Building our resilience during these unprecedented times

Juliette Vigneault-Dubois – 12 May 2020 – Reading Time : 4 minutes


We are experiencing one of the biggest pandemics ever. We do not yet know when it will end but we know it is temporary. How do we connect with our emotions and build our resilience to respond to these uncertain times?

Among the webinar participants, 80% mostly feel positive these days (“good”, “peaceful” or “optimistic”) while 20% are either worried or sad, pointing out a wide range of emotions (survey conducted on the chat of our webinar).

Visuels Webinar Juliette Vigneault

Building our resilience during these unprecedented times


Watch our webinar and discover how to find work-life balance in

confinement and fight isolation.

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to bounce back in difficult times. The German word Widerstandskraft (literally, “strength to withstand”) offers a better approach to the concept. Connecting with our emotions is part of building our resilience.

What happens in our brain during a crisis?

Three brain parts play a role in emotion management:

– The prefrontal cortex, the more complex part, home of abstraction, logic and decision-making;

– The hippocampus, the storage place of our recent memories;

– The amygdala, a tiny but very important part as the emotional alarm system, detecting stress and responding to it.

Fear is an extremely useful emotion. It should not be confused with anxiety, which occurs when fear lasts for too long and the amygdala takes over. Tony Schwartz and Emily Pines describe this time when the demand on our internal resources exceeds our reaction capacity as “allostatic overload”. This may result in breakdown and even burnout.

Understanding our current emotions using the change curve

The change curve model helps us better understand our emotions. Developed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross to describe the phases people go through when they are grieving, it was then adapted to change management. A transition process is somehow like going through grief as we lose something, and we do not know what change will occur and when. The model is relevant for the covid-19 crisis.

“That discomfort you are feeling is grief”, Scott Berinato

The change curve is made of six stages:

  1. Denial: The virus is just a flu and will not affect me. I go on with normal life.
  2. Frustration: I am fed up with self-isolation. Will this ever end?
  3. Sadness: The situation seems hopeless. I empathize with health workers.
  4. Experimenting: If we all stay home, things will get better quickly.
  5. Decision: This will take time. I will figure out how to manage and make the best out of this.
  6. Integration / Acceptance / Meaning (added by David Kessler): There is an opportunity of growth, redirection and family connection.

Sometimes you need to hit the bottom of the swimming pool in order to bounce back”, Nathalie Ducray, Leadership Coach, Chief of Programs @MoovOne

Be mindful! If you are at Stage 5 (“Decision”) and see some opportunities, it is not your task to drag someone from Stage 3 (“Sadness”) towards you. The process is not linear, and the theory may differ in reality, depending on people.

“The universe has a way of protecting itself. We are part of a global healing process”, Ronnie Clifford, Leadership Coach

7 Practical tools and techniques to build our resilience

1) Be mindful with your information intake and processing:

– Manage how you stay informed (how much information do you need?);

– Limit your sources;

– Define the best time of the day.

2) Be mindful with your body and name your emotions:

– Connect with your feelings and body;

– Observe your feelings. Name them using the feelings wheel;

– Raise awareness to better process your emotions.

3) Calm your mind and body with simple tips:

– Breathing exercises;

– Meditation;

– Time in nature (if possible) or wildlife documentary;

– Nature sounds (birds, waves, etc.);

– Body exercises (inside or outside). 

4) Be mindful with your own thoughts:

– Do not believe everything you think;

– Watch what story you are telling yourself (is it actually real or are you catastrophizing and developing worst-case scenarios that have not occurred yet?);

– Do not overthink and make up a better story;

– Play games, watch a movie or read a book.

5) Strengthen your thoughts and focus on purpose and hope:

You can use INSIDE LIFE, a DIY card-set developed by Sabine Ebersberger and Michael Bohne and made of two sets of different cards. INSIDE cards help you connect with your inner feelings while LIFE cards help you focus on purpose and hope. With these strength-giving sentences for unprecedented times, you can build your own mantra!

“We don’t grow in a comfortable environment. We grow on the edge, outside of our comfort zone. And I think most of us might feel outside of our comfort zone right now. So we are all probably learning and growing a lot”, Dr. Michael Bohne, Founder of PEP

6) Focus on the things that you can control or influence and practice gratitude, distinguishing between the Circle of Control, the Circle of Influence (things you can change with the help of others) and Circle of Concern.

“What we need to do know is spatial distancing – not social distancing”, Eva Rosenkranz

7) Evaluate your load. In such challenging times, we have to manage a lot of different things. Remember three easy and useful principles: “Less is more”, “Whatever works” and “Flexible structure”. And to everyone right now, from teams and managers to parents:

– Have open conversations about your priorities and workload to avoid WFH burnout (Work From Home);

Be curious. Don’t assume anything or judge other people. It’s time to connect and collaborate in solidarity with each other!

Working remotely is not the same as working remotely in quarantine!

Last but not least, building our resilience can be as simple as making delicious food, making a routine or looking at a photo album!

To go further:

>  That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief, Harvard Business Review, 23/03/2020

>  One Covid-19 Doctor’s Personal Wellness To-Do List, Medium, 14/03/2020

>  Giving thanks can make you happier, Harvard Health Publishing

>  3 Tips to Avoid WFH Burnout, Harvard Business Review, 03/04/2020

Working From Home Tips, Outwittrade, 16/10/2020

Juliette Vigneault-Dubois
Certified Coach