Exploring our resilience in times of crisis

How we learn to recover from different life events, grow from the experience and move forward.

Former Global Executive Director, Learning and Development at R/GA, Liz Nottingham explores what resilience is and outlines how we can master it in these difficult times.

Just look how far we have all come over the last few months. Our resilience has emerged to the fore and has been tested and developed to support during this crisis.

Here is one definition of resilience: The capacity to recover from different life events and to grow from the experience. This definition invites the opportunity for 'recovery' and 'growth' as both are very important at this time as we respond to the ongoing shifts, shocks and changes in this dynamic learning situation.

Take time to notice what you are noticing about yourself.

There is a popular myth going around 'that we are not all in the same boat. We are in the same storm.' I suggest that it is doubtful that we are all in the same point of the storm at the same time. How we respond to current events will vary from person to person and from moment to moment. It would appear that our boats and storms are not the same. And we need to meet people where they are at any point in their day.

What are you noticing about your emotions?

You may be experiencing dramatic shifts in your emotions as waves of gratitude followed by sadness, from altruism to rage, fear to acceptance, anger to disillusionment. All of these may appear, uninvited. This is normal. You are not alone.

Loss and grief are also in the system right now as relatives have been in hospital, jobs have been lost, school proms are no longer happening and our plans remain uncertain. Naming our feelings helps us to normalise what is going on for us in the moment and to notice them, not to judge or change them.

What defines a resilient person?

The good news is that resilience can be learned and there are factors which build and support our resilience. Connections and support systems power our resilience. Resilient people reciprocate support and ask for help. Check in with yourself; who are you reaching out to and connecting with?

Resilient people have a practical, realistic and positive outlook on life. Accepting where you are in your storm in this moment and focusing on what you are in control of. What three things can you focus on today to keep you stable in the now?

A sense of purpose and strong values can also help keep us grounded and lead us from where we currently are to where we want to get to.
Has your sense of purpose changed since March?
What are you valuing now as summer approaches?

How to support your resilience

'What do you need?' is a powerful question and one we rarely ask ourselves in our frenzied lives.

Try this simple exercise to see how you are paying attention to the needs of your mind, body, heart and soul. Draw four quadrants; one each for mind, body heart and soul and draw or write words of the things you are doing to sustain yourself; walking, music, sitting in nature, humour, creating, learning new skills, connecting with people, baking etc.

Which one of these four areas may need some strengthening to support your resilience. What gentle step might you be able to take today to develop this area of your resilience?

What is emerging for you?

As lockdown starts to ease, which of these activities, which have been supporting you do you really value? Which of these do you now know you want make sure you protect and keep hold of going forward as we approach the next phase of change?

Taking good care of ourselves

You may recall that cabin crew instructed us to put on our own oxygen masks first before helping anyone else with theirs. Robin Shohet says, 'the quality of the intervention depends on the interior of the intervener', which means that we need to take care of our needs first as a priority and not as an act of selfishness.

How well are you attending to your needs before attending to those of others?’

Moving forward

As you reflect on your resilience and continue to build up the muscle, ask yourself, “what one small thing can I start with today?”

Go gently.

Go well.

Liz Nottingham is the former Global Executive Director, Learning and Development at R/GA.

Last updated 04 September 2020