The refrain of ‘I just want to get back to normal’ is a longing for the way it was. Before we go rushing back to our pre-COVID lives, perhaps we need to pause and remember that the way it was wasn’t working either. Adversity shows up as a teacher and we’ve been stretched in different ways with a pandemic, epidemic of burnout, and the overload of information, often false or misleading that we now refer to as an infodemic.

Burnout is also contagious, spreading like wildfire through families, teams, and organizations, the silent thief that robs productivity, purpose and meaning to the point of becoming cynical and doubting our abilities. We give until there’s nothing left to give and are expected to give some more, is it any wonder there is a Mental Health crisis on our hands?

“Adversity shows up as a teacher and we’ve been stretched in different ways with a pandemic, epidemic of burnout, and the overload of information, often false or misleading that we now refer to as an infodemic.”

Resilience is defined as the ability to overcome adversity and adapt to change and uncertainty. I’ve never bought into ‘the ability to bounce back’ definition of resilience. I meet high functioning, passionate people in every industry with no bounce or bend left. The Resilience at Work Toolkit (outlined below) is a set of measures that are inter-related, scientifically researched, not linear, and consider all aspects of resilience – physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual (purpose and values).

Living Authentically and Finding Your Calling

How do we move forward cautiously and optimistically, while supporting and protecting family time and leisure activities?

  • By remaining authentic and holding onto personal values while engaging in difficult conversations.
  • Having the courage to speak up about written or unwritten rules pertaining to self-care and work/home boundaries.
  • Exploring ways that the team, organization, and family can support mental wellbeing, while avoiding the temptation to fall into a guilt trap when declining invitations to meetings, events, or gatherings.
  • Having outlets that provide a sense of purpose, meaning and belonging, and remembering that you can’t pour from an empty cup and that there is only so much energy to go around.

Maintaining Perspective

Prolonged uncertainly creates a need for certainty and a feeling of control. Here in lies the age-old wisdom of the Stoics – focus on what you can control and let go of the rest.

  • Staying optimistic and maintaining a solution focused framework when things go wrong, by remembering it’s not what is happening, but how I respond.
  • Reframing setbacks and minimizing the impact of negativity around you frees up energy for other things.
  • Being patient as we practice new ways of being together. This is the first time we’ve been in this place; it’s going to feel awkward.

Staying Healthy and Stress Resistance

Stress resilience isn’t avoiding or denying that stress exists. Maintaining a good level of physical fitness, a healthy diet, and getting adequate sleep are the foundation of emotional agility.

  • The purpose of vacation is to ‘vacate’ normal routines to integrate experiences and gain perspective while recharging creativity. I smile at the memory of a younger me visiting Newfoundland. I heard myself say ‘when we come back next time?’ while we were still there. The wiser, more experienced me has learned the importance of savouring moments and experiences. Life changes very quickly and there isn’t always a next time.
  • Give yourself and others permission to unplug from technology. Turn off notifications and limit distractions because where our attention goes our energy flows. The ability to retain, process information, and problem solve is compromised when we are in a stress response. Focusing on the breath is a way to anchor ourselves to this present moment. Athletes and mothers in childbirth use breathing techniques to calm their nervous system, perhaps COVID is a reminder of how important the breath is.
  • Mindfulness, meditation, and movement are medicines for the mind and body. We can’t separate the mind from the body because what happens in one creates a response in the other.
  • Spend precious time and energy in nature and on experiences instead of quick fixes that end up in the landfill.
  • Nature, creativity, play, and hobbies signal to the body that the stress is over, they energize and restore natural balance.

Building Networks and Interacting Cooperatively

We are hard-wired for social connection, longevity and happiness are tied to it. It wasn’t that far back in our evolutionary history that we were in tune with each other’s every move, facial expressions, and body language to determine if danger was imminent. Technology enabled us to be together while apart, let us remember how much we missed being together.

  • Screen/life balance is a choice, avoid the temptation to ‘doom scroll’ and invest that time in activities with people that nurture your spirit.
  • Give the people you care for the gifts of undivided presence, genuine appreciation, apology and most importantly joy and laughter!

We are not alone in our struggles

The fragility of life has been exposed and our collective experience of grief reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles. What stories will our youth tell their children? Did we pause long enough to hear and integrate the stories of grit and determination of our Ancestors?

In closing let us remember that kindness isn’t’ cancelled, compassion isn’t quarantined, and hope isn’t distance.

Cynthia Green is a Resilience, Mindfulness and Wellness Facilitator and Coach. She works with clients from all industries facilitating workshops, coaching and inspiring participants to make lasting changes.

Drawing on her life experiences, research into resilience, emotional intelligence and how to navigate mental and physical health Cynthia encourages participants to examine their current life style choices and consequences, personal values, and to live with more awareness.

She resides on the shores of Lake Huron where spending time in nature and living an active lifestyle inspire her work of helping individuals and organizations move toward their vision while achieving balance.

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