Amberlie is the Club Manager at Anytime Fitness Mansfield and is currently studying MSc Sport and Exercise Psychology at Loughborough University. Amberlie recognises that your physical health is only half the story, therefore she tailored her academic studies to gain a better understanding of the human psyche and graduated from Loughborough with a BSc in Psychology in 2019.
Today, Amberlie shares with us some insight into personal growth and what coping under pressure really means and asks us to consider, are we thriving or surviving? After the challenges we’ve had over the past year perhaps it’s time to reflect on your goals and decisions and see what opportunities and possibilities are within reach.
Coping under pressure
2020 was coined as the year we all ‘slowed down’ and stayed at home, but in reality, staying at home didn’t mean slowing down for everyone, and many of us are in fact working more hours than ever. It’s likely that at some point in our lives we’ve all been told that we need to strive for a better ‘work-life balance’, but some perceive this as unattainable, or simply undesirable. If you’re reading this and nodding along in agreement, it’s likely you’re a high performer, i.e. you are dedicated and committed to your personal development.
High performers seek out opportunities for growth which means they can find themselves in challenging situations, often with a lot of responsibility. Here, ‘balance’ is more worthy of being laughed off than being something to strive for. The reality is that we’re all different, and some will thrive when faced with challenges, whereas others will push through in survival mode, or even fall under the pressure. That being said, we all have a breaking point, and overworking can cause mental health problems such as depression or burnout, and physiological concerns such as disease even in the highest performers.
Does success have to come at a cost?
In short, the answer is no. Success does not and should not ever come at the cost of your health, although, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it does. Society has created an obsession with being (appearing) successful, and seemingly the only way of doing so is by working long hours and sleeping very little. The glorification of such behaviours has led to a trade-off between a high level of wellbeing and high performance, and feelings of guilt if we fall short of expectation; thus, by striving to facilitate success our health is being undermined.
The irony is that this belief contradicts the very nature of what it means to be thriving, as to thrive we must experience success and development simultaneously. In order to thrive an individual must be fully functioning in their physical, psychological, and psychosocial state (including spiritual, social, and vitality). So, while there is an emphasis on performance, it is important to note that to perform well in pressurised environments you must experience holistic functioning by maintaining both a strong state of well-being and performance simultaneously. An imbalance in either of these factors can undermine your development, and ultimately be detrimental to wellbeing.
How does it work?
Although a relatively recent phenomenon, thriving is grounded in Self-Determination Theory, AKA Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction. According to which, we as humans require Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness, therefore our energy is directed toward acquiring growth, wellness, and integrity. These needs are then nurtured through supportive environments, and maintained through our behaviours and cognitions, to facilitate thriving.
These supportive environments are referred to as contextual enablers, they refer to the aspects of the environment that support an individual in both the home and work environment. A challenging environment will encourage task engagement and promote more opportunities, while a strong support network with attachment and trust will act as a stable foundation to explore challenges from. Whereas our own attitudes, cognitions and behaviours can lead to thriving through maintaining a positive perspective, proactively seeking out opportunities, and being motivated to achieve a goal. These are our personal enablers.
However, enablers only predict the judgment we make when faced with a situation and our response based on how well we are primed to cope with it. We call this our challenge appraisal. Thriving is a 2-dimensional process, and if an individual has sufficient coping resources to hand then they can perceive a challenge as an opportunity for growth, making them more likely to engage with it and leading to positive changes. Whereas, if insufficient resources are available (e.g. unsupportive, or controlling environments) then need frustration will be experienced, leading to burnout and impaired wellbeing. Meaning our response to challenge will be either thriving or surviving.
Thriving in practice
We know that the desire for success and personal fulfilment puts us in unfamiliar, challenging, and demanding situations which can either overwhelm us or result in positive growth and development. Rather than simply surviving, we aim to thrive in such scenarios; To increase the likelihood of thriving we can aim to create an environment that facilitates such by:
- Working on our relationships
If you find yourself saying “I don’t need anyone else”, you should probably reconsider as it has been proven that our relationships can help facilitate growth. We are embedded in networks of relationships (friends, families, colleagues, communities etc.) which provide resources and work interdependently by supplying supportive and caring relationships. This creates opportunities for conversations, alternative perspectives, and encourages positive belief; without the opportunity for expression difficult circumstances can become magnifying.
Creating a strong social network has shown to act as a buffering agent when job strain is present, therefore we should build cooperative relationships within the workplace, encourage people to work together and resolve conflicts effectively to support positive growth. For those in positions of management, you have the power to prevent stress from building up in others therefore you should create a good working environment with a supportive and open culture that is appropriate. Encouraging team building, 2-way feedback, providing training, and fair allocation of workload.
- Understanding our personal responsibility
There is an element to thriving that supports an independent approach, whereby we draw on our own resources to cope with challenges. The aforementioned personal enablers can predispose a person to higher levels of performance within various work settings by encouraging career-related behaviours which relate to career success. They create protection from the potential negative effect of stressors and allow for a higher level of functioning.
What we can learn from this?
What we can take from this is that it is imperative that we understand total isolation and detachment will not provide sufficient resources to thrive. Instead, maintaining your own sense of control and knowing that the necessary resources are there to call upon if necessary, provides the optimal situation to facilitate thriving. We should all ensure that although our working hours have increased (and separating the office from your living room feels next to impossible now working from home) we should prioritise spending time with friends and family, even if digitally.
Working endless hours without enjoying the company of others is counterproductive to your end goal. So, if you feel you are entering survival mode, take a step back and reconsider how you are managing your time… Ask yourself “am I thriving, or just surviving?”, because the key to success is to thrive, holistically.
We want to know what your goals and challenges are so we can continue to work with you to provide content to support your journey towards better health, and to help you thrive. So, how are you thriving or surviving and what are your immediate goals?