We are all facing challenges in this current COVID-19 shelter-in-place environment. As I talk with clients, it is clear from the sounds of children in the background, the dog barking, or the doorbell ringing with the grocery delivery. This is the beginning phase of what the experts tell us could be a long and challenging journey. This means will all need to be resilient people.
For some, fear has taken over as we watch this global pandemic dominate our news cycle and impact our daily lives in very real way. In many ways, the uncertainty of life has become a harsh reality as we watch the fabric of our comfortable existences shift to the unknown.
Webster tells us that fear is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat”. The insecurity of a global pandemic and financial meltdown leads us all to very real threats about what our future looks like. Fear is a common and shared response.
We honestly have no idea how long this present circumstance will last. Will it be another month, two months, a year? Maybe we will be managing the new uncertainties very well after a year, but I am not so sure.
So, how do we manage our anxiety when it seems we have no choice but to face some of our worst concerns and imaginations? What steps can we take?
Intentionally build resilience now for lifelong balance!
Developing resilience enables us to protect ourselves from experiences which could be overwhelming physically or emotionally. Resilience is a combination of strength and flexibility. It allows us to maintain balance in our lives during this difficult and stressful time.
Resilient people have five core skills: self-awareness, letting go, positivity, gratitude, and goal setting. These skills help us navigate life, adapt to change, learn through adversity, and understand our emotional responses to challenging situations.
Building the Five Core Skills of Resilient People
Resilient people are aware of situations, their own emotional reactions and the behavior of those around them. With self-awareness, resilient people can find an internal reserve to help them tackle the inevitable challenges of life – a place that reveals creativity and strength that enables new ways of thinking about old and new problems. To cope with uncertainly, we need to have access to the awareness of all the assets we bring to solve complex issues.
Resilient people are able to let go of the beliefs and stories playing in their head that are tied to fear, emotional struggles, and resistance. Many people do this by creating a quiet space internally to take the heat out of the emotions they experience. This internal processing can lead us to acceptance of things we cannot control. This is acceptance in a positive sense, not just resignation. For example, forgiveness is a kind of acceptance. When we hold on to things that are unproductive, such as worry or un-forgiveness. These take our energy that we need to focus productively in these trying times.
The theory of positive psychology was defined in 1998 by Martin Seligman. Significant evidence points to the many benefits of optimism and positive thinking. Seligman asserts that optimists are, in general, both psychologically and physiologically healthier. Roy T. Bennett tells us, “Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”
The challenges we are facing in this COVID-19 world are an opportunity to grow as Resilient People by choosing optimism. Fortunately, most negative events in life, while unavoidable (like this global pandemic), tend to be fleeting. To maintain positivity during this time, we need to count our wins and celebrate our successes, too. We need to choose our attitude and focus on those things in life that give us joy.
Professor of Psychology at UC Davis, Dr. Robert Emmons, is a leading researcher on gratitude. He notes that focusing on gratitude and recording our joys and happiness create measurable positive effects on our body and mind. This helps to Resilient People. Impacts span from a stronger immune system to decreased anxiety, a reduction in blood pressure, and better sleep. Creating a normal practice of gratitude can lead to a sense of happiness, satisfaction with life, and enhanced resilience to weather times of storm like we are currently experiencing.
Goal Setting and Accountability
According to Caroline Adams-Miller, “goals that you set for yourself, and that come from your own genuine desires, values, and interests, are the goals that you will enjoy, pursue with vigor, and savor once they are accomplished. These are called “intrinsic” or “self-concordant” goals.”
Setting an intrinsic goal that aligns with our personal values and then creating an environment where we receive feedback creates a deep sense of accomplishment. This sense of accomplishment creates Resilient People, and when things seem difficult, we can look back and remember our accomplishments. Miller also tells us that when you write down your goals, you are pre-committing to a course of action and therefore creating accountability to yourself. She indicates that when you share those goals with others, you add more accountability to the process and that when others are aware of your goals, you are more likely to accomplish your goal. The development of goals and accountability drive us to persevere in the midst of challenging times.
As we drive ourselves to a pattern of resilience, we will create balanced reactions even in the face of fear. Learning to be self-aware, letting go of what is in our way, and remaining positive and grateful create an environment for developing resilience.
In our next blog article, we will give quick tips to develop resilience in each of these five areas.