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How to Stay Resilient in a Crisis

In a crisis we must intentionally maintain our resilience to avoid becoming burned out and ineffective. Here are some ways you can build individual and team resilience during a crisis.

Building your resilience is one of the best ways to prepare for a crisis since resilient people and teams are more adaptive, flexible, and collaborative. The type of emergency you may face is often unpredictable. For example, companies in Houston were not expecting Hurricane Harvey to cause catastrophic flooding that threatened their operations. The 9/11 terrorist attacks challenged many organizations, not just first responders, who struggled to manage the impact of this tragedy.

Even smaller crises, such as the sudden loss of leadership or cancellation of a significant contract, can erode staff resilience. If an emergency is prolonged, and we don’t intentionally maintain our resilience, we risk becoming burned out and ineffective. Here are some ways you can build individual and team resilience during a crisis:

Focus on people first. The highest priority in an emergency is the safety and security of team members. Take the time to ensure that everyone has what they need to feel secure. If it is possible and some people want to opt-out, don’t judge and permit them to leave. Fewer people will ask to leave if they know they have the choice.

Stay connected with friends and family. Take the time to eat a meal with your family, have lunch with a friend, or chat with friends or family by phone. It is easy to become consumed by the crisis, but a few minutes spent with your social support network is a valuable resilience boost.

Ask for help. One of the best ways to maintain resilience during a crisis is to resist the temptation to prove how capable you are by going it alone. Be proactive early on and get the help you need.

Eat, hydrate, exercise. Ensure you have fluids, healthy food, and the time to eat. Minimize caffeine and sugar since these only provide a temporary boost followed by a significant drop in energy. If you want to have snack foods, bring in fruit and nuts instead of candy and chips. Avoid alcohol since it will mask but not reduce stress, and can harm your body in times of stress. Make time to exercise even if it’s only taking a ten-minute walk.

Ensure rest breaks. While a crisis often requires 24/7 work coverage, that doesn’t mean people should work non-stop.Develop work schedules that incorporate time for rest breaks, meals, and relaxation. Ask people who are not scheduled to work to leave. Some people like to stay where the action is, but they can be distracting and will then be overtired when it’s their turn to work. Leaders should designate deputies so they can also take time to eat, sleep, and relax.

Identify goals. Many of us assume we know what our goals are during a crisis, but hearing those goals articulated will help ensure that everyone understands and shares the same goals. Remind people often what your shared goals are.

Stay positive. Look for the positive in everything you do and remind colleagues what good has happened every day. It’s easy to focus on the negative in a crisis so intentionally shift your focus to something more positive.

Communicate extensively. Effective communication is critical in a crisis. Err on the side of over-communicating since staff will fill a vacuum of information with rumors that are often worse than reality.

Encourage humor. Even though you may find yourself in a life or death situation, there is still room somewhere to have fun and laugh – find it. Be sure you are culturally sensitive when you do this.

Actively problem solve. In a crisis, it’s easy to get stuck when things do not go as planned. Work with colleagues to identify issues and find solutions.

Do what’s right. Sometimes in a crisis, rules and regulations need to be bent to do what’s right. While you don’t want to disregard policies and procedures, there will be times when they will conflict with what is right. Do what’s right and ask forgiveness later if you violate the rules.

Have you experienced a crisis? If so, write in the comments how your resilience was impacted and what you did to maintain your resilience?

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