The last nine to ten months have presented most of us with unprecedented levels of stress. As each month passes it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain our energy and motivation. Resilience is necessary for survival, and with so many counting on us it’s vital that we develop ours as much as we can. A few weeks ago I blogged on this topic. I think it deserves reviewing, especially as we move into the holidays.
Merriam-Webster defines resilience as:
1: the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
While the second definition is the one that most logically applies, the first has a strong connection as well. I certainly feel my body has been compressed by being emotionally battered on nearly every level. Whether it’s news reports, social media, or hearing from friends and family, life can seem bleak with only the hope of a vaccine soon-to-come that seems a light at the end of the tunnel.
Despite all the negatives, it is my belief you can always find some positives in difficult situations and times. Building resilience won’t make problems disappear, but it will help you manage them. By working on becoming more resilient, we develop or add skills and capacities we can use even when we emerge from the overpowering presence of COVID-19.
The Mayo Clinic offers six techniques on the subject in Resilience: Build Skills to Endure Hardship. I like the word “endure.” It’s a reminder that we are in an ongoing cycle. No matter how good we are today, we must get up tomorrow and do it again. You might find their tips familiar, but it’s important to keep them in mind so you keep working at resilience.
Get connected – Isolation is damaging to mental health and therefore resilience. Zoom meetings in and of themselves are not enough of a connection. Your PLN on social media can be an outlet to talk about challenges and get supportive feedback. Having an opportunity to help someone else who is struggling will also bolster your own resilience.
Take time to make phone calls. It is not as good as speaking to someone face-to-face, but it brings you closer because it’s one-to-one. If you need to, schedule the calls to ensure you make the connection. Reach out to family, friends, and colleagues who live alone. The stress is likely heavier on them.
Make every day meaningful – Many have noted how the days blur, one into the next. Try to distinguish the days and look for things that might add something special. It doesn’t need take long. It could be that call you make, making a special dessert or other treat, or having dinner delivered.
Keep track of what you accomplished. You don’t want your achievements to dissolve in the blur of days. Record them digitally or on paper in a “success journal.” It will remind you of how much you got done. If you record professional successes, you can use it to update your principal on what you have been doing.
Learn from experience – You have faced tough times in the past. At the time it seemed insurmountable. How did you get through it? What skills and practices helped you? Who supported and encouraged you? The Mayo Clinic recommends journaling as a reminder of how you succeeded then. For me, the mantra, “I will get through this. I always have” is empowering. Find a way that works for you to keep those previous successes in mind.
Remain hopeful – I have a painting in my office that says “There is always hope.” It reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s poem entitled “Hope.” The first stanza is often in my head these days,
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
Hope never stops, and we need to hold onto hope. Nothing stays the same. This will change. That is my hope – and belief.
Take care of yourself – You know this. You heard it countless times before the pandemic, and it’s been repeated even more since. But knowing something and acting on it are two different things. It’s easy to postpone self-care. Don’t. Practice the care you know works for you – or try something you’ve been thinking about.
Be pro-active – This is about not ignoring the challenges and problems around you. When you can identify them, you can make a plan and take action. Action helps build resilience. This also means recognizing and accepting when you are struggling so you can seek the help you need.
And how does all of this connect with your role as a librarian? We all know that we can’t be there for others in a lasting way until we take care of ourselves. If you make some or all of these ideas a part of your life, you’ll feel your resilience – and your ability to recover your size and shape – strengthen. Know that you won’t have the same strength every day. Some days will get to you. When they do, go back to the tools that work when you’re ready and remember there is always hope.