How to Be More Resilient in a Time of Anxiety and Shared Fear

By Pam Boiros
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The world was already a tough place before a global pandemic — one at the scale we’ve not seen for a century — paralyzed people, businesses and economies. And since the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020, we’ve only seen a pile-on of pressure: social unrest fueled by racial injustice, a disrupted school year for students of all ages, and a contentious election due to a polarized electorate. No wonder why anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders have reached record levels.  If you’re asking the tough questions about how resilient your business is, it really boils down to how resilient are your people?

We’re all living through a mass trauma event.  There is global anxiety and shared fear — everyone is facing the same extreme and prolonged state of uncertainty.  We may not always be able to control the outcome of a situation, but we can control our response to it. So, while any one person can do little to control the impact of the virus, everyone can help themselves, their colleagues, their families and our communities by controlling reactions and the response. This is called resilience.

Resilience gives us the tools to get through challenging situations: managing stress, anxiety and worst-case thinking.  Resilience is not just a buzzword. It’s a set of learnable skills — proven by science — that enable us to be agile and to manage through adverse, fast-changing and difficult situations such as those we are facing now.

Each employee in an organization is important and has a role to play: Everyone plays a part in making decisions based on facts rather than emotional reactions.  Otherwise, everything from high-level goals to operating practices can be at risk.  If every person strives to be resilient as an individual, this will create resilience in the organization.

Here are four specific actions for individuals, teams, and leaders:

  1. Keep Your Emotions in Check. COVID-19 has our brains pinging on “future threat” driving anxiety and shared fear. Stay calm and work to keep your emotions in check, particularly anxiety, which wants to take center stage. Work to catch those anxious thoughts before they spiral, and reframe them into more realistic, probable outcomes.
  2. Remain Realistic. People will begin to catastrophize in extreme situations. It’s a natural response that’s rooted in self-preservation. But when you focus on the worst-case scenario, you allot the majority of your energy to worrying about something that hasn’t actually happened yet. At the same time, there may be other possible outcomes and choices at your disposal that you’re not seeing. Complete this sentence out loud: “I’m afraid that _______.” Is it a realistic outcome or is it a more extreme scenario that may be less likely to happen? If it’s a real fear, what’s one action you can take right now to feel more in control and less a victim of circumstance? Write it down, schedule it, and do it.
  3. Practice Empathy. While our fear responses may escalate beyond reason, the fear response itself is normal. By definition, empathy involves taking the perspective of another, which will help everyone feel less alone in whatever feeling they are experiencing. Try to be candid and supportive to the people around you.
  4. Be Adaptive. Working smart means making informed adjustments based on the information you have. Limit the amount of energy spent on speculation. Use mindfulness to stay in the moment. Remember to breathe throughout the day, and consider taking a moment before your meetings to pause, breathe and focus. We can only control today, this moment. Using simple breathing mindfulness techniques or meditation will serve to bring us back to the present, calm the mind, and reduce your stress.

 

Pam Boiros is the Chief Marketing Officer at meQuilibrium, the leading digital solution for building resilience at scale at leading enterprises.  Based on over 25 years of scientific research, resilience is proven to be a measurable, learnable set of foundational skills which positively impact health and performance.  meQuilibrium’s personalized digital journey comprised of skills and activities builds a habituated, protective shield and positively influences thinking and behaviors.  meQuilibrium supports individuals, teams/leaders, and enterprises as a whole handle stress, anxiety, and burnout.  This results in measurable ROI, improving wellbeing, engagement, and overall performance.