by Charles Watkins

Creating Resilience In A Crisis

Working remotely from home or spending longer times at sea is challenging. And uncertainty about restrictions implemented during the COVID-19 outbreak add even more stress to the new situation. New questions will arise as we slowly get used to the office environment once again. Now, three protective factors are significant in determining strong and healthy resilience: high levels of confidence in your own abilities, disciplined routines for your work, and family and social support.

In order to inspire and strengthen confidence in ones’ own abilities, we need to part ways with a deficit oriented working environment. We must invite a “let’s cherish our mistakes and create learning opportunities for everyone” style. This allows people to be less stressed to try new things that may very well improve and redefine the challenges of working from home. Mistakes are going to happen in a new working environment. But, the constant fear of making mistakes can often lead to feeling stressed out and fatigued.

Therefore, showing compassion, helping each other out, and proactively giving positive feedback can really make a big difference during these times, and can help with the adjustment period after the crisis is over. These are times where we need creativity in office and at home. The environment for creativity is highly dependable on being able to make mistakes and to feel free to try new ways of doing things. We can invite creative solutions by creating an environment free of fear. If we can reframe mistakes as opportunities to learn, we can build a creative friendly environment.

At sea, mistakes can be dangerous. Therefore, it is more important to decrease stress beforehand by assuring an inspiring and motivational style of communication based on positive feedback and checking in frequently with everybody. The more we allow an interchange of information on well-being, the higher the likelihood of spotting someone who is acting differently or is just not well rested for example.  During times of uncertainty and high stress, it is advisable to increase the interchange feedback loop to spot people struggling before mistakes happen. In early stages of fatigue or stress, people may just need a day off to balance things out . This is how early interventions in early stages can prevent more serious effects in the long run.

Some people have a naturally high resilience for stress, and having this advantage can be great for the entire team. However, it may feel natural to work more hours than necessary during this crisis, and the danger of not taking care of oneself persists. This may quickly lead to extreme high levels of stress and burn-out symptoms. So, implementing work routines and sticking to them is very important during these times. But, it is just as important to connect among each other to problem solve and share ideas.

Balancing a healthy work load combined with high connectivity among colleagues and friends can have a comforting and assuring effect on individuals working form home and at sea. And remember, if we ask for help or if we are the ones doing the helping - both scenarios increase our resilience through our built in stress response mechanism.

Current neurobiological studies indicate that the anxiety we experience because of COVID-19 will naturally narrow our ability to see our future and envision creative solutions to our problems. However, there are things we can do to compensate this development. First of all, be open about sharing thoughts and accepting things as they are now. This gives us a realistic perspective, which helps with building resilience.

Again, connecting with colleagues and identifying people that have a natural knack or hidden talents for creative solutions, IT solutions, or management solutions can give people confidence and can create new opportunities for resilient teams to grow and get stronger together. We can all create a resilience indicator table to see how our protective factors line up. Let’s use this as an opportunity to grow, learn from mistakes quickly, and to strengthen our resilience in this crisis.

Charles Watkins
MHSS

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