Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It is thought of as toughness and the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, or significant sources of stress – such as living through a global pandemic. We think of resilience as the ability to move through and overcome these difficult experiences, but it can also involve profound personal growth.
In the beginning of the pandemic, most of us were experiencing an adrenaline-fueled response. This meant we were experiencing an arousal response, which for many created a fighting spirit and the act of pulling together. Trainers who work with behaviour will have a good understanding of the effects of over-arousal; increased frustration, reduced cognitive ability and exhaustion. Many of us have moved onto this stage and are experiencing what is commonly referred to as pandemic fatigue. As we move into the New Year, it is an ideal time to understand how to build our resiliency, foster new growth and avoid burnout.
Resiliency is not a trait that only some people possess. It is something that we can build through our thoughts, actions and behaviours. What are some ways we can develop our resiliency as we move into 2021?
Connect with Others
The pandemic has changed how we connect, and those connections have become more meaningful than ever. Make the time to reach out to family and friends. Organize virtual coffee dates, meals and/or game time. Join communities or become more active in the ones you are involved in. Connect with like-minded people who share your interests and leave you feeling uplifted and supported. We may not be able to connect physically but that does not mean we have to be alone. One of my favourite ways to connect with others right now is going for a walk with the dogs. It’s easy to social-distance and it’s a mood-boosting activity for us and our dogs.
If you run a business, take this time to find new ways to connect with your clients. Send out a regular newsletter, email follow-ups, create an online community and engage with them more via social media. This time has enabled our industry to advance further online and people are looking for new ways to engage with others and learn new skills. Take advantage of this time when so many dog owners are looking for virtual support.
Research has shown that stress management and building resilience can be enhanced by serving and connecting with others in need.1 Helping others helps us gain different perspectives which often enable us to experience more gratitude. Serving those in need also aids in reducing stress, improving empathy and compassion, and reducing mortality rates. With so many ways to help such as monetary donations, volunteering your time and/or sharing your knowledge and expertise, it’s easy to find ways to give back to cause(s) that are meaningful to you.
Giving back is good for business as well. I recommend outlining plans for doing good and social initiatives within your strategic plan and goals for 2021. More people and communities are looking to business to lead social initiatives. It builds resilience for the business, stronger relationships with the community and improves morale. Some ways we can help in our industry is to raise funds, collect donations, volunteer our time, create awareness, share resources, and offer our expertise to not-for-profits helping dogs or any organization that is assisting your community. I highly recommend Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take, to learn more about why giving back is not only good for us but also leads to greater success.
Practice Self Care
We have all heard about the importance of self-care to help manage stress. It also helps build resiliency and goes far beyond treating ourselves to a nice spa experience. One of the most important lessons from 2020 for me was that I needed to prioritize self-care to ensure I could lead my team effectively and to achieve what was required of me to navigate the challenges brought on by the pandemic. This included getting proper sleep, maintaining healthy habits, getting regular physical exercise, meditation, getting outdoors, and enjoying regular time in a bubble bath or curled up reading a book.
Another part of self-care I consider to be important is how kind we are to ourselves. It has been an incredibly challenging year. How are you reflecting on this past year? It is not about what you have accomplished but what you’ve learned. It is ok to not do anything. It is ok if you’ve been exhausted and have not been as productive as you would have liked. Be kind to yourself. Forgive any mistakes and turn them into lessons. Getting through the year is an incredible accomplishment in itself. You made it through 2020. Celebrate that, practice gratitude and take care of you.
The topic of self care is a big one but my best word of advice is to schedule it in your calendar for 2021. I have a morning routine focused on self care to start each day. I schedule my walks with my dog, exercise, time unplugged, social time with friends and family, exploring my hobbies and purposeful downtime. I continually improve how I schedule my time and ensure I commit to myself as much as I do to my work. It has enabled me to be more productive, less stressed and build resilience.
You are not alone. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. If you are struggling, reach out to those around you for support. Connect with the dog training community. Join a business or professional group. Hire a business coach. Outsource areas of your business that you do not enjoy or are not good at. If you have team, delegate. You cannot control all of your circumstances, but you can grow by focusing on the challenges you can manage with the support of loved ones and trusted professionals.
Seek professional help if you are struggling. A licensed medical health professional such as a psychologist can help you to develop an appropriate strategy for moving forward. A list of resources in Canada can be found at https://www.ccmhs-ccsms.ca/mental-health-resources-1.
Building resiliency takes time and practice. It is a lifetime journey and the only guarantee is that change and challenges are inevitable. We will get through this and can already see the positive impact it will have on our industry – stronger connections, a high demand for our services and the ability to offer more revenue streams through online services. Let’s focus on supporting each other, helping pet owners and self care for a strong and successful 2021!