HOW TO BECOME RESILIENT IN TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY

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The VUCA concept has never been clearly defined than it is now. The world is more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous than it has ever been. Even with the announcement of the easing of the lockdown by the President last Thursday, we are still treading the muddy waters, uncertain of how we will navigate between the alert levels defined by the government. 

The easing does not mean a straight line towards the “normal life”. How we progress between the alert levels is entirely up to us. In the next months we might think that we are entering level 3  (restrictions on many activities including at workplaces and socially, to address a high risk of transmission) and with the spike in the positive coronavirus cases, we might be back to level 5 (drastic measures to contain the spread of the virus and save lives).

This situation is complex and ambiguous. Some companies are struggling to pay full salaries, those that can pay now will be reaching the end of their reserves soon if things do not change.  Reductions in the workweek that result in salary cuts are already upon us. Retrenchments are being executed or contemplated.

That is just the reality of where we are. However, when this end, if not careful we will be left bruised and having broken pieces to pick in one way or another across different areas of our lives.  As much as stress is a reality of our daily lives, the current situation has compounded the issues significantly.  We need to be more resilient than ever.

Resilience “is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress” (American Psychology Association, 2014). This means that we have to actively decide to keep on moving forward without succumbing to the resultant stressors due to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown impact.

However, when this end, if not careful we will be left bruised and having broken pieces to pick in one way or another across different areas of our lives. 

How do I do that? I hear you asking.

I fully understand that our responses differ as resilience will have the specific meaning given different individual, social and cultural contexts, however, the following points are worth considering:

#1.     Identify that which makes sense to you: Resilience is more than doing the bare minimum in times of uncertainty. It is about identifying goals that are important in your life and doing what you can to achieve them. This is what Dr Panter-Brick says, “it’s about making sense of the moral aspects of your life”. This facilitates diversion from the negative and helps to focus your energies on what matters the most in your life. For instance, I have been using my time to write my next book because that is one critical area that is important in my life but also it helps me to channel my energies to the right stuff.

#2.     Remain hopeful: During such times, it is critical to remain hopeful and to believe that things will turn for the better.  Hope is not wishful thinking; it is having a sense of agency to use pathways to reach your goals. This has to always be balanced with hard facts so that you can reflect on the current reality and be able to generate multiple routes to the desired goals.

#3.     Rely on proven “go-to-skills”: One question that I have seen bringing a light bulb moment to my coaching clients, is “when faced with a challenge, what is “your go-to- skill” to overcome it”? The reflection on this question brings a realisation that we have it in ourselves to go through challenges because we have come across similar challenges before. It could be staying calm and focused, gathering information, being resourceful, being assertive etc. All of these help us to remain resilient through a challenge.

#4.      Maintain a healthy support system:   Better support systems have proven to be essential to see people through tough and uncertain times. These could be family, opportunity with a mentor and other support systems interacting together to provide mental, emotional and psychological support. For instance, I have witnessed the value of accessing employee assistance programs in difficult times. This helps to remove the haziness and build hope and clarity for the future. Self-reliance is not always the option in times of stress and uncertainty.  

#5.     Journaling is cathartic: In her research, Mariah Snyder who is professor emerita at the University of Minnesota writes that through the journaling process, we can identify unconscious ideas and emotions that may influence our behaviours and lives. There is no better time to journal than it is now. It will help you to weather stressful events, tap into your thought processes, express your feelings and to find meaning in what you reflect upon. This might also serve as a basis for your first or next book or series of blog posts in the future.   

Stress and uncertain times are a reality of our daily lives and we can only become prepared through learning and practice. 

Tex Hlalele is a Life & Business Coach, Consultant, Speaker and Author. Book Tex for speaking engagements and to help you and your team gain insights and possibilities for individual learning and organizational advancement on +2764 656 6174 or visit http://www.dreamsmadepossible.co.za/contact.html. He is the author of the book, Face the person in the mirror.

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