Recently at the start of workshops I have run, I have been asking the audience to take a moment to consider how they’re feeling at that very moment… The words that come to mind are typed onto their phones, which are then displayed anonymously on the screen as a word cloud, for all to see like the image below (which is an example from a session with a group last week).

Each time I have undertaken this activity, what I have found is that there’s always a range of emotions expressed. Some are negative (i.e. tired, unmotivated, flat, sad etc.), and then there are the others, which are quite positive (i.e. optimistic, lucky, productive, happy, energised etc.). The larger the words appear, the more frequently they have been captured by individuals.

With the teams, I then discuss what’s displayed and explain that it’s normal to see a range of emotions experienced by a group at any one time.

Why is this the case?

Well right now, we’re all facing the same storm, but we’re doing so in different boats…

“We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm.” That summation of our current situation originally came from Damian Barr (the illustration is by Barbara Kelley), who suggested that some of us will sail through this pandemic with our health and jobs intact, yet others will lose one or both, or potentially more.

This analogy has resonated with a number of people to date. For me, I use it as a way of explaining why others may be fairing better or worse than you at the moment. And if this is the case, it might be worth considering what type of boat they’re in….

Some may be on a yacht, others are in tinnies. Some have a substantial crew on board, others are rowing alone. Some have oars, others don’t even have a working rudder…

And it seems that those with life jackets (i.e. higher resilience) are withstanding the challenges of this pandemic better than those, who are less resilient.

What is resilience?

Dr. Karen Reivich, the Director of Training at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, defines resilience as “the ability to navigate adversity and grow through challenges.”

Although what strengthens our resilience is different for everyone, a good starting point (as backed up by evidence) is to focus on learning to be more optimistic, adopting a growth mindset, boosting positive emotions, leveraging strengths, connecting with others that offer support and having a sense of purpose.

So if you’re finding yourself on the verge of capsizing, have a think about the internal and external resources that you have available to stop you from sinking, and try and weave them into your daily routine as much as possible. There may also be additional resources that you need to build to boost your resilience, which should be prioritised to help you navigate the challenges ahead.

This Thursday 10th September is R U OK? Day in Australia so it’s as good a time as any to have a conversation with someone else about how they’re going, but most importantly don’t forget to check-in with yourself too and ask “Am I OK?” and what do I need to be better?