How to Be Resilient
Hello, and welcome back!
With the warmer temperatures, a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel, and all the new Spring blooms cropping up, it seems to be getting just a little easier to rest in hope!
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone differently, and for many, it’s been a brutal journey. So, as we begin to reintegrate ourselves back into new versions of our “normal routine,” the idea of being “resilient” comes into play.
How will you and your organization bounce back after such a strange year? What are some tools to fall back on to make things happen as smoothly and effectively as possible? That’s what we’re diving into today — what you can do to be resilient and how you can model those behaviors for your team.
What, exactly, is resilience?
The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “…the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress…,” which is certainly something we could all benefit from, especially during (and after) a global pandemic.
It might seem like a simple concept – when something bad happens, it’s good to bounce back, right? But how easy is it in practice to recover from something traumatic? You’ve still got daily life to attend to; responsibilities to work, family, and even yourself. Getting “back to normal” when your head still feels like it’s spinning is rarely as easy as you hope it will be.
Building our resilience is a practice, much like building muscle or endurance. It takes deliberate dedication, and there are tools and principles you can use to help you along the way. Before we talk about those tools, though, it’s important to understand that true resilience is more than simply returning to normal.
It’s more than “bouncing back.”
Resilience, while extremely useful for bringing momentum back to your life after a setback, has a larger purpose than just “going back to the way things were.” Because resilience takes a certain amount of self-reflection, thought reframing, and intention, the ultimate goal of resilience is personal growth and the chance to improve your future reactions to negative events.
We like to think of resilience as a bottle of sunscreen and a big, floppy hat on a hot Nebraska summer day. (Just trust us; we promise it’ll make sense!)
If you’ve ever gotten a really bad sunburn — the kind where you feel nauseous, can’t get comfortable, and look like a boiled lobster — there’s a good chance (we hope!) that you’ve learned your lesson. Instead of heading back to the beach unprotected, next time you’ll slather yourself with some heavy-duty SPF, bring a floppy hat, and enjoy your time in the sun without enduring the painful consequences.
Resilience is like that. Experiencing something hard or awful, surviving it, and reflecting on what would have helped the situation from the get-go, then using those tactics as you go forward. Without that bottle of sunscreen, continued sunburns could cause a lot of strife in the future. So, too, can repeat trauma or highly stressful events.
How do you actually build resilience?
Reflect and document.
Whether you’re personally working toward resilience, or trying to help cultivate it within your team, reflection is essential. In personal practice, journaling is a fantastic way to record how a negative situation affects you in the moment and allows you to look back on it with a clear head. Asking questions like, “What would have helped me at that moment?” and “Who could I have reached out to for help?” will give you some tools to depend on when things get rough in the future. In the workplace, rather than journaling, a debriefing/brainstorming meeting can provide the same reflection, insight, and tools for the road ahead.
Build an uplifting network.
Isolation in times of stress or tragedy often exacerbates negative feelings and behaviors. Taking the time to nurture important relationships in your daily life will help you build a support network that can lift you up in times of need. As a leader, it’s important to cultivate a work environment with obvious support people in place, so that your team knows they have safe people to turn to in times of stress. And in both situations, finding (or providing access to) a therapist can be transformative.
Learn to look for perspective.
We get it – when the chips are down, it’s easy to think everything is a catastrophe. However, it’s important to remember that the current situation you’re in is not your destiny. Things can always change, and there’s always the chance they’ll change for the better. Whether it’s a post-it note, a weekly motivational meeting, or a personal mantra, finding perspective can help get you back on your feet.
Take care of your physical needs.
Are you staying hydrated? Are you more hungry than you realized? Do you have time to fit in a quick 10-minute exercise? These are all helpful questions to ask yourself when things start to feel out-of-control. While this certainly isn’t the answer to everything, it’s a great place to start and a practical action you can take to ease your mind and feel in control. As a leader, making sure your employees have the time to nourish their bodies and move around a little bit can go a long way.
Move forward with purpose.
Finding a deeper purpose to focus on when you’ve experienced a setback is a great way to pull yourself out of the depths. Whether it’s a creative project, finding one or two small goals to accomplish, or working on something bigger than yourself, it’s important to focus on something you can change, especially if it helps other people in the process. Maybe that looks like a company-wide fundraiser or a team-building experience. So long as it’s directing focus toward the future and positive change, there’s a good chance that resilience is around the corner.