My first post about resilience on LinkedIn attracted over 1500 readers from all over the world. It seems that many of us are in need of good strategies to ride out the current global crisis. I felt encouraged to keep posting about the topic and to write this blog article as a compilation of my posts. Again, I hope that my thoughts and tips will reach whoever needs them right now.
Covid-19 has impacted our lives substantially, already forcing us to change how we work, socialize, travel, parent, and almost everything else. The black lives matter movement is yet another wakeup call to stop looking away. Looking away from issues that are seemingly not in our control or responsibility. Yet they are. Racism, wars, refugees, human rights, animal rights, climate change, … the list is long and terrifying.
Like many, I have repeatedly been feeling waves of overwhelm and “Weltschmerz” (world pain) lately.
I remind myself that feeling overwhelmed is completely ok, it’s important to allow ourselves to feel these emotions. Only then, as we move through our emotions, we can regain clarity and our sanity. We can start to realize our potential and what our role is in all this. With patience and self-compassion, we move through this life-long journey of learning and growing. And having parts of our identity questioned so fundamentally as we are experiencing it these past months, is hard. It sucks to be honest. That’s why it’s such a good strategy to work on our resilience.
When it rains, it pours.
That’s how 2020 has felt so far for many. The good news is that there is always something we can do to cope better even in the roughest of times. In the following paragraphs, let us explore the 7 keys of resilience where I will also offer some reflective questions and exercises. If you want to know more details how resilient you are, there are quite a few self-tests on the internet. I’d also love to hear your thoughts, suggestions and learn from your experiences in the comments.
Key #1: Acceptance
Accept what is. Only when you acknowledge and accept a crisis, you can start dealing with it. Accept that change is a natural part of life and a crisis represents a phase that you are able to overcome. Accept that there isn’t always a solution. When you are resilient you recognize when that is. And you know that not every question has an answer.
BUT – We must make sure to differentiate. If a system, society, or country has structural/systemic problems, we are not going to solve them by toughening up and working on our individual resilience. These problems must be dealt with from the root and on a systemic level. Otherwise, we would even encourage the continuance of such malpractice.
How to practice acceptance
- Describe what bothers you and what it is that you don’t want to accept.
- Estimate in % how much energy you waste every day by working around the problem.
- Estimate on a scale from 1 to 10 how much better you would feel if the problem wouldn’t exist.
- Pick one specific aspect (e.g. “My neighbor never greets back, he hates me and it annoys me every day”) and make it your mission to practice acceptance with it.
- Change perspective, become a neutral observer, and reframe that aspect (“my neighbor doesn’t greet back, maybe he’s just shy”)
- Check in again with your emotions on a scale from 1 to 10. Any better?
Keep practicing to build your resilience!
Key #2: Optimism
Resilient people expect that they have what it takes to overcome a difficult or stressful phase. Afterwards they feel more confident about dealing with crisis in the future which makes the more optimistic. Optimism encourages you to make the most of each situation and will empower you to keep looking for solutions, whereas a pessimist would have already given up.
Can optimism be trained? Yes, absolutely! Optimism and pessimism are learned mental attitudes created by our experiences and our beliefs.
Try these exercises for more optimism:
- Focus on your strengths
- When facing a problem, consider your options. Don’t give up easily, come up with even more options.
- Develop a “yes we can” attitude
- Don’t be afraid of mistakes
- Avoid the company of pessimists
- Identify your limiting beliefs, re-write them into positive affirmations and read them out loud every day
- Before going to sleep, make a list of all the positive things that happened on that day.
Practice and enjoy your new outlook on life!
Key #3: Solution orientation
When we are faced with a problem, it often generates resistance at first. An unhealthy reaction would be to ignore the problem completely or make it so big that it is now seemingly impossible to deal with. A resilient person has a growth mindset. You view a problem as a challenge and an opportunity to learn. Then you are able to become active and think of ways to solve the problem.
You can practice embracing the journey of growth by asking yourself these questions:
- What could be the good about this problem? For me or others?
- What can I learn from this?
- What do I want instead? Which positive goal is behind that?
- How would it be if I had already solved the problem and reached that positive goal instead. How would I have done it?
- So what are my first next steps to get rid of the problem?
Let me know your thoughts, also from a cultural perspective. In Germany, we use the world problem in everyday language, but I know in other cultures it is a “forbidden” word. Also, solution orientation seems like a very Anglo-German concept. I’d love to hear your insights!
Key #4: Take responsibility
Taking responsibility starts by realizing that your choices and actions have consequences – for others, but also for yourself.
Before you can start to assume responsibility externally, you have to work through the reflective process yourself.
It is so much easier to blame others or the circumstances for your problem but that is not a helpful attitude when you want to find a solution. Strengthen your resilience by identifying your share of the problem or situation.
Don’t ask, “Who is to blame?” but “How do we fix it?”
- practice self-care: acknowledge your needs as well as your boundaries
- practice self-acceptance: accept yourself and your life exactly as they are at this moment in time
- examine your expectations
- take a deep look within to find those parts of yourself that are resistant to change
- don’t be afraid to admit mistakes to yourself and others and learn from failure
These tips are easily said but they are actually hard and continuous work. Consider working with a coach who can guide you and get you started on your journey to more resilience. You already have what it takes to tackle any crisis. As coaches, all we do is help you connect to your inner strength.
Key #5: Get rid of the victim mentality
The advantage resilient people have is that they do not only focus their attention on other people or the circumstances, but first of all on themselves. They don’t see themselves as a victim. Instead, they focus on what they can control and deal with the situation actively in order to change it in their favor.
Some events in life are completely beyond our control, such as the passing of a loved one for example. And yet, you are in control of the way you deal with it: how you grieve, what meaning you ascribe to it, where you direct your focus and what your next steps will be.
How to practice it:
Remind yourself that each day you can make a conscious choice for changing something in your life. You don’t have to be the same person you were yesterday.
When you wake up, ask yourself
- What do I want to do today?
- How do I want to see myself today?
- What should I care about today?
- Who do I want to be today?
To increase your focus, set small, realistic goals for the day. They will help you look forward and not get stuck in the past. Each goal you reach will make you feel successful and happy, motivating you to go for bigger goals. Over time you will realize what really matters, what makes you happy and what makes you strong.
Key #6: Future orientation
Take your future into your own hands by being intentional and taking action to realize your plans. If you want to move into the right direction, you need clear goals. As you actively work on your goals, you will start seeing many more opportunities opening up and paving the path to reach them.
Use different strategies for short, medium and long-term planning. In order to be able to react in a situation-elastic – and thus resilient – manner, medium-term goals are needed for orientation. At the same time, however, there is enough scope for situational adjustments if the circumstances change. E.g.:
- What are my ultra-short-term goals in 30 days?
- My short-term goals – in 30 weeks?
- My medium-term goals – in 30 months?
- And my long-term goals that I want to have achieved in 30 years?
Set your goals consciously, set priorities and check in every now and then whether your priorities have changed.
Key #7: Networking
Humans are wired for social interaction. Good social relationships are vital and represent one of the most valuable resources for inner resilience. Having a stable social environment, maintaining contacts and getting support in the face of challenges are healthy behaviors that can be used in critical situations.
Are you an introvert and the word networking makes you feel uncomfortable? Don’t worry, what matters is the quality of the relationships, not the quantity.
Tips to increase the quality of your relationships:
- develop a mindset of generous giving and receiving
- be attentive, respectful, open and kind
- practice active listening and empathy
- have appreciative and constructive conversations
Work with me
I am an Intercultural Trainer and Coach based in Hannover/Germany. I support expats and their partners throughout the different phases of expatriation and re-entry. Through my work, I help my clients work effectively across cultures, find purpose and fulfillment in their new environment and offer guidance on how to raise healthy Third Culture Kids. I will make sure that your expat assignment is an enriching experience for all family members. If you are transitioning during Covid-19, these resilience strategies will hopefully be a useful starting point. Consider working through this extra tough transition with my guidance and support. Get in touch with me to schedule a free discovery call and let’s get started!