Has your get up and go got up and went? This is not the usual end-of-year tiredness. We have had too much to do, a huge learning curve, and an increased workload coupled with fear of the virus and economic concerns. And while you may want a nap, a glass of wine and a lot of chocolate, what you need is to develop resilience.
Before we look at what resilience can offer, consider the distinction between three words which are similar but not the same: Perseverance, Grit, and Resilience.
Perseverance is the ability to keep going no matter what. It’s how you have mostly been getting through your days. One foot in front of the other. Grit is when you focus your mind on what needs to be done, bear down and power through. It’s perseverance with a dose of determination. Resilience is the capacity to bounce back or recover in the face of challenges and difficulties. Unlike the other two terms, it isn’t about just coping. It carries a connotation of growing and improving as part of dealing with challenges. It is a growth mindset and one that could be a tremendous benefit to you in the weeks ahead.
Perseverance and grit are good traits in their own way, but resilience will carry you through. In a post from KQED in California, Katrina Schwartz discusses the work of Elena Aguilar on 12 Ways Teachers Can Build Resilience So They Can Make Systemic Change. Many are familiar, but this presents it in a new way. The idea is not to survive, but to thrive and grow.
- Know Yourself – Start with self-reflection to give you the base on which to build your resilience. What are your strengths? Where do you struggle? Your weaknesses probably come to you first, so promise to take the time to be honest and recognize your strengths. (Ask a good friend if you struggle with this!) Also look at your traits, your background and what life experiences you’ve had. They all contribute to your becoming the person you are.
- Emotions – You are well-schooled by now in Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) for your students, but don’t forget to apply it to yourself. Emotions power almost everything from our choices to our reaction. Notice how you have been using your EI in approaching the day. Practice noticing and naming the emotions you’re experiencing.
- Tell Empowering Stories – I often talk about the “stories we tell ourselves” that have a basis in truth but keep us from stepping out of our comfort zone. Instead, start telling yourself stories about your successes. Now re-write a story about a failure, putting the emphasis on what you learned as a result and how you used that. Reframing a situation and changing the context can be powerful.
- Build Community – Relationships are at the heart of what we do. In the days of social distancing they are more important than ever. Be sure your community includes many librarians. Join and participate in the library-related social media groups. They will support you, soothe your hurts, give you laughs, provide information and rejuvenate you. They will understand and support you in vital ways and contribute to your resilience.
- Be Here Now – Aguilar says this is about mindfulness and being aware of the “story” you are telling. It is also about focusing on what is in front of you without letting yourself be distracted by what’s beyond that. This is a form of mental multi-tasking which reduces your concentration on what you are doing, making current projects take longer and be done less well. Staying focused can lower your stress and increase your productivity.
- Take Care of Yourself – This is the advice given most often, and it’s the most often ignored. It’s not that you don’t agree with it. But you don’t have time at the moment. That’s not sustainable. Include at least 30 minutes of the day for “me time.” Don’t use it to get dinner started or do any other of the tasks you do for others. This is all about you.
- Focus on the Bright Spots – They are there. Hold on to them as the treasures they are. As I have written before, I note my successes and things for which I’m grateful in a journal. Keeping those thoughts in front of me means the negatives can’t dominate my consciousness.
- Cultivate Compassion – This leans on your Emotional Intelligence (EI). Everyone is stressed and many are having difficulties managing it. Students and adults alike are lashing out in anger and frustration. Instead of focusing on the emotion being broadcast, look for the underlying cause and speak to that. You will likely defuse the situation. And when you do this, add the success to your Empowering Stories.
- Be a Learner – This one is second nature for us, but make time to learn about something new that catches your attention, not just the learning you do for your job. Broaden your horizons. You may discover something wonderful.
- Play and Create – Adults need play time as much as children, Some of you are very crafty and show it in your displays, so find other outlets for that talent. Because being creative is a kind of risk, it takes some courage, but courage is part of resilience.
- Ride the Waves of Change – Change is part of life. It is happening at a fast pace these days, but your Empowering Stories remind you that you have survived and thrived many other changes both professional and personal. You have what it takes to learn and grow as more changes come into your life.
- Celebrate and Appreciate- Celebrate small things as much as large. Celebrate yourself and celebrate others. Our lives are what we make of it. We are resilient. We are strong.
In going through this list, it struck me how it connects to the four Domains of the National School Library Standards: Think, Share, Create, and Grow. A good recipe for building resilience.