When my kids were in primary school, there was a big focus on teaching resilience in the classroom. The school posted the acronym “BOUNCE BACK” with a tip for each letter of the phrase such as “Bad times don’t last”, “Accept what cannot be changed,” and “Keep things in perspective.” The school made little cards for students to take home; I grabbed one for myself and kept it in my bedside table. I figured I could use a little resilience grooming, too – and that was before the pandemic.
Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from a difficult situation – and we all have it. Our inner-resilience often kicks in without even realizing it – similar to a physical wound that heals itself. Our natural buoyancy is beautifully evolutionary, allowing us to protect ourselves from threats, push through setbacks and carry on with life. Of course, certain wounds hang around longer than others, and some people are naturally more resilient, but we all know what it’s like to feel like we can’t cope with an adverse situation – and then we do.
It’s also part of our evolutionary nature that we are not always able to see through to the other side of our troubles, such as with the current pandemic. We are understandably busy trying to navigate the rules, adapt to working and schooling at home, rebuild a business and watch the news for some glimpse of a roadmap to normalcy. Our default setting is to focus on our challenges.
One exercise to help hone our personal resilience is to reflect on the positive emotions that come with overcoming past adversities. If you look back on your life (or perhaps even today), you can probably quickly come up with a few rough patches you have overcome (give it a try). There are the “big rocks”: trauma, loss, illness, financial difficulties; and the smaller ones: a stomach bug, a broken oven, missing an appointment, a row with your boss. Now try to recall the feeling of getting better, fixing your appliance, or waking up and not feeling so emotional about a workplace encounter- or finding the ability to smile again after a good cry, and putting one foot in front of the other.
When we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, such as this Covid re-run, we tend to ask “will it ever end?” The answer is yes. It will end and we will all bounce back in our own way, even if we have some bruises to show for it. Whilst we each have our own journey through this messy time and different ways of coping- there is truly a common and beautiful resilience that binds us all.
For any Ted Lasso fans, you may recall the scene where the football coach advises a player after a tough encounter to be like a goldfish because they only have a 10-second memory. Certainly, overcoming these times will take more than 10 seconds, but we may be quite surprised at how quickly we rebound to normalcy. When we get to the other side, we should all take a little peek in the rearview mirror to revel in our recovery, even if we have some bumps and scrapes from the experience. Bad times really don’t last – but holding onto that exhale of relief when we come out the other side can sustain us for a lifetime.