How Do We Keep Going In Hard Times?: Recognizing Our Own Resilience May Help
Our resilience increases as we recognize the magnitude of what we have already accomplished. -Patricia O’Gorman
Do you remember last December? I do, but it feels like a million years away. This has been a year of many adjustments. Only a week ago, I felt like I was staring down the barrel of another lockdown. Today, I’m still reeling, but feel a glimmer of optimism about the new vaccines. That’s kind of how the past 10 months of COVID-19 have been: adjusting to one new reality after another, often in rapid, unpredictable succession.
Coping with setbacks and figuring out how to transcend them is a way to describe resilience. Resilience is the art of adapting. It’s a skill set that helps us endure difficult circumstances and to bounce back. Researchers don’t know if it’s hereditary, but we certainly know it’s something we can cultivate with time and practice. This year, we’ve all gotten a lot of practice being resilient. And though we may be tired—emotionally, physically, mentally—we know the pandemic still isn’t over. So how do we keep using resilience to move forward?
First, give yourself permission to be impressed with yourself, for all the resilience you’ve already demonstrated and cultivated this year. Whatever your specific circumstances are, I can bet you’ve had to adapt. Walk yourself back to the beginning of the pandemic and take inventory of how you’ve adjusted. Have you been homeschooling? Seeing friends virtually? Finding new hobbies? No change is too unimportant, and no joy is too small. Let these small victories inform a positive self-image, one that acknowledges how strong you are. Also consider how the people around you have adjusted. Maybe your friends, your partner, or your kids don’t realize how resilient they’ve also been this year.
Next, validate how hard it’s been, and how hard it still likely is some days. If you’re currently adjusting to the second lockdown or the strangeness of the holidays this year, validate your feelings. If you’re feeling disappointed, let yourself feel that disappointment. Turn inward and develop your emotional awareness of how you’re really feeling about everything. Resilience isn’t about staying positive no matter what—in fact, some might argue that trying to ignore negative feelings might be detrimental to cultivating resilience. Instead, give yourself the space to let your real feelings have their say.
After feeling your feelings, take stock of what needs and wants you have that aren’t being met, and get creative. Even if our holiday season, our social lives, our career (or anything else we had to compromise on in 2020) is not ideal, we can adapt. Care packages and virtual meetings likely aren’t how we prefer to connect with our loved ones, but they’re something. Rolling with the punches in the present, and maintaining hope for the future, are two key building blocks of resilience.
Another way to continue developing resilience is to nurture a community mindset. In order to navigate unforeseen challenges and to rise above our circumstances, it's often helpful to lean on others and to provide support to them in return. Resilient communities use available resources to get through dark times. We can foster resilience with the people around us by getting creative together and being generous with one another.
This has been a difficult year, with so many emotional ups and downs and real losses in our community. We’ve been through a lot. I am so happy you and I are still here, and impressed with the ways that we’ve adapted. Resilience also encompasses the ability to bounce back—and I am looking forward to seeing all the ways we continue to bounce back in 2021.