Moving from Fear to Resilience
We have moved from one crisis to another over these past number of years. The problems have been big and the consequences are even bigger. I have lived through many crises over the years, but I don’t remember those being as devastating as the present time. Maybe because communication was slower, we didn’t see the impact of war as it was happening, mass killings, earthquakes, wildfires, or devastating weather patterns. The cost to human lives is astronomical. How do we keep going?
At this point in time when everything is falling apart again how are we doing? We have a few crises that we can choose from, all of which can bring us to our knees. After a year of intense stress, many of us are at the burnout stage and unable to function. Who are the people who experienced this intense stress and fear but have managed to show resilience in a fractured recovery? And who are the people who cannot rally and even function day to day?
How specifically does our mind respond to a crisis? Mindfulness experts Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter, show how the mind responds to a crisis is a choice that we control. All of us are involved in this crisis. We have been witnessing throughout the world, the spread of the Covid virus, and been witnessing and experiencing the spread of worry, anxiety, and instability. Our brain naturally goes to the negative side of any event. Focus and concentration become difficult to maintain. Hougaard and Carter’s study found that 58% of employees reported an inability to regulate their attention at work. Research has shown that as the mind wanders, it gets trapped in patterns and negative thinking. During a time of extreme stress, such as now, the mind becomes even more hooked by obsessive thinking and feelings of fear and helplessness. In this state, a chain reaction occurs. Fear begins to narrow your field of vision, and it becomes harder to see the bigger picture and the creative possibilities in front of you. As our perspective shrinks, so does our tendency to connect with others. Anxiety about getting the virus worries that our loved ones will get it, worries about financial implications, and all the other dark scenarios flooding the news and social media – are large of our own making. Mental resilience, especially in challenging times like now, means managing our minds in a way to face our fear head-on. (Hougaard,R., Carter,J., Mohan,M. Build Your Resilience in the Face of a Crisis. March 19, 2020. Harvard Business Review).
The fear we understand because it has been a part of our lives for a few years now. But learning how to be resilient in the face of fear is a skill we are just incorporating into our lives. Understanding that no matter how devastating this horrible stress can be, we must believe that it will leave us stronger than we were before. But we must be intentional about how this will shape us. Resilience is a responsive agility that intentionally adapts to the compressive stress that we are experiencing to form us into something better, stronger, and more adept. We choose our actions. We cannot control the situation, but we can control our response to it and determine how the outcome affects us. We take some ownership of the crisis and create our own outcome.
These life lessons will always serve us. The knowledge we gather as we experience these difficult events will be available for recall for the next catastrophe. It can serve as our template for surviving the next crisis and allow us to be fearless.