Developing a Personal Resilience Plan During a Pandemic
by Connie Vanderzanden
Mentor Moment: Please be aware this post is not a quick read. The intention for this post is for self development purposes and requires thought, journaling, and time to explore what’s going on in your mind, your body, and your soul. My recommendation is to block out some time, 30-60 minutes, to explore this topic and at the end, you can create a plan of action. I’ve also created a free worksheet to accompany this blog, which you can download here.
According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is the process we use to adapt our behaviors and life in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. Resilience not only involves how we "bounce back" from those experiences, it can also involve a profound personal growth opportunity.
Welcome to the pandemic. Would you like a side of personal growth with your experience?
Here is where the ultimate power of choice kicks in.
Personal growth, let alone PROFOUND personal growth, is uncomfortable and at times can make you want to crawl back into bed and hide under the covers. A few hours, days, weeks, hell even years from now, you can look back on this and recognize the growth. It’s much harder to see it while you are neck deep in the middle of it.
So let's take a moment to pause and check-in.
Are you personally coping with this pandemic? Have you checked in with your team to ask the same question? How about your family?
I encourage you to check yourself if the response “I’m fine” popped up. On one level, it may resonate with someone who knows that what they are experiencing is uncomfortable and annoying, and the fact is, many others in the world have it much worse. (It could also mean they are feeling, “...freaked-out, insecure, neurotic, and emotional”, which is from one of my favorite movies, The Italian Job.)
As the leader of your business, do your own check-in first. Then use the information to check-in with your team, family, and those that are sharing your space right now. You can download my Conversation Guide for Leaders here. This guide is to help leaders in opening up the conversation with their team around learning how to create their own personal resiliency plan and to ask leading questions about their own mental health needs.
Review all the questions below. This is not about who gets the “best” score. Rather, use a scale of 1-10 to answer the questions. You can think of it as a thermometer. You are running a high fever between 1-3; 4-6 fever is still very much there, perhaps you are lethargic because of it; 7-10 no fever and you are gaining your strength every day.
As an example, use the following statements to help find the appropriate number:
(1) representing: I am not coping at all, my world has fallen apart
(5) representing: I will be able to cope...but I need more support
(10) representing: I am coping well. I am optimistic that things are improving.
#1 Are you coping with stress?
How are you personally coping? Give it a number between 1 - 10.
TRUTH - EVERYONE suffers from stress. Knowing and understanding how it affects you, your team, and your loved ones, is the key to moving forward.
Not everyone will experience stress in the same way. While food may be my go to, you may be noticing it in your sleep or in how you are handling your thoughts: more negative self-talk, difficulty concentrating, inability to remember things, excessive worrying.
No one has lived through a pandemic like this. Which means, while some of us may have maneuvered our business through the recession, this is a new animal. ALL of the stressors commonly found in business are hitting us: financial, workload, people/team, and external. All at once and at a greater magnitude than you may have experienced in the past.
To build your resilience muscle, reflect back on past events that were overwhelming. This process can build awareness that YES we have coped with setbacks and overwhelming experiences before, and survived. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What was overwhelming or difficult about this past event?
- What tools did you use to cope? How effective were they?
- Were there any positives in or from this situation?
- What did you learn from the experience?
Your Stress Audit
Time for you to check-in with your own stress levels. Take pen to paper and reflect on these questions:
- What is currently causing the most stress in your life?
- What kind of thoughts go through your head?
- How does your behavior change when you are stressed?
- How does your mood change?
- How do you feel physically?
What kind of support options do you have available? Think about all the areas of your life:
Spouse, parents, friends, family, neighbors, professional advisors, health team, place of worship, groups/associations, community
Of those above, jot a few down that can help you cope with:
- Personal issues
- Business issues
Who can help you have some fun?
Who can help you move your body or improve your health?
#2 How are you dealing with CHANGE?
Change is an opportunity. Probably not the opportunity we were looking for, and definitely not something we had planned for 2020. Nevertheless, it is an opportunity for us to make a choice.
Change is inevitable.
We can NOT control outside events.
We CAN control our reaction to them.
How well have you accepted this situation? Give it a number between 1 - 10.
Use these questions as tools to pry open the door of possibility and see if there is a way to actually embrace change.
- Is there anything I can do about the situation now?
- Are other people experiencing the same challenges? How are they coping?
- Are there parts of this change that I can control?
- Where is the opportunity here?
- Would more information help me cope better with this challenge?
#3 Becoming Your Own Internal Leader
Once we accept change, it allows us to find ways to take back control. The more control we have over our outcome, the lower our stress. Lower our stress, the more effective our communication and the stronger our relationships.
- Have I determined the best and worst case scenarios? (For finance, I call these the bare minimum and your growth target.)
- What could my team do to help solve or alleviate this issue?
- What do I need from my support team?
- What else can I do to improve this situation?
Look at each of these areas and give it a number between 1 - 10.
- Acceptance: have you fully accepted the situation?
- Are you able to remain relatively calm dealing with this situation?
- Are you able to create a focused environment to effectively manage your time?
- Are you able to practice active listening for those around you? (Not only to hear what they say but also to show respect?)
- Have you created a tiered plan to deal with this situation?
- Are you effectively expressing your thoughts and feelings to others?
- Are you able to have assertive communication when it's needed?
- Are you able to break down complex issues or problems into bite-sized, do-able chunks?
#4 Power of Positive Thinking
This is about how to identify and challenge your patterns of thinking. The goal is to shift unhelpful and negative patterns and replace them with helpful, positive ways of thinking. Once again, with personal growth, this is an inside job.
Instead of using the scale above, take pen to paper and ponder these questions.
- Recall a recent situation that was upsetting or difficult. Step into being a news reporter and dive into all the deets. What happened? Where? Who else was involved? When?
- Focus on YOU: What were you feeling? How strong was that mood (use 0-100%)?
- Identify the unhelpful thinking pattern: What was going on in your mind? What thoughts did you have?
- Craft a new pattern: Write an alternative positive thought that could have been more helpful.
- Rate the potential new mood: Tap into that potential new positive thought pattern, then go back and pull up the mood and feelings from above. Rate them again and add any new moods using that 0-100% scale.
Having some challenges finding the positive? Here are a few questions to challenge your negative thoughts:
- Five years from now, as I look back at this situation, will I look at things differently?
- What am I ignoring about my strengths and the positive outcomes that I am currently experiencing?
- Am I blaming myself for things over which I do not have complete control?
#5 Finding Your Balance
Building your personal resilience requires taking care of your overall health. It comes down to a willingness to prioritize yourself. During a crisis we can get out of balance. We can focus all of our waking hours on business and taking care of clients, giving ourselves just a few minutes to take care of our own needs. Sleep can suffer. Relationships can be ignored. While the business is moving forward, the other side of our life can be falling apart. How can you create balance?
Look at each of these areas and give it a number between 1 - 10
- Are you able to relax?
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- How do you think your overall balance is?
- Are you getting enjoyable and adequate amounts of movement or exercise?
- Are you reaching out, talking to others, expressing your thoughts and feelings?
#6 Crafting Your Personal Resilience Plan
Time to put your deep dive into personal growth into action. Don’t just leave all these great insights lingering in your journal, hoping and wishing they resolve themselves!
Today is about crafting an intentional plan and starting to take small actionable steps.
Here are the key areas. What five high level things can you do to increase your personal resilience?
- Taking Care of Your Physical Body
- Changing Your Mindset
- Stress Management
- Life Balance Activities
- Emotional Well-being
Next, be very specific and identify for each:
- Action to take (Ex. meditation for grounding, to start my day)
- Define the ultimate goal - remember small steps make it easier and you get more wins! (Ex. daily, 15 minutes minimum, after my shower before I check any electronic device)
- Potential obstacles - identifying them in advance can ultimately give us more control when they do pop up (Ex. oversleep and have to jump straight into my day because of travel - look at calendar and find first available 15 minute slot; remind myself how much better I am able to function after I meditate)
Make regular time to review your progress on this plan, don't just leave it in a drawer gathering dust. Remember, not unlike your Financial Plan, this is a living breathing document, so be flexible and revisit the plan as situations change!
#7 Reach Out and Ask for Support
Everyone, at some point in their life, needs a little extra support. The work you have done for your personal resilience plan may indicate that you need to seek out a mental health professional. Depression and anxiety isn't something we can just "snap out" of. It often requires the support of a professional. Don't wait. Be proactive in caring for your mental health. Your business, your team, and your loved ones need you in their world.
For those in the US here are a couple resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or live online chat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline 1-877-726-4727, get general information on mental health and locate treatment services. Live person Mon-Fri 8am-8pm ET.
If having a conversation with me would be helpful in providing you some clarity and groundedness during these uncertain times, please schedule a free call. Here’s a link to my online scheduling tool to get started with a 30-minute conversation.