Feeling rudderless these days? You’re not alone. As we adjust to this prolonged period of uncertainty, many of us are feeling stuck – but want to get to a place where we feel like we’re thriving, not simply surviving. Here are some steps you can take today to build resilience while working from home.
I’m not normally one to take life advice that sounds like it should be crocheted on a pillow. But these are far from normal times. And, perhaps for that reason, when this quote popped up in my LinkedIn feed, it gave me pause:
“There are three things you cannot recover in life: the moment after it’s missed, the word after it’s said and the time after it’s wasted.”
Even under the best of circumstances – even if we are privileged enough to remain physically healthy, financially solvent and unencumbered by the daily trauma of systemic racism – when it comes to our careers, we still worry that we’re not “doing it right” or “doing enough.” That we’re not adequately “carpe-ing the diem.”
This gnawing anxiety has prompted lots of talk about resilience in the workplace – how to build it, how to sustain it and how to support others as we all grow and advance in our careers.
Ironically, many of these conversations gloss over the part about what resilience actually means. Just as we might incorrectly associate courage with the absence of fear, it’s tempting to equate resilience with the absence of vulnerability. But resilience is not an exercise in rigidity or perfection; it’s the art of flexibility and forgiveness. It is a measure of our capacity to recover quickly, to learn from missteps or moments of crisis.
Luckily, resilience is not an exclusively innate quality. It’s a skill that can be developed over time. So, in the spirit of resume-boosting self-improvement, here are some actions you can take to build greater resilience today that will pay dividends in the future.
- Keep your friends close
Relationships are often cited as a key predictor of how someone will cope with adversity. In a professional setting, we also know that engaging our network – especially sponsors – is critical to success. But with social distancing at play, how should we adapt?
The good news is, “coffee chat” culture isn’t dead – it’s just gone virtual. We’re all craving greater variety in our days, so a 30-minute catch-up can be a welcome reprieve. That said, one-on-one video calls bring added pressure (we all cringe at awkward pauses), so you might consider teaming up with a peer who can add to conversation.
Think of them as a “visibility buddy.” Over time, you can tap into each other’s networks, make new connections and even reconnect with former contacts. Just remember that, while visibility is important, relevance is too. If someone is giving you their time, you should have an objective for the conversation in mind, do your homework and always follow-up afterwards, even if it’s just a quick thank you.
- Make time to daydream
It’s easy to feel stuck right now. This prolonged period of uncertainty feels like an interminable present, making the future difficult to imagine. But a little more imagination may be exactly what’s needed.
Neuroscience has long held that the wandering mind (and body) can be beneficial for creative problem-solving and goal-formation. In fact, studies suggest that envisioning yourself in a future state makes you more likely to achieve it.
But daydreaming is also a useful means of escapism. Reminiscing on happier times has been linked to improved mental well-being. And there’s no denying that there’s a certain comfort to be had by giving in to nostalgia.
So, if your quarantine routine too closely resembles Groundhog Day, your surest way out may be to look inward. Journaling, meditation and yoga are a few other ways you might start to build a habitual practice for introspection.
- LOL (but actually)
Classically called “the best medicine,” laughter has been linked to tremendous psychological and physical benefits. Consider the mechanics: We take in a sudden burst of oxygen-rich air, which releases endorphins, boosts circulation and prompts muscle relaxation. The result? A feel-good moment that melts away stress.
In groups, laughter has a multiplying effect. Incorporating humor into meetings is known to inspire engagement, creativity and collaboration. In fact, one study found that watching a comedy clip before getting to work boosted employees’ productivity by 10%.
Alongside empathy, authenticity and respect, we should add having a sense of humor to the list of prerequisites for good corporate citizenship. Now more than ever, we could all use some comic relief. So the next time someone cracks a good-natured joke, join in the laughter – it’s good for your health!
Resilience may be a buzzword of the moment, but it will always be part of the human experience. The question is not if we will encounter adversity, but rather how we will respond. In short, can we derive meaning from hardship?
I’m reminded of Viktor Frankl’s invocation of Nietzsche: “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.” If our aim is not only to survive but, rather, to thrive, then perhaps the best thing we can do is to focus our energy on the aspects of work and life that we find meaningful – practicing self-compassion and empathy for others along the way.