Developing Personal Resilience in a Crisis

COVID 19 can only be described as a true crisis – an event we have never experienced before that has caused chaos across society and the economy. This overnight disaster is threatening not only individuals’ lives but the reputational, commercial, and strategic interests of many, if not all, organisations.

People are being asked to live and work in an environment which is unknown, emotionally challenging and frankly, unnerving. In times like these, careers can be made, and professionals offered the opportunity to ‘define’ themselves. So why do some people appear to adapt to stressful situations better than others? Why do some recover from adverse experiences when others don’t? And why do some seem to deal better with change?

We are not talking about stress management; we are talking about personal resilience. Personal resilience can be described as a person’s ability to ‘bounce back’, to recover and respond with commitment and optimism. Resilient people are able to utilise their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and challenges. Even in the face of events that seem utterly unimaginable, resilience allows people to marshal the strength to not just survive but to prosper.

Resilience is not an innate quality which people either have or don’t have.  It can be learned and developed in anyone. Organisations can also develop greater resilience, partly through planning and foresight, but most importantly through their people; resilient teams and employees mean the organisation will be able to function better when things get tough.

How we view adversity and stress strongly affects how we succeed, and this is one of the most significant reasons that having a resilient mindset is so important. Developing resilience is a personal journey involving thoughts, behaviour and actions – anyone can do it.

Below we have highlighted a few key steps to help build and strengthen your resilience through this challenging time.

Know your True North

Having a clear sense of purpose in your work, a belief that the work that you do complements your personal values and plays to your strengths is vital to resilience at work. Holding a clear sense of your values and ‘moral compass’ will help keep you centred when everything around you is changing.


Keep Working on your Emotional Intelligence

A person’s ability to be empathetic in situations of high stress, uncertainty, and worry is incredibly important. Resilient leaders are aware of the emotions and needs of others and the best are willing to lend their time and expertise without expecting anything in return. Allowing yourself time to process, reflect and manage your emotions can help to ensure the best outcome is achieved.  An awareness of your emotions and the ability to control and utilise them in certain situations can set strong leaders apart from weak.


Nurture your Networks

Leaders who stay resilient in challenging times often have a wide network of friends and colleagues to draw on, both to get things done and to provide support. These connections go two ways and there is significant evidence to support the notion that helping others gives us a sense of strength. Helping and sharing insights to genuinely help can not only increase your sense of purpose but can also further cement relationships. Ensuring you build and take care of your network is exceptionally important when working through the ‘bad’.


Look at the Big Picture

Leaders exhibiting resilience can take a step back from a challenging situation and accept its negative aspects while finding opportunity and meaning during adversity. Finding opportunity spurs activity, the setting of goals and the taking of action to achieve them. The act of gaining perspective expands options, empowering rather than disabling, and allows resilient individuals to focus their efforts on factors they can change and accept those they cannot.


Make Time for You

Like now, there will be times or situations in our lives that are more difficult than others. The capacity to look after our mental health during those times is the true test of ‘resilience’. Keeping physically fit, eating well, and giving yourself the time away from work to engage in activities you enjoy enables you to maintain your energy levels and keep a positive outlook.

Of course it is important to acknowledge those of us who manage underlying mental health issues every day. This overnight ‘shake up’ will undoubtedly cause further feelings of anxiety and isolation. If you are struggling to manage during the crisis, please seek help.  Please also take the time to check in with colleagues and friends at this time to ensure that they are coping or to offer support.  We are all in this together.


Through discussions internally at Livingston James and with business leaders in the Scottish market, it is evident that an individual’s resilience, kindness and empathy are key traits praised by all. It goes without saying that these traits will be ever more important in leaders in the world post COVID-19 lockdown.

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