Resilience in Times of Uncertainty
Wednesdays with Woodward webinar
November 4, 2020
Amid a global pandemic, a turbulent election cycle and social unrest, many Americans are wondering how to cope. Humana Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Resilience Trainer Wendy Wollner joined the Wednesdays with Woodward series to share self-care strategies and provide tips for building resilience during this difficult period.
What Is Resilience?
Wollner defined resilience as the ability to not only bounce back in extreme situations but to be able to overcome ordinary stressors. Resilient people, she said, have a strong sense of purpose and are accepting of others, of difficult situations and of the things that are outside of their control. They are also optimistic – not necessarily seeing the world through rose-colored glasses but confident in their ability to turn adversity into opportunities for growth.
According to Wollner, each of us reacts differently to difficult situations. For some people, stressful situations are compounded by prior experiences, mental illness and/or substance abuse. Other factors include the strength of our social networks, the severity of the situation and our physical health.
Strengthening Your Resilience
Wollner identified several methods for coping with challenging situations:
- Calming: Maintaining a sense of calm and developing a personalized “menu” of stress-relief options can help you manage stress over time. Wollner shared one calming method with attendees, asking them to inhale deeply for six seconds, hold their breath for three and exhale for another six.
Connectedness and Hope: Humans need to feel a sense of belonging. Wollner recalled how her father successfully made personal connections in all aspects of his life – from his bank teller to his dry cleaner. During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual connectedness is imperative, she said, and your “work family,” faith groups and community organizations can provide important sources of connection, emotional relief and hope.
Competence and Self-Efficacy: When we experience a sense of powerlessness, our anxiety levels can soar. One method for regaining control is by making an action plan and executing on it. She cautioned parents/caregivers and organizational leaders to direct others without becoming overbearing, which might rob those others of their own opportunity to regain control.
Coping with the Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic is a source of long-term stress for many. Wollner suggested coming to terms with our new reality but also focusing on things we can control, like eating well, being outside, interacting with others in creative ways, maintaining a work-life balance and filtering out negative thoughts. She suggested finding creative ways to connect with our families this holiday season, by hosting events outside or using technology to create virtual gatherings.
Helping Others During Times of Uncertainty
Wollner helped attendees consider ways to support others, specifically as leaders. She advised attendees to encourage people to talk about how they feel, do regular check-ins and discuss life beyond work.
When talking to someone who is struggling, Wollner suggested:
- listening actively
- acknowledging the person’s feelings and experience
- using simple, genuine language
- accepting emotions as normal and not a “breakdown”
- offering resources for outside help
She also recommended avoiding telling others that you know how they feel or minimizing their struggle. Her final advice was to eat healthy, get enough sleep, set goals to motivate you and express gratitude to people in your life.
Presented by the Travelers Institute, Humana, the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council and Accion.