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  • Writer's pictureFelicity Baker

Resilience Quick Reads: Growth Through Adversity

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

Welcome to the latest in our series of short blogs to help you stay safe, sane, and supported during the current crisis. This time we’re looking at how you achieve growth through adversity during times like this.

We’ve written quite a lot about managing the negative aspects of the Covid crisis, for example, dealing with anxiety, stress and isolation, because being able to recognise and manage our stress triggers and responses is an important starting point for resilience.

But, resilience is more than just stress management. It is also the ability to be flexible and to adapt to changed circumstances. It’s about digging deep and drawing on our inner strengths to pull through and it’s about growing through adversity.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all dimensions of our lives, requiring us to grow and develop new ways of relating to ourselves and others, of working and managing everyday demands at home.

Although it may feel a bit early to be thinking about how we might have grown through the experience of lockdown, we are nonetheless all developing in different ways to adapt to our changed lives.  As we go through these experiences it is useful to stop and reflect on what we are doing differently and which existing skills we are using to help us to keep going, even at the most difficult times. By recognising and acknowledging the ways we are growing to meet the demands of current challenges we can emerge stronger and more resilient.

Personal growth and development

For many of us, the lockdown and changes to our work patterns has freed up time to step back, re-evaluate, and ask ourselves if our normal lives were moving us towards becoming the person we want to be. Being forced to evaluate what is important to us has provided an opportunity to consider which of our activities are nourishing to our wellbeing and which are draining.

Review existing coping strategies

When we face new challenges, it can be useful to reflect on which of our existing coping strategies are helpful to us and which might be unhelpful. Sometimes our ways of coping can have unintended consequences that can keep stress going or undermine our resilience. For example, coping through avoidance or numbing, relying too heavily on alcohol or caffeine, internet shopping or gaming, prevents us from developing more helpful strategies and can affect our mood and health in negative ways. Procrastination or perfectionism can undermine our ability to get things done to a good enough standard and create more stress along the way, as we fail to meet targets or don’t match up to our overly high standards.

New coping responses

In addition to reflecting on which of our existing coping methods are helpful or unhelpful, we have all had to find new ways of adapting to this crisis. It is a completely new situation for all of us. Irrespective of whether we are still working during lockdown, we are all having to find new ways of coping.

So what are you doing differently now after a month of lockdown? Which inner strengths have you drawn on to get you through to this point? Which new skills and strategies have you used to manage stress, anxiety, or challenges within your relationships? Have you taken up new hobbies or found new interests as a consequence of the crisis?

Connecting with others

Dealing with isolation, being cut off from friends and family, has been hard for all of us. As social beings, we rely on our social networks for support. In the normal run of things, our strong relationships with others help us manage stress, problem-solve and experience positive emotions. All are essential for our resilience.

With social distancing and lockdown, we have had to find new ways of staying close to the people we care about, accessing their support and being supportive to them. Although methods of doing so have their limitations, finding ways of connecting is better than not. Talking on the phone, chatting over a video call, sending letters and cards are all ways of ensuring we stay connected.

Take a moment to think about the different ways of connecting you have been using and try reflecting on what good has come from it. Perhaps you have found yourself talking more frequently with friends and family who live many miles away or getting to know neighbours through local support schemes. What have you learned about yourself and others through doing this, and how do you think you will continue beyond the lockdown?

Finding new ways of working

There have been many unanticipated challenges associated with work during the current crisis. Prior to Covid-19 high levels of work-related stress and burnout were a major concern, with excessive pressures and demands in our working lives undermining our ability to relax, take time out and enjoy our leisure time

The pandemic has forced many of us into new working practices, shifting the balance of pressures and demands. Many of us are working harder than ever, having to adapt to the challenges of social distancing while still needing to get the job done. Health and social care workers, journalists, supermarket staff, delivery drivers and public transport workers have all had to accommodate the necessary safety measures.

For those of us working at home, challenges associated with adapting to new technology, managing multiple and novel demands of changing processes and procedures, and juggling work with home tutoring or responding to the needs of older family members are often leaving us feeling frazzled and stressed. With so many new challenges, it is easy to put excessive pressure on ourselves. But this can lead to us over-working, not taking time for ourselves or feeling guilty when we take a break.

As we move out of the acute phase of the current crisis and begin settling into new work systems and practices,  there is an opportunity to find a different relationship with work. Take a moment to reflect on how you have managed the changes so far. Which strategies have you put in place to manage the different demands? How are you ensuring you maintain a boundary between work and home life, particularly if your workplace is now your home? What are you doing to give yourself time to relax and recover? And are there any new skills that you have developed that you might continue to draw on when life returns to normal?

With so much change and uncertainty, it is important to recognise your successes. Try writing down one or two things that you have managed to do to adapt to the current challenges. These new skills will continue to serve you through tough times. Acknowledging how you have grown through the adversity we are all facing will help to build your resilience and wellbeing and future-proof you against stress. Connecting your coping skills with your values and identifying how they fit with what is important in your life will help you stay motivated and continue to use them even after the crisis has abated.

If you found this helpful and would like to find out more about coping in a crisis, check out some of our other blogs in this series. You might also like to join our Facebook group UR Resilient, where members are busy sharing creative and inspiring ideas for staying positive during this challenging time.

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