Covid & Resilience.

Covid 19 a wake up call for resilience.

Resilience is the modern term and skill for coping through stressful and turbulent times. However its principles go way beyond the individual to include business and wider social systems during Covid.

Over the years my understanding of resilience has shifted to being more psychologically flexible than being mentally strong, robust or stoic.  We have to develop awareness of our inner world, to feel and process our experiences rather than push through or suppress what is happening.

This flexibility comes from training our minds to observe and hold our thoughts and perceptions lightly, whilst we move with compassion towards what and who matters most, our values. These are skills and behaviors that are developed from Mindfulness and Acceptance based approaches and take daily practice and time to develop. This makes it more possible to focus on what is within our control, and to choose more skillfully in each moment.

Behind every story of resilience is support, and a host of historical characters and resources who have supported us to believe in ourselves when times get tough. Every day we rely on others to live our lives whether it is delivering food, educating our children, or cleaning the office, they are the invisible team that support us to carry on the show, without them our lives would be chaos.

Covid has highlighted fragility within systems to sudden change, the Black Swan that comes from nowhere to disrupt the system. Employment, childcare, housing  and education are interconnected and have relied on the physical presence and movement of people. Each area impacts on the other, if providers within child care continue to keep closing then how can working parents be expected to work from home without greater stress.  Some Industries despite high profits had little in reserves to cope with sudden change e.g. hospitality or airlines  which highlighted a lack of sustainability within their models.

Resilience as a system

On a individual level resilience is managing your energy and need for recovery. Good sleep, exercise and activities that increase your resilience are restorative, meaningful, and meet your physical, emotional, and psychological needs. However, most people I meet know this, yet will sacrifice their self-care when things get busy. This is the ultimate productivity paradigm which has been influencing us from a young age and is difficult to break free from. However their is research to support change such as a 4 day working week and a more balanced way of living, which will be for the benefit of many and maintain high productivity levels.

Over the years, I have worked with many clients that may have lived in a way that delayed or denied meeting their own needs. Many described a drive to keep going, push hard and sacrifice their own self-care. Some companies have even gone as far to attract a type of worker termed the insecure over achiever. Their ability to over-commit and withstand pressure increases their risk of burn out. Resilience, therefore, has its own shadow side and is not about staying or adapting to toxicity, a culture of overwork or something that is not healthy for you. Resilience can involve leaving.

Turning points
Turning points can happen following difficult experiences, and there are some lessons we learn only by coming through them. In my own experience during Covid, I learned how much I needed others and shared activities for my social well-being. Yes, I could adapt to the disruption of my routine, pivot my work however I began to feel more isolated despite my zoom busyness, my social needs where not being fully met. I needed to re imagine how I could stay connected whilst being physically apart. I reached out yet felt an urge to withdraw, shared my struggle, and set myself goals to exercise my social well-being which helped a lot.

My struggle with the term Resilience is that it is as much a systemic issue as a personal quality or skill set. People can find themselves stuck and repeating patterns however it is the systems that are mostly broken. It is cheaper and easier to run workshops that focus on the individual however I would question their long-term outcomes if they do not look at environmental and cultural factors.