a lot of control to be gained by taking a deliberate strategic action plan for our resilience. 

And so that’s the angle we want to make sure that we are on the proactive side of things and taking action. And we want to do it from a strategic perspective. All we need is to stay curious about what that looks like. 

And know that we will need to be agile. Another word we hear a lot, but it’s true with this plan, just like a strategic plan in a business is not set forever. It gets reviewed, and it evolves over time. Same thing. Your strategic resilience plan will evolve over time. 

And then your number one, celebrating everything that you’ve accomplished and then turning to, okay, what’s the next phase for me? So we want to stay curious and remind ourselves we do have that control and opportunity for us to take, to be strategic.” 

Where to Find More from Dr. MH Pelletier

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