7 things we can do to build professional resilience

Originally posted in 2015, this post was updated in August 2020. 

Being an early childhood educator can be both rewarding and challenging. Above are just a few of the responsibilities early childhood educators have.

Your wellbeing matters because, as an educator, it influences your interactions and relationships with children and young people. It also affects your ability to respond to challenging situations.

Through collaboration, an educator’s workplace and trusted network can promote positive mental health and wellbeing in demanding work environments.

What is professional resilience?

Professional resilience is our individual capacity to thrive in demanding situations. The choices we make when responding to difficult situations and our attitude and willingness to act, demonstrate resilience.

Working together, we can support the professional resilience of our colleagues and ourselves.

Can you think of a few things that you, a colleague or the workplace could do to enhance staff wellbeing?

Things we can do to build professional resilience

1. Build supportive relationships with colleagues. Strong work relationships contribute to professional resilience because we can share ideas, vent frustrations, obtain support and plan for tackling workplace challenges.

2. Think positively. How we feel is often a consequence of how we think. Looking for the positive in situations can lessen stress and allow us to act constructively.

3. Use your strengths. Be aware of and draw on your strengths during challenging situations. Sometimes, we’re more easily able to see strengths in others than in ourselves. Try a positive psychology questionnaire or ask a trusted colleague – they may identify something you haven’t.

In what ways are you using your personal strengths within your role, or are there strengths you are not utilising?

4. Do the type of work that you enjoy doing. When you enjoy your work, you feel satisfied and are less likely to be affected by the work you don’t particularly like.

5. Do something. Professionally resilient people are prepared to act. They focus on what they can do to overcome challenges, reduce stress or manage a difficult situation. You don’t need to go it alone, though. Reach out to trusted networks for support.

6. Look after your health and wellbeing. Work towards creating a balanced lifestyle doing things you enjoy: socialising, resting and relaxing, eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising all help to buffer the challenges that come your way. When you’re finding it difficult to cope, it may be helpful to speak to a GP or mental health professional. Taking care of yourself is important.

6. Laugh. An element of fun in your workplace can ease stress and make the demands of work easier. It also supports the development of positive relationships that help reduce stress.

Workplaces can promote professional resilience

Workplaces promote professional resilience when they support self-care behaviours with their staff, acknowledge the demands on educators, have realistic expectations, provide opportunities for open discussion and reflection, as well as encourage opportunities for Professional Development.

How does your workplace support and encourage the professional resilience of educators?

More Information

While you’re putting your energy into creating a positive mental health environment for children and young people, it’s also important to focus on your wellbeing and that of your colleagues. The Be You Wellbeing factsheets explore many topics, including staff wellbeing, stress management, mindfulness, nutrition and mental health and physical activity and mental health.

Be You provides educators with knowledge, resources and strategies for helping children and young people achieve their best possible mental health. This article was first published on KidsMatter (now known as Be You) Early Childhood’s blog in 2015.

Be You

Early Childhood Australia’s Be You team is a highly qualified and experienced multidisciplinary team of professionals committed to promoting and supporting positive mental health and wellbeing in the early years. Together, with Be You partners, Beyond Blue and headspace, the ECA team support educators in implementing the Be You Professional Learning and continuous improvement processes across early learning services and schools.

3 thoughts on “7 things we can do to build professional resilience”

    Vivian McDermott says:

    I could not agree more with your article,but in saying that,because the profession of early Childcare education ,has such a transient staff population,it takes a long time to build up the relationships with changing teams,that never stay the same.
    I have been in the field for twenty five years and I was a community psychiatric nurse ,before that,which was a much more challenging role in the community.
    I have a passion for nurturing and educating children,but I find it takes ten years for most of my colleagues to really understand teamwork,in a professional sense.
    It is really the sum of all of us that makes the difference,of course, but a lot of peoples personal issues and personalities ,get in the way of being responsible and reciprocal to each other.
    I have mentored teamwork ,to some staff over the years and they just are not capable of letting go ,of whatever power struggle that they need to have.
    It is a good thing that I have a sense of humour actually.
    I find videoing practice is a good tool as well,as talking about what geese do,when some- one needs support.
    I think the level of emotional maturity is so important to have,and a vital ingredient in this profession,but I suppose the ones that stay ,learn eventually,but at what cost ,to the staff and children’s stress levels.

    Amelia says:

    The changing nature of teams in early childhood settings can certainly challenge the professional resilience of us all.
    There is something about the way teams who have been together a long time operate … It is often like two people who know each other well completing each other’s sentences.
    However, having said that, new arrivals to the team can be inspiring, offer many new opportunities and re-energise a team that has become set in its ways. In the situation where a new person enters a previously established team, the team is only as old as its most recent member.
    Regardless of how long they have been together, teams, just like the individuals within the team, develop their own unique identity and need to be cared for. It is worthwhile to occasionally put your team under the spotlight (see https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/early-childhood/blog/your-team-under-spotlight) and monitor its wellbeing.
    For supporting professional resilience while getting to know your team, caring for it, celebrating its successes and weathering storms that arise, it is important to remember, Robert John Meehan’s words:
    “The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives”.
    It is great that online spaces like this exist and are available to support us too.

    Amelia-KidsMatter Project Officer

    Sara Richardson says:

    I agree the transient workforce especially in long day care impacts however I wonder if there are bigger issues at play as well. One of these is horizontal violence described in AJEC Vol. 31 No. 3 September 2006 “The notion of horizontal violence highlights contradictions between a lingering discourse of niceness and a
    culture which condones behaviours that marginalise and exclude others. The outcome of this culture is a powerful
    expectation of compliance which does little to foster or encourage leadership activity. http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/AJEC0603.pdf

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