A simple definition of resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. The ability to bounce back. The pandemic has produced uncharted territory for many of us and challenged our coping skills. The good news is that if you are reading this, you are resilient! The bad news is that resilience is not a one and done thing. Each day of the pandemic brings new challenges and new questions. New situations and circumstances; most of which have no precedence. Resilience is like a muscle which needs to be exercised to be maintained and grow. Many organizations have persevered and managed to pivot and survive. Individually, you have persevered and are resilient. Despite our frustration and pandemic fatigue we will continue to move forward. Here are some ways to exercise and grow our resilience ‘muscle’.
Tune in and understand your emotions. Recognize and accept them. It is ok to verbalize your thoughts and feelings. I have recently often said, “This sucks.” Embracing the entire spectrum of emotions is healthy. All your feelings are valid. Name them. Express them. Keep a journal, talk with a friend or partner.
This pandemic is becoming a marathon, even though at first, we thought it was a sprint. Understand that some days will be easier than others. All days will require courage to face new obstacles and challenges. Freedoms that we didn’t even realize we had are being restricted. According to Robert H. Schuller, “Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.”
Ability to change priorities, cope, and pivot
Many of us have taken our technology knowledge to new heights. Most of us have incorporated technology and adapted our living spaces to accommodate our work from home schedules. Some of us also are accommodating the needs of school children who are learning from home. Our previous schedules involved dropping off children in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon. This left us 100% emotionally and psychologically available for work activities for much of the day. Now we are more fragmented and many of us are spending more hours working because our workday is peppered with necessary distractions. Many employees report they are actually working more hours than pre-pandemic. We have blurred the boundaries between work and personal life because physically we live at work. Work-life balance has taken on a different meaning than in the past. We spend much of our day juggling priorities and managing our needs along with the needs of others who are working and learning at home. We have learned how to pivot many times during the day, within the confines of our home. Before the pandemic, our errands were baked into our drive to and from work. Now we look for ways to use technology to accomplish our errands without leaving the house. Contactless shopping and delivery experiences are part of our standard operating procedures now. Social and entertainment experiences are lacking the true, real-life feel of connection because they occur on the computer. Movies are streamed and a night out for dinner means carry out in foam containers. We need to be very creative and take extra effort to connect with old friends. Making new friends is almost impossible.
We have pivoted socially and have found new ways to connect with family and friends while complying with stay-at-home orders of our state and social distancing requirements. Driveway meetings, zoom parties, FaceTime conversations have replaced face to face contact and human interactions. Prior to the pandemic, we most certainly would have thought that face to face interactions were better than technology-based meetings. Our priorities have shifted, and we have learned how to do things that in the past we thought were not important. We use the telephone to make phone calls more than we did before and find ourselves reaching out to our social network more than we have in the past. We text and email more than ever before. We might not love it but we have decided that it is better than not connecting at all. Leverage your network to maintain friendships. Help others if you are able. Research shows that helping someone else makes both the giver and the receiver of help feel better.
Some days, resilience means simply putting one foot in front of the other and tolerating uncertainty. Indeed, even the most resilient among us will have bad days; it is not the absence of negative emotions but our response to them that matters. Increased anxiety, loneliness, and sadness are normal experiences during a pandemic. We are survivors. And each day forward brings us one step closer to a more normal time that we long to return to. Make no mistake however, in thinking that we will ever ‘get back to normal’. The pandemic has changed the landscape of every portion of our lives. For better or for worse we will define a new normal as we deal with the uncertainty that each day brings. It is difficult. It will continue to be difficult. And we are resilient!
Remember our resilience muscle might be weak because we haven’t needed to use it recently. We MUST use it now so work it daily to make it strong. Here are 6 tips to help improve mental strength and resilience.
- Don’t give up. Keep moving. Don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself or get stuck in one place. Thinking differently and thinking about new things helps to maintain a healthy attitude.
- Embrace change and welcome challenges. They are not obstacles, they are adventures.
- Focus on staying happy and don’t waste time and energy on things you can’t control.
- Apply compassion to yourself and others. Be kind. Always!
- Be willing to take calculated risks if it will result in your moving forward.
- Celebrate the success of others without being resentful if you haven’t experienced the same successes.
Realize this pandemic is temporary. We are in a ‘pause’. Although it has been longer than we expected, it most certainly is not forever.
“Tomorrow is another day.” (Scarlett O’Hara – Gone with the Wind)