The Secret to Building Resilience

5 Ways to Be More Hopeful, According to a Positive Psychologist

The raging coronavirus pandemic, along with political turbulence and uncertainty, have overwhelmed many of us.

From almost the start of 2020, people have been faced with bleak prospects as illness, death, isolation and job losses became unwelcome parts of our reality. On Wednesday, many of us watched in horror and despair as insurgents stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Indeed, all through these times, both the dark and bright sides of human nature were evident as many people engaged in extraordinary compassion and courage when others were committing acts of violence, self-interest or greed.

As a research scientist whose work focuses on positive psychology among people facing challenges, I am deeply aware that if ever there were a time for a conversation about hope, it is now…

The Secret to Building Resilience

Jorg Greuel/ Getty Images

An anesthesiologist we’ll call Jacob used to describe his job as “90% boredom, 10% horror.” With a few exceptions of challenging surgeries and managing a department of several hundred physicians and nurses, most of the time, Jacob’s role was routine.

But that was before the Covid-19 pandemic. Since anesthesiology is not a specialty that can resort to remote “telemedicine,” Jacob and his team entered an overwhelmed hospital day after day. “For two months, I wasn’t sleeping at night,” he shared with us. “I was sending my team into battle with inadequate protection, not even really knowing how many of them might get sick.”

‘The ability to bounce back from setbacks is often described as the difference between successful and unsuccessful people’

Rob Cross,  Karen Dillon,  and Danna Greenberg

The burden of being responsible for both a team he cared deeply about and the lives of a huge volume of patients affected by the pandemic was crushing. Routinely putting in 16-hour days, Jacob was having to determine how and when his team would work in these trying circumstances. “There were nights and weekends when some [colleagues] called me and were crying on the phone. Let’s face it, they were scared for their lives.” And Jacob was, too.

But Jacob didn’t break. He and his team have held together as they continued to do their work throughout the pandemic. So what allowed Jacob to endure this period of extraordinary stress? Resilience…

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