Sustaining your Resilience amidst Uncertainty
The Postdoc Academy team, like many of you, has been adapting to a new normal during the COVID-19 global crisis. At the same time, we have been considering how we could best support our community during this uncertainty. Our team and community has thought deeply about resilience, and it is in reflecting on resilience that we have been reminded of our strength. We think of resilience as a set of skills and habits that prepare us to better cope with, adapt to, and recover from personal and professional challenges. In other words, it’s what we do before, during, and after a challenge.
Below are three short videos and an activity from the Postdoc Academy online course section, “Developing Resilience”. You’ll explore different models of resilience from the literature and hear from our community about the strategies they use to bounce back from challenges and manage stress. We hope this is a short, simple way for you to reflect on resilience in the context of bouncing back and as a way of supporting your well-being going forward.
This was challenging content for our team to put together, because the concepts are connected to things that are deeply personal within us. You might have different ways of thinking about and defining some of the concepts that we have included. That’s okay. This content is for you to both think about the support that you need in your work and personal lives, but also in the areas where you are already resilient. Sharing those strategies might help others who are experiencing similar challenges be more resilient.
While each of us face our own challenges, visa questions, health and wellbeing, and caretaking responsibilities, we’re also facing this new challenge together. We encourage you to connect with and share your reflections with the postdoctoral community using the Slack channel provided below or join the conversation on Twitter with @PostdocAcademy.
Models of Resilience
There are multiple frameworks researchers use when studying resilience that look at different parts of recovering from stress including how to decrease the impact of the stressor, how to improve adaptation from the stress, and how to support the whole process. These frameworks complement one another and provide a fresh look at how to survive with the multiple stresses that we’re all experiencing.
Strategies for Bouncing Back
Listen as our colleagues share their strategies for adapting to and bouncing back from challenges. Although these interviews were filmed before the COVID-19 crisis and some of the strategies might not be easy to implement right now, we hope they inspire you to practice and be nimble in your own resiliency while navigating this new normal.
Here are a few more microactions that our community has implemented over the past few weeks:
- Keeping a “regular” schedule: A decrease in productivity is normal during this crisis. Although we would like to be as productive as possible, it is important to keep in mind that without a change of scenery, a regular 8-5 workday can seem like it will never end. Let go of the guilt of not being as productive as you were before the confinement.
- Try to incorporate regular breaks into your day: This could be a 15-min walk around the block to get some fresh air, an online “dance party”, a quick meditation/breathing exercise session, or a phone call with a family member or friend.
- Plan your meals: If necessary, set an alarm 30 minutes before your lunch break to take the time to prepare something (even if it is a sandwich!) and get your mind off work. Take a lunch break with your family, roommate, kids, and avoid eating in front of your computer!
- Go outside! Fresh air is highly underrated!
- Do something fun: Do you have a hobby that you enjoy? Maybe it’s playing an instrument, painting, baking, or playing games. Do something that brings you joy!
Are there any strategies that you’d like to try?
What strategies do you use that might be helpful for others?
Share your reflections in Slack!
Graph your own Resilience
The current pandemic is not normal. There’s a high degree of uncertainty, and the things we are able to do might not feel like enough. If you’re feeling particularly challenged right now, you are not alone. We encourage you to grant yourself some self-compassion and patience.
Here, we want to think about how our resilience has changed over time. Taking a look at these fluctuations and, more importantly, the strategies that have helped or hindered us in the past, can help us adapt to the new normal and begin to bounce back over time.
Graph your own experiences of resilience in a recent personal or professional challenge up to and/or including today. Use this blank template or you can use a blank sheet of paper. Include the four phases of resilience presented in the video “Models of Resilience”: deterioration, adaptation, recovery, and growth.
Before you begin, consider: the time scale of your graph (days, weeks, or months) and the y-axis label. Examples of the y-axis label could include satisfaction with work-life balance, energy levels, skills, well-being, or productivity.
For some people, it can be helpful to visualize your progress. But it’s not uncommon to be unsure how to draw your recovery and growth, especially if you’re in the adaptation phase. Here are a few examples to help you get started:
After completing your graph, reflect on the strategies you already use to adapt to and bounce back from challenges you have encountered. These are likely small actions (or microactions) that are a great first step to recovering from a stress. What impact do they have on your resilience?
Connect with Postdocs
Creating the Postdoc Academy was as much about sharing professional development resources as it was about supporting the postdoc community. Connect with other postdocs participating in Postdoc Academy activities using this Slack!