Building resilience in uncertain times

How are you doing? By now, you’ve made it through a few weeks of mandated work-from-home and self-isolation (perhaps with kids in the mix too). While life in quarantine isn’t quite “new” anymore, you’re not alone if you’re feeling like it isn’t necessarily getting easier. There’s an undeniable strain to navigating the disruption the pandemic has forced on your work, goals, family and life on a day-to-day basis. As the days turn into weeks, you may be experiencing a layering of emotions and stress.

As a registered psychologist who specializes in career-related issues, tellent contributor Meghan Reid says that stress comes up as a common challenge among her clients. Managing stress by building resilience is often a subject she talks about with them. Resilience is particularly relevant right now, and we were glad to have her in the tellent community to share her thoughts. She shared her perspective on what resilience means and offered tools to help you build your own resilience.

What is resilience?

Put simply, resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or stress. It’s also about personal growth.

Like working a muscle, building resilience is a process that takes practice, intention, and focus on what is within your control.

What does resilience look like? It can look like  having a healthy attitude, positive emotions, emotional intelligence, a sense of self-worth and purpose, and connection with others. 

It is also an ability to challenge your perception of an event, and the meaning you attribute to it. When something has happened to you, do you see it as frustrating or stressful? Or do you perceive it as an opportunity for growth? 

“Resilience comes from inside, and your awareness and perception is what’s going to make the difference.”

Change what you do or think, and change how you feel

Before you can build resilience, you need to first develop an awareness of your thinking, your feelings and your actions – and how they impact each other. It’s what  Meghan refers to as a cognitive behavioural framework. Picture yourself as this triangle:

Emotions are the most difficult to control, so focus instead on your behaviour and thoughts. “In order to make better choices moment to moment, you have to develop a good awareness of how you feel and why, so that your behaviours and your reactions can help you move forward in a positive way,” says Meghan.

When growing your awareness, she suggests paying attention to your thinking, habits and practices. When they’re not serving you, challenge them: 

  • Limiting beliefs: Can you reframe the beliefs if they’re negative?
  • Making excuses and procrastination: When you catch yourself doing this, can you dig into why?
  • Being angry, reactive or on the defensive: Instead, try proactively planning for how you might work through a situation you’re facing.
  • Medicating, avoidance, or escaping: These are coping mechanisms which may not always be positive.
  • Self-consciousness and ruminating: If you’re overthinking, ask yourself, “Is it helpful for me to worry about this? And, is there anything I can do about it?” Most of the time, the answer is no.”

Create a personal success plan

What’s within your control to manage is how you want to feel physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually each day. What do you need to think or do to make you feel good? Meghan recommends putting those thoughts and actions into an intentional, daily plan consisting of small, attainable goals and practices that keep you aligned with the feelings you want to achieve for yourself each day.

Get your “big rocks” into your jar first. When creating your daily plan, identify the most important things you want to accomplish. Stick to about three to five rocks (your bite-sized priority tasks). Next come your pebbles and sand (the less important things in your day). If there’s too much sand, Meghan says, you won’t have space for rocks. Prioritize what really matters for you

For Meghan, her big rocks right now include things like making a healthy meal, or sending out important emails. She also likes to develop her plan at night, to reset from her day and get ready for the next. 

It’s a long game

Resilience is a process and a practice. As you go through your day, Meghan suggests a few strategies to strengthen your resilience and incorporate in your personal success plan:

  • Take breaks: “From a psychological perspective, 90-120 minutes is pretty much the longest that you can go as far as mental focus, clarity and energy,” she says. Reset your energy by taking a pause, whether it’s a coffee break, a book or a quick walk. 
  • Prioritize relationships: Some people like to isolate themselves in times of stress. It’s OK to take time for yourself, but do reach out to connect with those who understand and support you.
  • Practise self-care: Whether it’s a bath, makeup, or putting on “work clothes” even when you’re at home, incorporate rituals and practices that make you feel good.
  • Practise self-compassion: Reflecting on what you did well and being kind to yourself, is as important as reframing your negative thoughts.
  • Helping others: Volunteering can fill your tank with a sense of purpose and empowerment.
  • Be proactive: Plan for how you want to move through the things within your control.
  • Keep things in perspective: If you can identify your irrational thoughts (catastrophizing, worst-case scenarios, or all or nothing thinking) try challenging them. Are they 100% true?
  • Practise acceptance of change: It is what it is. Your ability to accept change and adapt in a way that’s constructive helps strengthen your resilience.
  • Look for the silver lining: How can you see a challenging event from a hopeful or positive lens?

Lastly, Meghan says that when your own resources aren’t enough, seek out help from a friend, counsellor or coach if you’re struggling. If you’d like to connect with Meghan, reach out to her at:

Looking for support, advice and community? Join us in our community platform to connect directly with coaches like Meghan and gain insights from peers.

As a registered psychologist and practice lead of Canada Career Counselling, Meghan Reid helps  individuals make strategic and informed decisions about their careers, so they can feel fulfilled at work and in their lives.