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Building Our Resilience

Updated: Apr 21, 2020

April 4, 2020 by Kathy Scott, PhD, and Bridget Sarikas

“It’s too easy to let our health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) go as we focus on

meeting everyone else’s needs, but this is counter to healthy living and leading.”

It’s important to put on our own oxygen mask first because without oxygen,

we cannot think clearly or survive.

Stupid Gone Viral – When Science and Reality Collide

Resilience is making positive adjustments under adversity and/or challenging conditions that result in our ability to bounce back. Resilience is restorative. It is the ability to respond, absorb, adapt and recover from a disruptive and/or traumatic event.

Ideally, we’ve been working on building our resilience for a long time. Practically speaking, however, many of us have not experienced the trials, tribulations and failures that so often help us develop the adaptive responses needed for resiliency. For example, I’ve been flying for decades and haven’t once had to put on my oxygen mask, let alone lose my source of income, be socially-distanced, or unable to go about my daily routine for longer than a weekend.

There is no playbook for the disruption that comes from a global economic shutdown combined with the threat of our health and well-being over weeks and months.

The good news is that we can build our resiliency as we are going through the tough times. This resiliency-building will not only help us and our families now, but will also benefit us in the long run. And there’s more good news – we get to go through this together! We find this more comforting than being singled out, going it alone, or suffering in silence while the rest of the world moves on. We get to figure this out together.

In order to develop rebound ability, we have to invest in ourselves. This investment is difficult for those on the front lines, such as healthcare workers, who are overwhelmed with the enormous tasks they face. Yet they are most in need of this investment and will need our help. Our focus needs to be on each of the following areas:

1) Our mental toughness – having the right mindset to address the challenges we face. What are you allowing into your head each day? Are you focused on loss and scarcity, or are you finding ways to appreciate aspects of the new normal? In the absence of data and information, are you filling in the gaps with negative thinking and fear? Turn off the talking heads and yes, even take a break from social media. It will all be there waiting for your return. It’s time to focus on thinking about what you have some control over and leave the rest for another day. Make two lists for yourself – what you can accomplish today and what you learned today. Celebrate both.

2) Physical endurance – investing in your body to get the performance you need. Have a daily routine of physical activity that you stick to. Start small and gradually add to your regimen. Imagine returning to work a little firmer, a little stronger (hell yeah!). Eat healthier. Use this crisis as an excuse to cook in new ways that are better for you (for some of us cooking may be a crisis unto itself). Get some sunshine!!! Outdoor air and sunshine are truly good for body, mind and spirit.

3) Emotional balance – paying attention to your feelings and channeling your emotions in positive ways. Rather than ignore your feelings, be curious and brave. Many of us have been sucking it up, lashing out, numbing out or faking it for way too long. This is an opportunity to unpack those emotions and understand them in a new way – a way that leads to healthier living. Practice a state of calm using stress management techniques, listening to music, poetry, humor, daydream a little or a lot – permission granted! Practice taking s-l-o-w deep breaths. Get in touch with yourself.

4) Living Purposefully – choosing to do things based on your inner sense of rightness, wholeness, truth. Resist the urge to sling mud, blame others, spew half-truths and react to everything around you. Think about what brings you joy. Redefine success for yourself with a focus on your inner values, truth, passions. Intentionally act on this purpose to do something for others. Start small and build on it. Get creative. Surprise someone. Be courageous. Go for it – this is your time!

This investment in ourselves is also an investment in our families and communities. Research indicates that over the last few decades women have become less happy with their lives. The trend is similar for men. You would think that with the dramatic advances in education, employment opportunities, earning power and societal/political influence, that the trend line would move in the opposite direction. Buckingham, in Find your Strongest Life (2009), attributes much of this unhappiness to the multiple choices we have available to us combined with a lack of intentional discrimination when it comes to choosing the right things daily.

A crisis such as this one, gives us the opportunity to rethink our priorities and choose more wisely. Through this process, we enhance our resilience and serve as a buffer to the short- and long-term stressors of our time.

Titter Time: plan a?

Don't worry if Plan A fails, there are 25 more letters in the alphabet...

Now it’s your turn. What are ways in which you are building resiliency in yourself? How are you turning this crisis into positive energy? We want to hear from you.

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