At one moment, everything stopped. We knew something may happen, but most people were completely unprepared for the upcoming situation. All the different information brought confusion and, while willing to react, most of us were just baffled. Is it our fault? No, as no one could have foreseen the proportions of the pandemic.
This is a situation where you can test your and your company’s flexibility. If the adjustment period lasted a week or two, your agility skill is well developed. Since we are living in an everchanging world, where the reality is that most situations are beyond our influence and control, this is a very important skill to have.
On the other hand, individuals who took these sudden changes as a major problem were disoriented, scared and disappointed. And, when we feel like things are getting out of control, we turn to an authority.
The pandemic created a situation where leaders had to make decisions without knowing if they were the right ones. They knew that all eyes were on them for solutions, so it was easy to distinguish those who offered some with understanding and confidence, from those who panicked.
A leader’s emotional intelligence is very important; it includes confidence, adequate communication skills, support and understanding of others, decision making and ability to overcome stress. Staying optimistic is equally substantial in the situations of crisis.
Switching from office to remote work made many people face things they never noticed before. As we are usually away from home for many hours per day, it became clear that the relations within our family and community are overlooked. Quickly adapting to new working conditions made many people go overboard, probably fearing that the crisis may lead to a job loss.
In the previous months, you may say that we had to re-establish the way we communicate and the balance of power within our families. We were suddenly spending much more time together. Many people were surprised by the numerous chores waiting to be done. Add the dangerous disease lurking outside, presented as something which can seriously affect you if you put down your guard for just a moment.
More anxiety and uncertainties came from many reports announcing the big economic crisis we are about to enter. No big, creative ideas can come from a stress-packed situation. Instead, everyone tries to back out and hold on to what they already have.
Resilience is a psychological construct which enables the adaptation to intense stress such as ambiguity, trauma, threat etc. While it has been shown that some people can “reset” themselves to the state they were prior to the stress exposure, others can even thrive during a period of crisis. You can’t inherit such quality, but you can learn it. There is no more important skill for a person to master than how to harden and be courageous in the eye of the storm.
Resilience consists of several components :
Physical strength is extremely important for overcoming challenges.
- Am I in good shape?
- Do I feel like I am strong enough?
- Am I exercising enough? It is highly recommended to have 2,5 hours of aerobic exercises and 1 hour (2x 30 mins) of strength exercises per week
- Is my diet balanced? Make sure to found out more about the balanced Mediterranean diet
- How much water am I drinking?
- Am I sleeping? Am I sleeping enough? Sleep is our natural way to rest.
- Which relaxation techniques am I using?
- Am I a hedonist? Are you avoiding unhealthy habits or are they your only source of pleasure?
Emotions, our biologically established response to the outside stimulus, happens when we are thinking and/or reminiscing certain situations. Every emotion is a precious piece of information, as it shows the way we are perceiving an event and the importance we tend to accredit to the event. In situations as stressful as this one, it is not uncommon for emotions to be more intense. If you:
- Get terribly scared of a situation
- Demand to have it your way
- Can’t stand different things/situations
- Belittle other people or circumstances,
You’re more likely to have extreme emotional reactions.
When we are in the state of being extremely emotional, due to demands towards yourself and the others, chances are that we will make more bad decisions. We are not equipped to estimate the risk adequately, which results in backing up from most of the challenging situations.
There are various techniques to reduce the high level of emotion and bring some calmness:
- Can you clearly differentiate fear, anger, guilt, sorrow, jealousy, envy?
- Which particular situations and people are affecting you? Why?
- Do you feel extra sensitive, acrimonious, easily frustrated?
- What do you do to feel calmer?
- Are you aware of how your mindset is affecting your emotions?
The way we think, risk and strive for improvement indicates the way we handle and overcome the crisis. Hardiness, the mental strength, has three aspects:
- Challenge – how we react when faced with problems; do we back out or use them as an opportunity to learn
- Control – the way we judge whether we oversee the situation
- Commitment – how devoted are we (Hardiness, S. Stein)
If we understand our behaviour in the crisis, we can identify the aspects eligible for further improvement and thus achieve mental hardiness. Understanding the irrational beliefs, phycological defence mechanisms and cognitive “mistakes” helps us to detect if/when our perception has been distorted.
- Do you like finding solutions and facing challenges?
- Are you in control over the things which are in your power to control? How certain are you?
- Did the crisis affect your interests, dedication and curiosity?
- Are you aware of your mindset and the decision-making process?
The spiritual – motivational component
Resilient are those who are certain of their motives, beliefs and values. They are on a quest to fulfil their personal goal, which often includes helping others. People with a strong motivational component can cope and evolve even in the most difficult situation, and they do so by deeply understanding their priorities and reasons for action.
People who stick to their optimism and continue to believe in the ability to fight pressure, tend to be more resilient and resourceful.
- What makes you happy?
- When do you feel really motivated?
- What is worth sacrificing your time and resources?
- Do you believe that you will prevail no matter what?
This situation is also an opportunity to get to know ourselves a bit better. We can use it to understand our own values and desires so that we can overcome the usual barriers standing in the way of our efficiency and satisfaction. It is quite fine if you’ve spent this time of isolation watching “some stuff” or playing a game. What counts is that you’ve preserved your mental health.
As the situation slowly goes back to normal, you will feel that you know yourself better, you understand which people are important and motivating, you are aware of your working place and whether you can count on your current company. This is a result of a well-used “high’-risk” situation.
If your company management ensured that you felt safe, motivated, rewarded and included, then you are in the right place. The right place for you is every place where, thanks to your resilience, you feel strong and ready to thrive. The process of building resilience is not easy, but the reward is immense.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – Dr TAMARA TOMOVIC
Tamara Tomovic is a trainer, medical doctor, RE&CBT psychotherapist, ICF coach. For 20 years she has been on managing positions within international companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Astellas and Servier. She uses her certified knowledge and hands-on corporate experience to work with clients and support their growth. The primary goal is performance improvement by reducing fear, anxiety and stress and increasing optimism and the inner feeling of satisfaction. Key areas of her work include leadership, emotional intelligence, resilience, working on optimism and happiness.