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Resilience in the wake of the unexpected

I had a chat with some of my friends working across industries to check how they were doing in the new normal.

  • Most of them appeared to be very tired and fatigued. They say they are working longer hours than before.

  • There is no physical boundary between work and home and they are still getting used to it.

  • They are experiencing ‘nil’ downtime the past few months. The occasional music / podcast they listened to on their way to work is gone.

  • With children at home and chores needing constant attention, focussing on anything is hard.

  • Some of them do no exercise, eat at odd times, sleep late and the whole schedule seems topsy turvy.

The concern seems to be - where is "normal" in the new normal.

Before Corona (BC) and After Corona (AC) memes are not helping :-(

Not to talk about social distancing while grocery shopping, arguing with children not to play with others when they say 'you only said playing is good for health' :(

There is also the search for the elusive prescription to order medicines online for elders when they complain about 'Humein eh din bee dekhne padenge' (I have to see these times also.)

Most importantly, many working professionals are suffering in their head with 'what if' questions on their career context .

What if 
I don’t have a job tomorrow?
I am not in this team ? 
If my salary goes down?

The overarching sentiment seems to be - Everything is changing - Will I have to change? Am I ready? I am stressed thinking about what might happen.

A clinical description of what professionals are experiencing looks like this:

What?             Covid-19 is everywhere with no cure.

So what?      I cannot mingle with others. Hence WFH. My entire family is also at home. We can’t go out

anywhere. I am hearing about layoffs in several companies.

Now what?   A random virus is changing my life, and I don’t have a say in it. I am not fully ready to face what

comes tomorrow. Will it last forever? Will it destroy all aspects of my life? Will I not be happy any

more? Did I contribute to it in any way?

When the unexpected strikes - there is no playbook. The playbook is created runtime.

Many of us including me have experienced anxiety because we want our families to be safe. That's a reasonable feeling when there is no information and no light at the end of the tunnel.

Having experienced this for sometime, is there a playbook for resilience and re-building?

This is not to undermine anyone’s feelings or ignore lost lives. It’s not to brush the enormity of the situation under the carpet. This is just for starting our journey into a new future without losing our mental balance.

Is there a magic wand? No. However progressive practice will discipline our mind towards optimism. That's the need of the hour apart from keeping ourselves physically safe. I find and experience that more than the Corona virus, the 'thought' of Corona virus is causing widespread damage.

I am going back to Dr Martin Seligman and his work on positive psychology.

Dr Seligman proposed that our ability to deal with setbacks and unexpected events/loss is a function of what he called 3 Ps. 


In order to become resilient, we need to have positive beliefs on these 3 aspects.

Permanence is our belief that some event will last forever. So to be resilient, we need to question this belief as below:

  • What is the worst case timeline of this event? 2 years assuming no vaccine, no cure. So with some probability, the economy may be slow, we may not meet our colleagues or travel to office for that amount of time.

  • Will the world stop working forever? No.

So this is not going to be permanent.

Pervasiveness is our belief that the unexpected event affects every part of our life. So we need to question this belief as:

  • What parts of our life are thriving/ benefiting with this event - no travel time, work with family, etc

  • What are we grateful for today?

So we still have aspects of our life that are fine.

Personalisation is the belief that we are a direct/indirect cause of the event. So we need to question the belief as:

  • Is this even within my control? What is in my control?

  • Did I cause this event?

We did not cause the event.


So what's our control to do? To face reality as bravely as we possibly can.

What optimistic belief are you going to plant in your life today?

What new playbook will you add to your repertoire for thriving in the new normal?

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