The COVID-19 pandemic saw 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. report symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder. That’s an increase from 1 in 10 in 2019. One of the fallouts of staying indoors for long periods, the inability to socialize or even meet family, has been depression, anxiety, and a pervasive sense of fear. Many have experienced uncertainty over job security, health, and safety, while continuing to go through a seemingly relentless routine of taking care of children and their education, working from home, and constantly being online. As a result, many people are finding it difficult to perform what were once common sense behaviors or normal tasks.

Resilience, the ability to cope with and overcome stressful situations, is not an innate trait. It builds in us as we go through life – the result of myriad experiences and situations we face. Mental toughness is a combination of factors, like risk-taking ability, an optimistic attitude, self-confidence, and a tolerance for uncertainty. But even those with a more developed sense of resilience are having a tough time in the wake of COVID-19.

What can organizations do?

Organizations can promote employees’ mental health and wellbeing, and take steps to prevent burnout and depression. Mental resilience is a skill, a combination of behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be taught and learned. It develops with practice.

Enter resilience training – organizations can help the workforce build their resilience muscle with digital health initiatives and coaching. This could increase productivity, reduce stress and anxiety levels, and enable employees to cope better with demanding situations.

Embodying and rewarding resilience initiatives

  • Lead by example. Managers and leaders can demonstrate their commitment to resilience training initiatives. One way is to speak openly about their own struggles during the pandemic and discuss the need for building resilience. Letting employees know that they can share (but not forcing it) their anxieties is a good way to foster a sense of community and create a safe space for honest conversations.
  • Reward action. Once resilience training initiatives are in place, ask team members to block an hour each week during office hours to focus on digital training sessions and wellness activities. Incentivize and reward those who complete resilience training to motivate fellow employees.
  • Share resilience resources. Many digital wellness apps such as Happify, meQuilibrium, Headspace, Big Health, and myStrength have tools to relax, meditate, and calm the mind. Encourage employees to download and use them.

Building resilience is particularly essential, as we need to adapt to life in the new normal. The pandemic has altered familiar ways of working and living, and the changes could play out in different ways over a period. By stressing the need for overall wellbeing and putting in place measures for safeguarding mental health – ranging from talking about mental health to allowing time off for self-care – leaders can nudge their teams to give resilience its due importance.

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