Resilience is a very hot subject at the present time, whether we talk about it at a personal or organizational level. For most, the term refers simply to the ability to stay afloat in rather adverse circumstances – in our case, the global health crisis and everything it entails.
Researchers at Harvard University have found that “when stress is chronic, cortisol erodes health. Immune suppression, hypertension, bone mineral loss, muscle wasting and metabolic disorders ensue. Within the hippocampus and amygdala, seats of memory and emotion, dendrites shrink and synapses vanish. Cognitive function declines, depression sinks in, the immune system weakens, and metabolism goes awry.”
That is the bad news. The good news is that the same researchers also concluded that resilience can be taught and built, having spectacularly positive results in counteracting all the negative effects showed above.
5 Tips for building your resilience in trying times
Resilience is more about how you recharge and get back into shape (mentally, more than anything else) after trying times, not just how much you can endure — almost like a slinky. Here are five tips for building your resilience and live life after the pandemic:
Connections are paramount
Even though resilience is a personal choice, it is highly influenced by external factors – mainly the network of people who we rely on for socializing and support. Especially with everything having moved online and face-to-face encounters becoming rare (and quite dangerous), it’s very important to keep in touch with those who are of consequence – both on a personal and professional level.
If you feel you are lacking in this department, it’s no need for despair. Social media platforms are a fantastic resource for finding people of a similar mind and disposition. Having a solid network is the number one step towards building resilience, so if you feel yours is not up to par, start building it now.
(Self) development is a must
The research I have mentioned above showed that people who fail to demonstrate resilience (sink instead of swim, to use the exact metaphor of the scientists) have two factors in common: “a lack of perspective—stemming from inadequate preparation and tenacity—and a negative attitude.”
Of course, very few (if any) of us were prepared to deal with a worldwide pandemic. However, dealing with it does not mean one had to possess all the tools in advance. It is perfectly acceptable and advisable to take the bull by the horns and purposefully strive to get ourselves to a level where we feel we can tackle the situation.
It’s important to note that the new tool we need may not be a skill, an app, or some piece of knowledge but a different mindset—a positive and optimistic one.
Do your best until you know better. Then do better
Becoming resilient is a process that takes time. It’s important to have self-discipline and practice all the things that need to be done to get through. One relevant thing to keep in mind is that this is not the time to strive for absolutely anything.
I’ve heard several authors give the same advice to aspiring writers – a bad page is better than no page. You can edit later, but having just a blank sheet is wasted time.
It’s the same with your own personal and professional projects: done is sometimes more valuable than perfect, and it is better for you to complete tasks than spend forever on them trying to achieve a higher level of accomplishment.
It’s also advisable to focus on building your already established strengths rather than concentrating your efforts on correcting shortcomings.
It’s more than grit
Resilience and grit are often seen as synonyms, but it’s hardly the case. Grit is awesome, and it helps a lot to possess it in order to be resilient, but it focuses mainly on sticking with something, being able to withstand hard times. Resilience focuses on moving forward and coming out on the other side as an improved version of yourself.
PTG (posttraumatic growth) is scientifically proven to be real. Historically, this idea has been present in several ancient spiritual and religious tales and traditions. The very popular saying ‘that which does not kill you makes you stronger’ is a simplification of the concept, but it means pretty much the same thing.
That is not to say that people don’t have any negative emotions in the face of difficult situations and upheavals, it’s just that they have the right mindset to also see the opportunities in them.
Some risks are necessary
Since we are already on the subject of seeing opportunities, the last piece of advice about building resilience is being prepared to take a plunge when the time seems right. And the emphasis here is on ‘seems’ because there is no way of knowing with absolute certainty that it will be good.
However, you need to keep your eyes and ears open in order to be able to assess the situation and either move in a totally different direction than you were before or, if that’s impossible, pivot your position. Resilience entails being constantly prepared for change and having the courage to take risks once in a while. The rewards, in the long run, are definitely worth it.
As humans, we have an enormous capacity for resilience and the possibility to build it over time. One of my favorite quotes on the matter comes from Bram Stocker’s Dracula, and I will leave it here for inspiration:
“It is really wonderful how much resilience there is in human nature. Let any obstructing cause, no matter what, be removed in any way, even by death, and we fly back to first principles of hope and enjoyment.”.