In such uncertain times, the pandemic is placing a huge strain on the mental health of employees and we have every right to feel sad, frustrated and even angry. With the recent news of Stage 4 restrictions in Victoriaand alarming new case numbers, there has never been a better time to reflect on the skill of resilience.
Resilience can be defined as a person’s ability to respond or bounce back from adversity. When something bad has happened, it is critical that a person can demonstrate resilience to enable them to recover from an undesirable situation.
In schools, children are asked to show resilience every day. Their issues may be of a much smaller scale, but they are nevertheless ones that require resilience. Whist adults are beyond caring about who gets the blue crayon; during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to be resilient more than ever before.
Building resilience is around developing the tools and resources to cope with life’s challenges. Some researchers suggest that resilience is ‘trait like’ and hard wired into our personality which suggests it cannot be changed. There is, however, a growing pool of evidence suggesting that with time and focus resilience can be acquired. Arguably, every time we fail, lose, get our heart broken or miss out on an opportunity, we are in the box seat to learn from that adversity and build our resilience.
The pandemic has created such loss, social isolation and uncertainty that even the most capable of employees are being tested. It should be noted that employees who already struggle with mental health will find the mountain almost too high to climb or even attempt.
The trajectory in the coming months is not looking good and there are many aspects out of our control. It is normal to question how long the pandemic will last; when the kids can go back to school and how soon can we dispose of face masks? The length and uncertainty of the pandemic is challenging our resilience to cope, but there are some strategies that will help:
Unless you are old enough to have experienced war, this lack of control and security is brand new for everyone. The pandemic is out of our immediate control; however, we can make a conscious choice about our behavioural responses, our approach to our new routines and who we interact with (even virtually). Whilst the silver lining may be very well hidden, research shows that resilient people are very good at looking for the good in a bad situation.
Does your best friend spend the first twenty minutes of your catch ups complaining about the negatives of COVID-19? Is your work colleague still talking about not attending that conference? Of course, it is normal to feel this way, but in order to build our resilience, we need to make positive choices about who we interact with and conscious decisions to build a healthy support system.
If someone in your home that is fatalistic, focus on gently bring their awareness of the impact of their behaviour choice and look at working together to build some positives in the home routine (e.g. an afternoon dog walk) that life without COVID-19 did not give us the luxury to do.
‘Cognitive reappraisal’ is the act of re-evaluating one’s thoughts in response to a stressful situation. This takes the form of identifying how accurate or rational one’s response was, or in some cases determining the true importance of a stressor or if it is even worth reacting to. In the context of COVID-19, this technique would be to interrupt the normal thought process associated with a stressful event and to neutralise the negative impact.
Instead of seeing the forced work from home period as something being taken, employees could ‘reframe’ by thinking about the benefits of more time with family, a chance to save money commuting and enjoy additional time with the family pet. This technique allows employees to move past the helplessness of the situation and create a heathier and more positive perspective.
There is no doubt that we are dealing with a large amount of problems in our personal and professional lives resulting from the pandemic. A skill to build resilience is to have a focus on looking at the situation as a problem that needs to be solved. It can be a helpful strategy to look at a stressful situation and approach the problem as a challenge. Forexample, an employee might successfully use this approach to find an alternative way to run their workshop given the restrictions and social distancing in place.
Our mindset is a choice and a muscle that we have to consciously exercise to have it where we need it to be. Every day we need to show resilience with our emotions when we hear of people breaching the social distancing requirements, refusing to wear a mask or trying to sneak across borders. Meditationis a practice that allows the person to control the dialogue in their mind and to generate positive feelings and tolerance.
A Hollywood scriptwriter would have struggled to create a story that would even come close to what the world is currently experiencing and unlike other traumatic events, there is no known end in sight. It is fair to say that many of us want to rip our face masks off and return to the life we loved, but the finish line is nowhere in sight.
There is no question that for many the damage is severe but building the skill of resilience is a positive step to pave the road to recovery.
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