In the words of the inspirational Margaret Thatcher, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”
When faced with a tragedy, natural disaster, health concern, relationship, work or school problem, most people react with a fight or flight response. People may experience stress, emotional upheaval and even suffering depending on the severity of the situation. The degree to which someone can adapt to disruptions in their life and develop emotional resilience varies from person to person.
Last year, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an increase in the collective feeling of global anxiety. We conducted workshop after workshop where participants talked about being unable to sleep because of all that was going on in the world. This experience was common across many socio-economic and cultural variations. However, while mental health, abuse and anxiety issues were at an all-time high, we also were surprised to see one common thread running through most of the people that participated in all of our resilience workshops.
While people are still scared today as the world experiences a second wave, a lot of people have also become very self-aware, with some even embracing the fear and uncertainty of the unknown.
The times are changing. For many of us with the privilege of having a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and our loved ones safe and healthy, 2020 was also a year of awakening. So much is happening with every minute passing by – climate change, mutating strains, workplace transformations and more. Yet, as many countries head into second and third lockdowns, many of us seem to have become more resilient.
Building resilience in times of change
The fallouts of the pandemic have been many. We were forced into social isolation and lockdown has meant a lack of human connection. The lack of adequate social contact had a huge impact mentally. As social beings, interacting and meeting others is crucial for our very existence. Due to lockdowns and restrictions on movement, we were clearly feeling a deficit in our daily psychological diet. Another fallout of the pandemic has been the economic implications. Unemployment across urban and rural sectors has increased. So many people were left without a job; people lost businesses.
So, when something catastrophic like this happens on a global scale, it is very easy to fall into an ocean of grief and sadness. Building better resilience takes time, effort, commitment and focus. Resilience is a skill that can take months, if not years, to learn and master. Don’t give up and lose your patience. Here are the three P’s that can help sow the seeds of resilience to process the negative events in our lives.
People who are optimistic and resilient see the effects of negative events as temporary rather than permanent. For instance, they might say “My boss didn’t like the work I did on that project” rather than “My boss never likes my work.”
Resilient people don’t let setbacks or adverse events affect other unrelated areas of their lives. For instance, they would say “I’m not very good at this” rather than “I’m not good at anything.”
People who have resilience blame themselves when bad events occur. They don’t see other people, or the circumstances, as the cause. For instance, they might say “I messed that project up because I can’t do my job,” rather than “I didn’t get the support I needed to finish that project successfully.”
How to become more resilient to stress
Clearly, many of us experienced emotional, physical and mental setbacks this year. We saw suicides, bullying, trolling, economic collapse, public protests, human rights abuses, deaths due to COVID-19 and the lockdown coupled with the fear of contracting the virus. This is the time to bend but not break, bounce back and perhaps even grow in the face of adverse life experiences. Now is the time to be resilient. Listed below are some qualities you can cultivate in order to build up your resilience.
The PR6 Model
The Predictive 6-Factor Resilience Scale (PR6) is a psychometric tool developed by Jurie Rossouw & Pieter J Rossouw in 2016 based on previously existing neurological scales. Although relatively new, this scale has been validated as a resilience psychometric and is highly relevant to the environment we live in today. Let’s dive right in and explore this model.
Vision is about your sense of purpose, goals, and personal vision for yourself. People with a strong sense of vision are able to line up their purpose, direction and efforts in a way where they do not get easily distracted by unimportant details and curveball events. Vision is about having clarity so that things get tough, you know what is important and what isn’t in order to stay focused and achieve your goals. If your actions are aligned, everything you do slowly moves you towards your ultimate goals, helping you achieve feats that others deemed impossible.
Composure is about regulating emotions. When faced with a conflict, your immediate response is to fight or flight. When you get emotional, the feelings prevent you from accessing your ability to think critically. Maintaining your composure is not an activity reserved for big disasters but also for little everyday discrepancies. Having a positive outlook when something goes wrong, will help you come up with solutions on the fly. Composure goes a long way towards helping build resilience and overcomes obstacles.
The ability to reason is critical to helping us process emotions, events and challenges in a healthy manner. Fair and logical reasoning skills can also help you prepare for future challenges by helping you look at any problem from multiple angles. Thinking through likely scenarios where things may go wrong and anticipating roadblocks can help people take proactive action and minimize the distress caused by unexpected obstacles. A high reasoning ability allows you to welcome changing environments and stay open to hidden opportunities even in difficult circumstances.
In times of extreme duress, we need the tenacity to stay the course, think outside the box and stay with a problem long enough to figure out a solution. This is true regardless of the size of the problem. From everyday hassles to seemingly insurmountable mountains, tenacity gives you the hope that you need in order to succeed. Mistakes and failures can be used as scaffolding to climb the ladder of success if you can harness the power of persistence. The willingness to be persistent is what ultimately leads to success for individuals, teams and organizations.
No matter how much we tout individualism, humans are ultimately social beings. At no time was this more evident than when the pandemic deprived us of our normal dose of human connection and belonging. When a virus forced us to isolate ourselves from our communities, we turned to technology to help us feel like we were in this together. Collaboration helps us build community and improve the world around us little by little. A big part of staying resilient in a post-pandemic world will mean reaching out to other people whether it is at work for a conference call or calling your loved ones to celebrate occasions.
The pandemic has driven to the forefront much-needed conversation about physical as well as mental health. Apart from the regular suspects like a healthy diet, daily exercise and quality sleep – people are really starting to realize that there is a significant psychosomatic element to maintaining a healthy body and mind. Where before, this sort of deep mind-body connection was seen as strange juju; people are starting to look inward to discern the vibrations that impact our daily lives. Even talking about things like energy, healing and alternative therapy would get you strange looks 20 years ago. Today, people are starting to respect and even seek out physical, mental, spiritual and even energetic experiences that have long been the norm in countless indigenous traditions. Holistic health practices are finally getting the attention they deserve.
How to become more emotionally resilient
- Like any human skill, learning resilience is not barred by your background.
- Exercise regularly and get enough sleep, so that you can control stress.
- Focus on thinking positively and try to learn from the mistakes you make.
- Build strong relationships with friends so that you have a support network.
- Set specific and achievable personal goals that match your values.
- Avoiding the tendency to view crises as insurmountable challenges.
- Accepting that change is a natural and unavoidable part of life.
- Moving towards your goals by keeping them realistic and attainable.
- Taking decisive actions that will help you face your challenges.
- Looking for opportunities for self-discovery and self-determination.
- Nurturing a positive view of yourself, your physical being and your abilities
- Keeping things in perspective during moments of heightened emotion.
- Maintaining a hopeful outlook on life despite all odds.
- Taking care of yourself and building self-confidence
On a concluding note, have you ever noticed that some people can go through adverse events and emerge feeling stronger and more resilient than before while others suffer mental health problems? Whether or not a person emerges from a crisis is irrelevant because resilience is the ability to perform during adversity. Trauma, though a setback, gives one a chance to learn resilience. Adversity and trauma cause emotional damage when we face crises such as serious illness, violence, bereavement, relationship stress, disasters like fires, floods, etc. However, this is where human resilience gets interesting. Even though some children and teens fought in bloody conflicts, including slaughtering unarmed civilians, not all emerge with PTSD, depression and other mental disorders. Just because something negative happened does not mean you will be damaged.
In the words of Mizuta Masahide, a 17th-century Japanese poet and samurai, “My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.”