Emotional Resilience at Work

Empowering staff with the tools for self-care, positive communication, and emotional resiliency in the workplace delivers research-substantiated clinical, financial and organizational benefits.

While many people at work are good at helping their clients they also need to understand and manage their own emotions, not just for high quality client care, but also for their own self-protection and health. Emotional Resilience encourages positive workplace attitude, greater adaptability, improved relationships, and increased workplace satisfaction.

Emotional Resilience has a positive impact on team cohesiveness. It also minimizes the possible negative stresses of any workplace and is important in managing stress, building successful leadership, enhancing performance, and reducing burnout.

The Emotional Resilience at Work is a scientifically supported approach to cultivating empathy and self-care through healthy, professional boundaries that leverages the neural mechanisms of human emotion to connect, engage and inspire in today’s multi-cultural, multigenerational workforce. It is ideally suited for developing self-compassion, particularly useful when working in emotionally toxic environments, such as can be experienced in many different work environments today.

In our workshop, we introduce a series of scientifically supported, leadership concepts that are aligned with the business ideals of the client group. With the concept and context in mind, the participant is then invited to experience the application of the concepts in specifically designed, reflective and collaborative exercises with our horses. The design of the exercises moves each participant through all four modalities of Kolb’s Adult Learning Style Inventory. In doing so, we ensure the process literally speaks to everyone.
After each exercise, the participants are invited into a debrief to share their experiences and/or ask for feedback observations from the
group. Participants are not allowed to share judgments or conclusions, only observations. This collaborative approach has been shown to quickly build trust and positive communication within the group as they navigate the unfamiliar, adaptive challenges together. The specific nature of the experiential sessions delivers several benefits.

First, new concepts, that are experienced first-hand by the participants, in a novel environment, working with horses, has been shown to stimulate neurogenesis in the pre-frontal cortex. This is the area of the brain where Emotional Intelligence emerges; the executive center
between our ancient, emotionally responsive amygdala and our analytically responsive cerebral cortex.

Secondly the experience immediately encourages participants to cultivate self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, engagement and creative thinking. This approach, in combination with the fact that the lessons and metaphors emerge from the participants, not the facilitators, creates a highly reflective, kinesthetic learning experience.

The group dynamic in the workshops is typically one of rapid bonding, providing an excellent foundation for peer support and ongoing collaboration.

Immediate and ongoing coaching is designed to engrain the new competencies through the application of easy-to-use tools and
daily practices, sustaining the developmental process. Individual and business metrics are set and aligned to enable an accurate measurement of the client’s return on investment.

Emotional Resilience at Work integrates an educational component (drawn from the peer-reviewed, scientific research) with Equine Facilitated Experiential Learning (EFEL) and elements from traditional coaching modalities (International Coach Federation). The EFEL component focuses on facilitating the self-reflective process that emerges through the development of the horse/human relationship in specifically designed, ground-based exercises. No riding occurs.

Why horses?
As prey animals, horses are highly sensitive to their environment. Employing their Core Mammalian Emotional System as their primary
survival mechanism, horses employ emotions as information. They feel an emotion, discern the message behind the emotion, take appropriate action, and return to grazing. A horse’s primary survival response is to move as quickly as possible away from a perceived threat (flight response).

For horses to voluntarily connect with humans, we must display congruency, meaning our behaviors and expressions match our internal emotions. Masking or suppressing our emotions misaligns our intention. Predators also mask their intention when hunting horses, attempting to sneak up on the herd, in the tall grass and from downwind. Horses are not capable of judging their emotions or ours. Unlike people, horses don’t unconsciously project or transfer socially conditioned expectations, attitudes or behaviors either. As such, horses mirror our emotional presence. How we connect, engage and motivate a horse, without the use of touch, language, or coercive, manipulative behaviors, reflects how we connect, engage and motivate the people around us in our everyday lives.

Working in respectful partnership with the horses requires the emergence of self-awareness and self-regulation to occur in the participants. Prior to entering into exercises with the horses, the
participant’s presence and congruency is cultivated using a three-minute grounding exercise. This quiets the mind and aligns our authentic intention of inviting the horse to engage with us. These reflective exercises help demonstrate different states of being and how we can, by employing a few easy-to-use tools, choose how we wish to respond to emotional stimuli when engaging others. Thus, the competencies of Emotional Intelligence are immediately introduced and put into practice in a novel setting that speaks to all adult learning styles.

As we move into active and collaborative exercises, sensitivity to non-verbal communication is cultivated and competencies in social awareness and co-regulation are exercised. As the horse mirrors our emotional and energy levels they respond accordingly. Bring up our energy while maintaining our positive intention and the horse will move faster (free lunging around the rail of the round pen). Down-regulate our energy while maintaining our intention (through mindful breathing and body posture) and the horse will slow down and eventually stop.

In addition, herds of horses evolved to be highly functional teams. They are continuously connected, continuously negotiating and renegotiating personal boundaries, while moving from one grazing opportunity to the next. Unlike a pack of predators, in a herd of horses the leader is the one who is watched rather than the one who dominates. This affords powerful metaphors to emerge regarding relationships and leadership.
The highly sensitive, non-verbal yet highly communicative, predictive nature of horses enables clinicians to experiment with new competencies, perspectives and behaviors that are key to successfully delivering care through healthy, professional boundaries.
Incorporating these competencies in relationship with the horses enables the participants to openly explore and experiment with the concepts in a safe, supportive environment.