Author: Dr. Zorana Boltić, PMP

Zorana Boltic 

It was a privilege to be able to participate in the first online event organized by the PMI Switzerland Chapter attended by over 100 participants from different countries, including Serbia. Especially in the disruptive environment caused by the pandemic situation, the topic of resilience was very relevant and the participants themselves were able to share different stress factors they might have not experienced before. 

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Even though the challenges we are facing everyday such as workload, uncertainty, frustration and information overload are present in all times, it seems that there is a completely new dimension brought by this crisis. It is therefore obvious that we need to build our resilience now more than ever, as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and toughness we are exposed to severely nowadays.

Resilience and why do we need it?

The panel discussion brought together the professionals devoted to giving back and sharing their ways on how to manage resilience and stress. There was certainly a rich experience on the table in order to help the participants understand what resilience really is for them and discover what works best for each individual.  

If we define the resilience as the capacity to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and bounce back from instability, insecurity and fear, all the panelists agreed that the most important step is to validate these feelings first and begin with the awareness about our emotions. It’s only then we can enable ourselves to think about things we can control, since resilience may as well be perceived as a kind of “psychological personal protective equipment” where we learn to focus our attention to what is important to us. It is also a concept of transformation and an opportunity to become a better self.

“Being” before “doing”

How do we practice then and what do we actually need to do to build our resilience? The discussion led to a common conclusion that the starting point is always to understand what makes us stressed and then think about what we can control in order to decide what to focus on and make the actual shift towards learning. This means that before jumping into strategies, it is of the utmost importance to deal with “being” before “doing” and pay attention to reasons why the feeling is there rather than thinking about how to get rid of the emotion. Even if we split resilience into physical, mental, psychological or even spiritual, the main tool to deal with it is acceptance. This is how we nourish ourselves on all these levels before implementing the actual fixing mechanisms. Only after reaching the state of acceptance, can we turn our attention to what we can control, where sometimes creating rituals to reduce uncertainty can help, as well as using the agile mindset to develop sustainable strategies that work best for us through iterations. On the other hand, the question may arise what to do with things that we realize are not under our control? All the panelists agreed that pushing those back only makes them stronger, emphasizing that acceptance is key and that whatever we decide to focus on can become our reality if we embrace the change and manage to release the worst case scenarios we can imagine.   

Practical advice you can use today

There was a lot of practical advice from the panelists on how to use our micro skills and introduce them into our daily routines, such as “taking the frustrations for a run”, making micropauses in this greater pause and practicing different habits in order to develop positive patterns in our brains. 

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Visualization was suggested as a technique to apply in micropauses and a short exercise was a valuable gift from one of the panelists. It was an extraordinary experience that made me realize how words can be powerful in employing all our senses resulting in a truly liberating state of mind. Some coping strategies were also shared by the participants, such as walking, yoga, jogging and meditation, as well as supporting applications proposed by the panelists like Headspace and Yoga Nidra, Loving Kindness Meditation to cultivate compassion and build resilience.

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The panel was closed summarizing some of the main points to keep in mind for managing our resilience successfully encouraging the participants to acknowledge their emotions, understand what is behind, reframe and take advantage of the situation. The importance of faith was also emphasized at the end because it means trusting ourselves that we can handle things and that we are in fact able to connect to our creative side, always ensuring space holders to improve. In conclusion, a good piece of advice is accepting “one foot in front of the other”, which is something most of us are not used to. On the other hand, once we connect our purpose to our values and what is important to us, we minimize the risk that this will be determined by external factors, accepting the ownership of taking care of ourselves.