Increasing deaths.

Lately, these are words we cannot escape from. Understandably, we are experiencing an incredible amount of uncertainty during this time. As a generation and global community, we have not experienced this before. No doubt, for many, there is a lot of fear and anxiety.

Will I get an infection? Would I pass it onto my loved ones? Will I lose my job? Will I ever be able to buy flour at the supermarket?


Emotional or psychological resilience basically refers to our ability to endure stressful events, without being overwhelmed by them. Through cognitive and behaviour skills training we can improve resilience and prepare ourselves to cope better with future adversity.

Donald J. Robertson

Recently, we had a webinar about resilience at work and I thought that given the pandemic, it was the perfect opportunity to reflect and explore the different ways to build resilience. Having done a quick questionnaire, it turns out that I don’t have much cognitive hardiness (not all that surprising but does hurt the pride a bit!).

Cognitive Hardiness

Cognitive Hardiness refers to a specific set of attitudes or beliefs about work and life that are relatively enduring from day-to-day. It includes the following:

  • a sense of commitment and strong interest towards work, family, hobbies or projects and whether there are things that you look forward to doing
  • a sense of belonging with your friends, work and family
  • life changes are seen as challenging rather than threatening
  • a sense of belief that you have control over your life, where what you do is relative to what you achieve
  • individuals who have coping behaviours and possess a strong sense of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Some of us may be resilient already, therefore, there is not a lot more to work on. For those, like me, that do not have the traits above, it does mean we need to give up on ourselves, as there are ways to build resilience.

Building Resilience

  • Re-frame – If you are feeling overwhelmed, this is the time to step back, assess your situation with as much objectivity as you can and re-frame the problem/stress at hand. Try not to personalise the issue.
    • How bad is this problem?
    • What is the worst thing that can happen?
  • Control – there will be a lot of things that we cannot control. Looking at the situation, identify what is within your circle of control and take back control. A lot of the time it may be recognising and controlling your reactions vs. not being able to control the situation or what someone has said.
  • Share – During this difficult time, make the effort to connect with friends, family and community. Though it is difficult now to see people physically, in this age of technology there are countless different apps to connect you to someone. Be vulnerable and reach out first when you need to speak to someone. Talking on the phone with my best friends always makes my day better.
  • Sleep – for many, we no longer need to commute, so why not take that time to sleep more. Letting your mind recuperate and process each day is extremely important. Want to know more, try reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.
  • Explore – explore your feelings and don’t repress it. If it gets too much, try to be present at the moment. Whether this is grounding yourself or taking time to meditate, take that time to recover when you need it.

Option B

As part of trying to understand more about resilience, I read Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s book, Option B. I have yet to explore the website but they have put up a new page in light of COVID-19. I didn’t think the book particularly helped with building resilience as the book is not a “how-to guide” and did not provide concrete actions.

However, I would recommend this book to anyone that has lost a loved one or how to be the supportive friend in times like these. Sadly and inevitably, we will know someone within our network that will have lost someone to COVID-19. I think this book is a great book to work through grief and understand loss.

After reading the book, heart-breakingly, I had a good friend who lost her husband, after a long illness. From the book, I learnt that I should not shy away from talking to her (the easy way out, thinking I will be in the way) and offered an open invitation for her to call me at any hour.

One of the key things that I learn from the book was that there are three P’s that can stunt recovery:

  1. Personalisation – the belief that we are at fault. It’s my fault this is awful.
  2. Pervasiveness – the belief an event will affect all areas of our life. My whole life is awful.
  3. Permanence – the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last. It’s always going to be awful.

This framework is useful when we try to re-frame the issue or problem we are facing. Do not apologise for things that are not within your control, as you are personalising the problem. Build a routine and recognise that your feeling should not touch every aspect of your life. The hardest is most likely to be permanence, but rest assured, this everything gets easier over time.

Let us all support each other to build resilience, and as Sheryl said it, let us bounce forward and find joy again.

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