Resilience: How do you survive a COVID Christmas?

Holidays are challenging for some at the best of times, with difficult family ties or even loneliness, and it definitely doesn’t help that there may be enforced isolation now. And some are continuing to work during this time, whilst others are now looking for work.

So how does resilience help in these instances?

Thanks to the following guests for participating:

Christian van Nieuwerburgh, Professor of Positive Psychology and Coaching at the University of East London

Amie Crews, Best Happy Life Hub founder and life coach

Here are some of the resources from the show:

Dr Rick Hanson speaks this year on his channel. Here is the link.

Mark McGuinness speaks to Creative Insurgents:

Dr Susan Kahn speaking on publisher Kogan Page’s YouTube Channel.

Books looked at this week:

Dr Rick Hanson and Forrest Hanson: Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness

Mark McGuinness: Resilient: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success

Dr Susan Kahn: Bounce Back: How to Fail Fast and be Resilient at Work

PS. I do not receive commission for reviewing books and talks.

Transcription

Exploring how we can master ourselves by looking at how experts say it is possible with your host Suswati Basu.

Intro music

Welcome to the fourth episode of How To Be…with me Suswati as your timid presenter, guiding you through life’s tricky skills by taking this learning journey with you.

I’m not sure about you, but I’m fatigued by Covid. It’s been an emotionally and physically draining experience for many, and it only gets more difficult with the holiday period around the corner.

Professor of Positive Psychology and Coaching at the University of East London Christian van Nieuwerburgh says that resilience is an important tool to help us deal with COVID and its implications.

CHRISTIAN VAN NIEUWERBURGH

Holidays are challenging for some at the best of times, with difficult family ties or even loneliness, and it definitely doesn’t help that there may be enforced isolation now. And some are continuing to work during this time, whilst others are now looking for work. So how does resilience help in these instances?

Eminent psychologist and bestselling author Rick Hanson says there are a number of ways to grow resilience in his book Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness, written with his son Forrest. Dr Hanson uses simple techniques and concrete examples to harness the brain’s resources in coping with stress and anxiety.

Here’s some advice he gave this year to deal with the stresses of COVID from his own YouTube channel.

RICK HANSON

The Hansons say in Resilient that the path to well-being and developing resilience begins with self-compassion.

To start learning the art of self-compassion, you need to create repeated experiences of it by bringing past experiences of compassion to the front of your mind, and then focusing on and feeling them as fully as you can. The reason being it apparently lowers your tendency to criticize yourself and, instead, helps you build up self-esteem.

The second is mindfulness which they say will help you stay calm in times of stress, staying in the moment so that you can conserve your energy to resource, recharge, and refuel.

The third is Grit, and if you didn’t listen to last podcast, there’s a fair amount about it there. The reason it helps with resilience is because Dr Hanson says being tough and resourceful is the key to gaining agency, which makes you feel you have some control over what is happening around you. Otherwise you can end up feeling helpless.

They say you can grow your confidence to become Resilient. I’m still on that journey as you may have heard in episode one, so they say to look to your current life to see where you feel cared for and keep thinking about it on a regular basis.

Staying calm is essential for resilience, but if you’re a natural worrier like me, then slowing down your breath can help you relax and stop anxiety in its tracks which helps get the two branches of the nervous system less stressed.

No one quite knows resilience like Louis Zamperini, who’s own life was featured in the motion picture UNBROKEN. Not only was he an Olympic runner, at one point he was lost at sea for 47 days after his bomber aircraft crashed killing all but three only to end up as a prisoner of war in world war two. Here he is speaking during an interview.

UNBROKEN

And whilst this is looking from a different approach, the second book to explore is from poet, consultant, and psychotherapist Mark Mcguinness who wrote Resilient: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success.

What’s interesting about this book is that it is aimed at artists, creative people, dreamers, and entrepreneurs and looks at how to deal with rejection in order to be resilient.

Here’s McGuinness speaking with the Creative Penn about bouncing back from criticism.

MARK MCGUINNESS

McGuinness says in order to make your dreams come true, you have to move past your fear of things going horribly wrong and instead visualise finishing your goal, which can help gain adrenaline to get to the finish line.

He says no doubt, having the resilience to keep going is difficult so the first step is making sure that your dream is something you are truly passionate about.

He adds there’s no sense in taking rejection as a sign of failure when it’s actually a normal part of the journey. Apparently Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, was rejected a dozen times, but King didn’t throw in the towel.

McGuinness also recommends desensitisation, which requires practice and a willingness to continually challenge yourself. The more you do this, the fewer fears and obstacles you’ll have separating you from your dreams. To do this, he suggests visualising getting continually rejected for some of your dreams, but for one or two, imagine being accepted.

Next comes the inevitable and dreaded criticism, where we become our own worst critic. But he says to be a better critic, distance yourself from your work so you can get fresh perspective. In some cases this could be literally.

For example, athletes and performers use video and audio recordings to pick out where improvements are needed. In this way your inner critic works with you rather than against you.

And like in the previous episode about perseverance and grit, McGuinness says the only quality necessary to go after a dream is a willingness to work hard.

Now our final book is by business psychologist Dr Susan Kahn called Bounce Back: How to Fail Fast and be Resilient at Work, where she also talks about gaining resilience through failing time and time again.

SUSAN KAHN

There’s a famous anecdote of Thomas Edison, the inventor of the lightbulb, who regarded each failure as a step in the right direction. All 10,000 times!

Obviously at work, there’s much more at stake if you do this hence she talks about a system to deal with this called Fail Fast. She says if we don’t try, we end up stagnating, which in many ways can be worse, as we’d never innovate as a result. So, the idea of Fail Fast comes into play where the sooner we try something new, the lower the stakes will be if we fail.

Using Freud’s theory about transference and projection, Dr Kahn says your unconscious shapes your behaviour, and exploring your inner motivations can help you become more resilient. 

To do this, she recommends getting into the habit of reflecting on workplace encounters that left you feeling wounded. Jot down everything that hurt you, and see if you can face the painful memory it brought back. Making unconscious thoughts conscious is the best way to break out of unhelpful behavioural patterns. 

And this is my favourite one. Sleep is the key to building physical resilience. Something I’d love to do more of, and do not do.

Resilience isn’t just about positivity she says – it’s also helpful to think about everything that could go wrong. So, anticipate the best, but plan for the worst.

Why do you go to work? It’s not just about food and shelter for some though it’s a huge factor, but it’s also the emotional investment you make in going. Purpose therefore makes us resilient and gets us through periods of hardship. 

But only you can define what kind of work is meaningful. As she mentions the Japanese word of “Ikigai” which means “a reason for being”. So, it’s about finding out your why.

So to sum up:

Dr Hanson’s book Resilient describes making use of your own strengths and resources by building on your secure inner core through creating positive experiences and incorporating them into your daily life

McGuinness’s book on resilience is about learning to cultivate yourself towards rejection and success.

Dr Kahn’s book is about success being paradoxically, embracing failure

I hate the idea of looking at my failures but sometimes doing post-mortems of situations that didn’t go well, can be helpful for the future.

Before we go, here is Best Happy Life Hub founder and life coach Amie Crews on how to use resilience to get through this season. And if you enjoyed this please hit subscribe!

AMIE CREWS

Published by suswatibasu

Suswati Basu is a writer, journalist, producer and feminist activist residing in London. She has written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and the F-Word blogs, and has worked for various media outlets such as the BBC, Channel 4 and for ITV News/ITN. She currently works as a senior intelligence expert.

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