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Bouncing back to a new normal

Updated: Nov 22, 2021

When I applied for Doctoral training I expected my working days to mostly be spent working with NHS clients face to face, maybe with a few group sessions, staff consultations and the odd learning event. Until now, that has pretty much been the case, whether in a clinic, people’s homes, hospital or prison.

Fast forward three years and here I am, on my final 6-month placement working from my dining room. Covid-19 has made it impossible for most of us to do the jobs we know. We cannot work in the ways that we are used to. We have been thrown off track.

What is Resilience?

The concept of resilience has been around for decades. But our understanding of what this means continues to change.

During the 1970s, researchers sought to understand the development and prevention of psychopathology amongst those experiencing adverse events or issues such as poverty, trauma or disaster. Those who did not experience maladaptive outcomes or bounced back quickly following deterioration in functioning were considered resilient (Chapman et al., 2020)

The ‘what’ had, in a sense, been established and these definitions stuck. A quick search on google shows a definition of resilience as ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.’

However, over time, there has been a shift away from the idea of resilience as a fixed trait, characteristic or innate ‘capacity’. It is not something that we either have or don’t have. Resilience is an interactive process; something that changes, that depends on context and that can be learned and developed. That is not to say that the experiences that we have been through in our lives, our genetic makeup and our neurobiology don’t have an effect on how we are impacted by adversity. But there are so many other factors involved.

It is not something that we either have or don't have.

Resilience as a quality of the environment

“The widely held view of resiliency as an individual disposition, family trait, or community phenomenon is insufficient . . . resiliency cannot be understood or improved in significant ways by merely focusing on these individual-level factors.” (Seccombe, 2002; p.385)

As humans, we do not exist in isolation (although it might feel like it during lock down). We are social beings. Therefore, resilience is not just about us as individuals. It includes our families, teams and the organisations within which we work, as well as our communities and society as a whole.

We cannot bounce back

Words associated with resilience such as ‘bounce back’ or ‘recover’ suggest a return to a previous optimal or ‘normal’ state. But what if the adversity means that as individuals, teams and organisations, we can not return to these previous levels of functioning?

There is so much uncertainty as to what the future holds and how Covid-19 will continue to effect our day to day lives. But one thing that is certain is that we will not be bouncing back any time soon to our pre-Covid lives. We are instead faced with the challenge of adapting.

What if the adversity means that as individuals, teams and organisations, we can not return to these previous levels of functioning?

How do we adapt?

Dale Carnegie & Associates published a white paper on developing a resilient workforce, in which they outlined a number of ways of building resilience at an organisational, team and individual level.

Amidst all of the uncertainty, we can think of this as an unplanned, unexpected, but exciting opportunity. An opportunity to learn new skills (like blog writing!), try new things and challenge ourselves to do things differently.

During lockdown, individuals and businesses have adapted. Pubs have delivered roast dinners to our doors. Musicians have recorded new songs from their front rooms, collaborating with artists from around the world. Gyms have live-streamed home workouts. Museums have launched virtual tours. The list could go on. People have come together and adapted into new ways of working.

Looking forwards

As psychologists at Amplify-yp, we are providing learning events via webinars, writing blogs and offering consultation and support via phone and video call. These new ways of working can push us out of our comfort zone, bringing with them feelings of anxiety. But we can do new and anxiety-provoking things with the knowledge that over time, they will become more comfortable and even enjoyable!

People have come together to create new and exciting opportunities.

As my clinical training draws to an end, the future of clinical psychology is uncertain but exciting. Of course there is still an important place for traditional therapy, but our primary role is no longer working 1:1 with clients face to face. Even when it is safe and we are allowed to work in this way again, the option of working differently will provide the flexibility that will surely enable more people to access support. That can only be a good thing.

For many of us, it is not yet clear what our new normal might be. But we can be sure that as a result of this, we will have new skills, new abilities and more choices. That will be our new normal.

Reduce the stress of caring about how you manage mental health

After a 3-months long open dialogue with over 20 HR directors and senior managers, Amplify recently launched the HR and Manager Consultation programme, a pioneering service that specifically helps HR teams and managers reduce the stress of caring about how they manage mental health at work.

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