When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the extension to the nationwide lockdown, we were all forced to find internal resources to manage our stress, and our worries about the effect this will have on our companies, the South African economy, and our country as a whole. What we all need now is strategies to build resilience in the face of uncertainty, and to find ways to not only cope, but to thrive through this adversity.

This article will outline how South Africa is already a resilient nation, and will make you aware of the five most common pitfalls that impair resilience, and that reduce our ability to manage and grow from adversity.

South Africans Are Already Resilient

Because of our challenging and tumultuous past, South Africans have developed an incredible level of resilience, compared to other nations. According to the 2019 FM Global Resilience Index, South Africa ranks number 47. Updated annually, the FM Global Resilience Index is the only tool that compares risk in nearly 130 countries. While you may wish South Africa featured higher up on the scale, it’s important to note that we’re within the second quartile, which for a small developing nation really puts us on the map. The FM Global Resilience Index assesses businesses in different countries according to the following measures:

  • Economic Resilience
  • Risk Quality
  • Supply Chain

It’s estimated that the coronavirus pandemic will potentially cause an estimated drop in our economy of between 2% and 4%, which is extremely high. However, we have the ability to bounce back from this tragic global pandemic.

South Africa has a highly innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. We have overcome many challenges in the past, and have continued to grow despite our many setbacks.

We have the capacity, the energy and the will to overcome this global shutdown by further strengthening our resources, and building resilience in the face of uncertainty.

Watch Out: The Five Pitfalls that Impair Resilience

Resilience is one of those traits that we admire in others, and often wish we had more of in ourselves. It’s a key ingredient that we use as a buffer to ensure that we don’t spiral downwards too much when challenges or traumas happen. Resilience is a crucial coping tool that helps us to manage daily life with much more ease. Most of us learn to become resilient through life experiences, but how can you start building resilience in the face of uncertainty right now? A powerful way is to start noticing these five pitfalls.

1. Jumping to conclusions

At times like these, we’re being asked to slow down and not act in haste. While it may be extremely challenging to make decisions during this time of uncertainty, it’s important to remind ourselves that we must not respond reactively.

We don’t have the facts, and we don’t have a blueprint for how to manage these uncharted waters. Rather, we need to keep our cool and not make rash decisions or come to unsubstantiated conclusions.

Become aware of where you may be falling into this trap. Not only does it impact your mental health, but acting reactively can prevent you from being resilient and moving in the right direction with conviction and with confidence.

2. Tunnel vision

In times of stress, it’s normal for the human brain to go into fight-or-flight mode. When we’re in a place of fear, we’re not able to see the bigger picture, and can quickly only see doom and gloom, or the worst-case scenario.

While preparing for the worst may seem like your only option, it’s important to remember to take a step back and to look at the bigger picture. Look for ways to innovate, solve problems, and respond with resilience rather than with fearful tunnel vision.

Use this opportunity to learn to be open-minded. Direct your energy towards innovative and strategic conversations based on resilience, forward-thinking, and your organisation’s vision for the future.

3. Personalising

While the coronavirus pandemic is a global issue, we can still make the mistake of personalising it, and thus reducing our capacity for resilience – and tolerance.

When we personalise things, we will only see our own faults and how we have not been proactive or resourceful enough to prepare for what’s happening. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to remind ourselves that no one knew this would happen, and no one could have adequately prepared for this uncertainty.

You and your organisation are not the problem! We’re all in this together, and there is nothing you could have done that would have prevented the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

4. Externalising

This is one of the most common pitfalls. Externalising is the process of blaming outside factors for the problem, and not considering your own contribution to either the problem, or the solution.

At times such as these, it’s easy to look at authority figures and government officials with a magnifying glass, seeking the faults in their actions, and only putting a negative perspective on how the situation is being managed.

A key part of building resilience is being aware of the positive aspects of adversity, remaining optimistic, and finding the lessons in the challenges. The best way to get around this pitfall is to pause when you feel like criticising the actions being taken by decision makers, and be humble and proactive about how your actions could help to improve things. We’re all affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s up to each of us to look for solutions and to develop strategies to manage this situation.

5. Assuming

While this may be the hardest pitfall to avoid, we need to become aware of what we assume others are thinking or feeling. The truth is we’re all responsible for our own well- being, resilience, and solutions. There is no advice you can give another person right now. If you feel you have advice to give, perhaps it’s YOU that needs to hear it.

Be careful of telling others how you think they should be managing their stress or feelings. Don’t assume that you know or understand. Take responsibility for your own situation, and find your best strategies for managing this uncertainty.

In Conclusion

At this time of nationwide lockdown and ever-increasing uncertainty, resilience is our best resource for managing stress and finding positive solutions and ways forward. As South Africans, we’re already a resilient nation. We’re enthusiastic, optimistic, and creative, and we need to harness these strengths during this time.

These are some key behaviours and limiting beliefs which we need to become aware of. We need to preserve our energy and maintain our well-being, individually, organisationally, and collectively in order to manage this uncertainty. Remember to keep a check on these things, and in return you’ll be giving yourself greater resources to build resilience and bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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