Features

BUILDING RESILIENCE FOR POST-LOCK DOWN CHALLENGES: WHAT COMMUNICATORS SHOULD DO

As countries begin to relax the lockdowns imposed on their citizens to curtail the spread of Covid-19 infections, there are clear indicators that leaders are not calculating the risks properly before letting down their guards. The need to save their economies is top priority. Ostensibly, the virus is granted more time to stay with us.

You do not need a crystal ball to see that the ravaging effects of the virus on the social order will continue to force economies down. Jobs lost may not come back soon. Remote work will remain the order of the day for a long time to come. And uncertainty may continue to reign. Organizations that are still in business will have to work very hard in a difficult and dicey environment to win and retain the loyalty of its customers and other stakeholders. Public Relations professionals are in for a very hard and stressful time. Tracking and understanding the rapidly evolving and very uncertain ecosystem of this new Covid-19 era will remain a hard nut to crack. In times like this, it is only the very resilient that will survive and thrive.

What Does It Mean To Be Resilient?

 The most common definitions of personal resilience include the following:

the ability to bounce back after a stressful or traumatic experience; the ability to remain strong and calm in the face of adversity and make a positive meaning out of a bad situation; and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

None of these definitions is incorrect. But in the context of this article, I will define personal resilience as the capacity to be both tough and flexible enough to sway with the winds of change, pick up the lessons they bring, make the necessary adjustments in ones ways of life and work, adapt effectively to, and thrive in an adverse or new situation.

Modulating or reframing of attitudes towards work and life is essential to survival and thriving in the face of adverse circumstances. So is a continuous shift in perception to align with new realities brought about by the circumstances. Constant tracking of knowledge and skill gaps, and filling them are the keys to success in a rapidly evolving and challenging environment.

Boosting Personal Resilience In The New Normal

Boosting your personal and professional resilience is not rocket science. Follow these five tips, in no particular order, and you can be sure to emerge victorious now and in post Covid-19 lockdown era:

1.       Accept new challenges and changes as they come.

Covid-19 is a virus scientists are still trying to get a handle on. It is still not clear how deep its devastation has been on the economies and socio-cultural well-being of societies. Several challenges in work environments and in life will continue to emerge as the world struggles to find its feet again. Resisting them will only lead to psychological distress and drain you of your physical and mental reserves.

The best and most sensible thing to do is to accept whatever circumstances or challenges come your way. Acknowledge them and work out how to incorporate the new realities into your work and life in a way that guarantees your safety and growth, both personally and professionally. As Charles Swindell rightly observed, “life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it”.

2.       Learn, Unlearn, Relearn

New information on the behavior of Covid-19 is emerging from time to time. And scientists are providing these updates through the World Health Organization (WHO). International Monetary Fund, The World Economic Forum and other economic entities are discussing its impact on the global economy and suggesting ways that organizations can tread without much harm to its economic health. Public Relations bodies such as the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) are providing resources to help Public Relations professionals navigate the new and tricky Public Relations terrain. Recently, Chartered Institute of Public Relations, UK launched a new Employability Hub to support its members who suffered job losses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Your business as a PR professional is to monitor and equip yourself with new updates as they come and drop old ideas that are no longer relevant. New developments may point to gaps in your knowledge and skills that you need to fill. Do something about it quickly. The key determinant of career resilience is your ability to spot career changes as they happen, then train and adapt your skills to current market and industry demands.

3.       Be Inventive

Jeff Bezos is often quoted as saying that one of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out of it. Covid-19 era is a tight box like no other. Public Relations professionals who will succeed now and in the future must operate at the highest levels of inventiveness.

What does it take to be inventive? The answer is continuous research and acquisition of skills. Look for new trends and developments in the industry. Read extensively, including materials outside your profession. Acquire new skills in your profession and even outside of it. Look for media channels, tools and techniques that appeal to your organization’s stakeholders at the moment. Monitor the changes in their behaviours to gain insights into their needs and preferences. Identify Public Relations tactics that still work and those that have fall out of steam. Employ divergent thinking style – thinking outside the box. With these it is easy for you to develop messages that not only meet the safety, emotional and spiritual needs of your stakeholders, but those that grab their attention and win their loyalty and support.

Inventiveness is what makes a Public Relations professional to come up with new, creative ways to get a job done when the familiar ways can no longer deliver results. It is the product of knowledge, skills and experience embodied in an individual. It happens when the ideas already stored in a person recombines to produce innovative ones to solve a new and difficult problem such as the Covid-19 situation. You can begin to cultivate it now. It is not too late.

4.       Recharge your batteries continuously.

Constant recharging of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual batteries sharpens you, and builds your personal resilience.

Exercise regularly, eat right and get enough sleep every night, and you can rest assured of a physical body that is strong enough to withstand the stresses and strains of a challenging environment that Covid-19 has foisted on us.

To recharge the mental dimension of your life, it is exceedingly beneficial to keep your mind fresh through the exploration of knowledge in different areas of human endeavour. It is a great way to nurture your creativity as unused parts of your brain get stimulated.

When the emotional dimension of your life is cultivated, you tend to think more clearly. This makes it easy for you to build and maintain social connections which are indispensable in a difficult time like this. Several studies have shown that social support helps to alleviate the effects of emotional distress, promote good mental health, enhance self-esteem, lower cardiovascular risks and enhance overall quality of life.

Learn to track how you feel at any given point in time. Avoid letting your emotions such as anger and anxiety determine how you act toward others. Observe the moods of other people around you and act accordingly. Accept criticisms and respect the feelings and opinions of others. Listen actively to others instead of struggling for your turn to speak. These skills will help you maintain your relationships and gain the social support you need at this time.

How do you recharge your spiritual batteries? Begin by staying in tune with your core values. Devote time to study the scriptures of your religion. Pray and meditate daily. Several studies have shown that spiritually intelligent people can remain calm in the midst of adversity and look for positive meanings from negative experiences. This comes from an inner strength cultivated by their strong belief in a greater invisible power, a superior intelligence whom they surrender to, and are convinced looks out for their good at all times.

5.       Embrace Yoga

I dived deep into the study and practice of Yoga at the initial stage of Covid-19 lockdown and the result is worth the effort. Apart from better sleep quality and flexibility, my confusion and depression gave way to hope for better days to come.

The term “Yoga” has its root in the Sanskrit word “Yuj”, which means to unite, to join, to yoke or to harness. What you unite through Yoga is your body, mind and spirit. It brings them into a harmonious whole through physical stretching exercises known as asanas, breathing exercises, chanting and meditation. The result is a blissful flow of consciousness that sweeps through every fiber of your being, culminating in the attainment of profound inner peace even in the midst of adversity.

Studies have proven that yoga asanas, when practised properly and consistently, release muscular tensions, build stronger muscles, improve flexibility and joint mobility, promote digestion and eliminate toxins from the body. Postural alignments, weight control, the building of healthy bones, among other benefits, have also been cited by some studies.

A key benefit of yogic breathing revealed by many scientific investigations is its ability to push the balance of activities from the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for stress response, to the parasympathetic nervous system, which is often referred to as the rest and digestive system of the human body. When this happens, your breathing rate, heart rate and blood pressure level go down and the muscles in your gastro-intestinal tract relax. What follows is reduced stress, an improved digestive function, a strong immune system, an efficient respiratory system and an improved sleep quality, among other benefits.

Chanting and meditation present a whole lot of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits as documented by many scientific studies. Such include improved creativity, prevention of cognitive decline and enhanced concentration.

Yoga may have its origin in the ancient wisdom traditions of Asia. Today it is globally appreciated as a veritable tool for dealing with stress and promoting overall health and well-being in our fast-paced world.

In recognition of this, on December 11, 2014 the United Nations declared June 21st of every year as the International Day of Yoga by Resolution 69/131. Do not hesitate to try it for your personal resilience in this uncertain and trying time.

Last Words

Public Relations practice is not going to get easier now and during post-Covid-19 lockdown era. It is rather going to get harder. Public Relations landscape and global business environment has changed and will change further. In fact, we are moving into an unknown future. To succeed, Public Relations professionals need to be guided by these words of Robert Jordan: “The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived.”