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5 Characteristics of Stress-Resilient People (and How to Develop Them)

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Kandi Wiens

Devon was hired into a director-level position at a global financial services firm immediately upon earning her MBA. A star former student, she completed her leadership training before her first day and was confident in her ability to hit the ground running. Six months later, however, she worried she had made a big mistake. The stress of the job was weighing her down. She found it difficult to focus most days and lay awake during the nights, second-guessing her decisions.

“I was so thrilled with the offer,” she told me. “This was the company I wanted to work at and I was familiar with the culture. But being a director is a completely different ballgame. I’ve been overwhelmed from day one. I know I have a lot to learn, but I’m not sure I’m cut out for this.”

It’s not unusual for our stress levels to spike during career transitions like moving from school into the workforce, taking on a new role, or switching fields. Even when, like Devon, we know high stress is a part of the job and understand it will be temporary, our stress can become debilitating if we lack the tools to manage it.

My studies on emotional intelligence and burnout include extensive research on leaders who are flourishing despite working in high-stress roles. Many of them have developed a quality referred to as stress resilience, or the ability to return to baseline after a stressful event and adapt in the face of adversity. While it comes easier to some people than others, it is something anyone can cultivate.

If you find yourself in a situation that mirrors what Devon is experiencing, stress resilience can help you get through it. Here are the top five characteristics and behaviors stress-resilient leaders practice, along with tips for how to learn and develop each one.

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