Rolling with the Punches

Battling a VUCA State with Emotional Resilience

I spend some days without ever seeing a real person. Some days I don’t know what to do with myself, what to work on, where to focus my attention. Other days I only want to play games and be frivolous. My connection to loved ones is usually through a screen- smiling distantly across Zoom or texting inspiring thoughts, laughs or ‘thinking about you’s.’ I’m happy and grateful. I’m frustrated. I’m curious and creative. I’m lonely and depressed. I’m anxious.

Sound familiar? You don’t need an anxiety or depression disorder to be feeling the mental-emotional stress that 2020 has crash-landed into our lives. It is helpful – speaking from experience- but not required. Sipping from a world cocktail whose ingredients include everything from global pandemic to locusts in east Africa, can make just getting out of bed feel like a victory. If so, then I applaud your victory- and so should you.

“A third of Americans now show signs of clinical anxiety or depression.

-American Census Bureau, May 2020

Psychotherapist and member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Kathryn Kinmond, believes that uncertainty is a key driver of anxiety.

It is irrefutable that life continues shifting, transforming and changing, and that we must face those changes and the VUCA state (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) with fortitude and forgiveness. If we are to continue to thrive and do more than simply rise from bed, we need to develop the art of  emotional resilience within ourselves and those around us.

“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.” 

― Roger Crawford, NCAA Hall of Fame athlete & inspirational speaker

Resilience is derived from the Latin ‘re’ and ‘salire’ meaning to jump back. Emotional resilience (ER) however is less about quickly bouncing back and more about bounding gently but steadily forward; it’s the fortitude that helps us power through a storm and maintain a steady sail, especially when we’d assumed fair weather ahead. At such moments, emotional resilience can mean the difference between failing or flourishing, much like it did for the crew of Apollo 13 in 1970 when a routine maintenance checks went awry. The good news is that we don’t need NASA training to build greater emotional resilience, merely a mindful practice.

While there are a few factors that can influence ER – age, gender, upbringing and exposure to trauma- we can all improve our emotional resilience by building the following competencies:

  • Awareness

  • Acceptance

  • Adaptability

  • Alliance

These are all skills we currently possess, but when triggered, may leave behind in the emotional upheaval that ensues. True, you won’t need astronaut training to build these, but you could take a theatrical improv course, since they are foundational competencies of every improviser.

You can also contact me for my next installment on emotional resilience: Breathe, Balance, Bound and Blossom- How to Increase Your Emotional Resilience

In the meantime, do something that brings you comfort, ease and connection. My recommendation: reach out to a friend and find something to laugh at together.

“As soap is to the body, so laughter is to the soul.”