By Dr. Karyn

Hello DK Leadership Community,

As we launch into a New Year, I was reflecting on 2020 – and one thing is clear – it was a year like no other. What started as a year of excitement, quickly turned into a year of agility and resilience.  From COVID to the Black Lives Matter Movement – it seemed that our emotional and social foundations were being severely shaken. And while everyone was impacted, some felt it more than others. As of January 1, 2021, 1.8 million families have lost a family member to COVID-19 globally (Source: World Health Organization). Millions of people worldwide have lost their jobs, and many of those still employed are struggling to work from home while their kids adapt to online school.  And while 93% of BLM protests have been peaceful (Source: Time Magazine), the rising awareness of systemic racism and racial inequality in our society has generated countless “exhausting” and sometimes heated arguments between BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and their allies, and those who would dispute their claims.  
This has all taken a toll on our mental health, with the number of people reporting high-to-extreme levels of anxiety quadrupling from 5% to 20% in 2020 (Source: Mental Health Research Canada).
And throughout this emotionally charged year, the word I kept hearing about most from both organizations and families was “Resilience”:

  • How do we build resilience in ourselves, our teams at work, and our kids at home? 
  • How do we manage emotional stress when surrounded by so much uncertainty? 
  • How do we bounce back? How can we be mentally strong? 
  • How can we have hope and optimism in this new future?

I think resilience is a great focus for all of us, even as we continue to deal with all that 2020 brought us, while looking forward to 2021. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Tip #1:            Understand What “Resilience” Is

Resilience is a word that many of us throw around. But what is it? The APA says it well here:

“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress … resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences … While these adverse events, much like rough river waters, are certainly painful and difficult, they don’t have to determine the outcome of your life. There are many aspects of your life you can control, modify and grow with. That’s the role of resilience. Becoming more resilient not only helps you get through difficult circumstances, it also empowers you to grow and even improve your life along the way.”

Source: American Psychological Association

Tip #2:            Think About Times You’ve Been Resilient

Resilience is like an emotional muscle – the more we use it – the stronger it gets. Think of times in your life when you have been resilient. What happened? How did you cope in a healthy way? How did you bounce back? For me, it was when I was fifteen years old and my parents were involved in a head-on collision. Thankfully, they both survived, but our home was turned into a hospital for many months as they both recovered, and I was responsible to care for them, with the help of part-time medical assistants. I remember how I coped; I focused one day at a time, and started journaling to unpack my emotions (I’ve kept journals since that time in my life). I also adjusted my goals (I realized being an honor student was not realistic that year) and just focused on being thankful that my parents were alive. Today I have an incredible relationship with both my parents, and I credit the bonds that were strengthened during what was an extremely difficult yet formative time in my life.

Tip #3:            Adopt A Resilient Mindset

The key to building resilience is to understand that it’s only when you experience adversity that you have an opportunity to build it.  Resilience is a mindset. It’s allowing yourself to be sad, to experience grief, and recover from heavy emotions… AND THEN REFOCUS… learn how to pick yourself up, focus on the big picture, identify what you can control, choose to be grateful, and find hope in the future. It’s realizing that your current situation is not your life story, it’s a chapter in your life that is helping to shape who you will become.

To help yourself, your teams at work and your family at home to grow in this area, ask this question: What is the #1 way you have learned to build a resilient mindset? Share your answers, lead by example and you’ll find that the resilient mindset can be both contagious and energizing, and a source of hope when faced with difficult times.

Your Leadership & Relationship Coach,
Dr. Karyn

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