If you are reading this blog post hoping to find a deep technical discussion about architecting resilient IT infrastructure or a diatribe about finding the best risk mitigation strategy, then let me stop you right here. While all worthy discussions, I wanted to discuss a topic that is very near and dear to my heart… personal resilience. Since we are more than 6 months into a global pandemic, I thought the timing might be right.
I’m sure you have seen and read about the concept of being resilient in life. I’m not talking about making sure IT knows your RTO’s, RPO’s, etc. and has the infrastructure to support those strategies. No, I’m talking about the good ole’ ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’, ‘suck it up buttercup’, ‘more caffeine please’, personal version of resiliency. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in being resilient and teaching our kids to be resilient. But I’m wondering if there comes a point, just like in architecting a recovery solution/strategy, where being too resilient may have diminishing returns.
I think most would agree that we are living in one of the most unique, challenging, tense and demanding times that the world has seen in decades. In one of my last visits with my Mom in her nursing home before being locked down due to COVID-19, I passed by a couple in their early 90’s and we started talking about the pandemic. Without prompting, the husband said he’s never lived through something that was having as much of a global impact as COVID-19…and we were only two months in at that point.
This article shows that 7 out of 10 employees are experiencing the most stressful period of their career. It also highlights the impact to productivity and suggestions for how HR leaders can enhance/alter benefit plans to provide more resources focused on mental health.
I am starting to see the concept of being resilient in our personal and professional lives as almost a badge of honor. It sounds eerily like how we talk about work and the normalization of being a workaholic. Has personal resiliency become synonymous with abandoning taking care of yourself and going until you completely flame out, have a breakdown, damage relationships or worse?
I am seeing this play out with so many people in my life and maybe you have too. You only have to sit through one meeting to hear someone bare their soul about the challenges of being a caregiver, having kids full time schooling at home while both parents try to work from home, etc. I wish this were the exception, but it is not. It’s challenging to thrive with those responsibilities under normal circumstances but when you add being isolated from many of the people and activities that help us decompress, process, and recharge our batteries, it makes surviving, let alone thriving, feel impossible.
While it would be amazing if more employers stepped up their game around stress management and mental health, ultimately our sanity and mental/emotional health is our responsibility. It is up to each one of us to take ownership and actively manage our stress and mental health. Think about the pre-flight instructions we receive that state when then plane experiences a disruptive event, you are supposed to put your mask on first, before helping others. Similarly, we need to care for our mental and emotional health first, so we can continue to be the best spouse, parent, friend, caregiver, employee that we strive to be.
I would implore anyone reading this article to take 10, 15, 60 minutes or whatever you need to take stock of your mental and emotional state. Are you being too resilient and at what cost? Are you actively finding ways to relieve stress in a healthy manner? Do you have a support system in place (friends, family, therapist, congregation) that could help you navigate through this period of chaos and uncertainty? Do you know how to find the resources that can help? It takes courage to know your limits and to ask for support, but the rewards of doing so will far outweigh the impact of doing nothing. Doing it alone and suffering in silence will never produce the results, joy, satisfaction, etc. that fulfills us in life.
For those reading this that are in leadership positions, I would implore you to engage with those you lead and ensure they are active participants with their mental and emotional health. Get creative with your approach (it doesn’t have to break the budget) and listen to your employees. As I write this I am thankful that my employer has just announced they will be giving each employee a monetary gift with the intent that they use it to take care of themselves knowing that these are challenging times. For some that will be massage therapy, for others it will be additional therapist appointments or a dinner out with family/friends. Any gesture big or small will let your employees know that you care about their mental and emotional well-being and that you want to partner with them so they can take the best care of themselves possible.
I hope this article will provide a moment for those reading to do some self-reflection and allow you to evaluate if you have reached the tipping point of personal resiliency. I also hope that it will spark a conversation with employers about their employees, the impacts of this chaotic time and what can be done to continue to support all employees, including those that lead.