Top ten ways our community became resilient in 2020

As we come to the end of this chaotic year, there is one thing we can all agree on: 2020 has tested every ounce of our resilience. It hasn’t been easy, to say the least. But at the Circulus Institute we’ve seen many examples of resilience since launching our Reclaiming Your Resilience course series last summer. As our hundreds of participants demonstrated again and again, we can all reach towards resilience even in our most dire moments.

Resilience is not something you have or don’t have. Instead, resilience is a set of skills you can use, a process you can commit to, and a way of thinking about how to move through difficult times. When we reach towards and use resources and skills that help us be more compassionate to ourselves and those around us, we become more resilient.

The holiday season can give us the time we need to recharge and reflect. If you’re lucky enough to have that time in the next few weeks, we want to share some of the resources that our community has leaned on to feel more connected and resilient throughout this year.

We hope that this list gives you a starting point to create your own resilience toolbox in 2021. When you’re feeling as if you need a little boost, we invite you to watch, read, listen to or learn from one of these helpful and hopeful picks.

#10: The Poetry Unbound Podcast

In 2020, we listened to the calming voice of Pádraig Ó Tuama read us poetry. Taking his time to read a poem, this podcast helped us slow down and focus on something else. The poems are widely varied and written from diverse perspectives and authors. If meditation on its own is difficult for you, as it is for Kristin, this podcast offers the solace and calm of meditation. Here’s a beautiful one on self-forgiveness to start with: Phase One by Dilruba Ahmed.

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#9: Getting outside

In the midst of a global pandemic, many of us found calm and a needed break in nature this year. We walked, hiked, maybe tried to start a running program, and spent a lot of time by the water. Some folks started listening to podcasts or audio books. Others just needed to get out of their homes. A growing amount of research supports how going outside and being surrounded by nature reduces our stress. There’s evidence that a brisk walk outside can help slow down an overactive prefrontal cortex causing less ruminating on negative emotions. There’s also evidence suggesting that just the sound of nature or sitting outside quietly can reduce stress levels and lower blood pressure. And the good thing is, it’s free!

#8: The Happiness Lab by Dr. Laurie Santos

In this excellent podcast, Dr. Laurie Santos explores the science of what makes us happy. Dr. Santos’s Yale college course Psychology and the Good Life was the most popular course in Yale history. She has since launched an online course with over 3 million people enrolled and this podcast. By diving into what actually makes us happy as opposed to what we think makes us happy, Dr. Santos helps us redefine our own happiness and understand it is something that, like resilience, can be learned.

#7: Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive, By Marc Brackett, PhD

This book, by another Yale psychologist, was recommended by many of our participants. Dr. Marc Brackett, a professor at Yale University’s Child Study Center and the founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, explores how we can better understand our own emotions and the emotions of those around us. He offers accessible strategies and stories to help us identify, understand, and eventually regulate difficult emotions. A great read!

#6: Developing Resilience — The Danger and Opportunity of Covid-10, By Dr. Suzanne Anderson

Dr. Suzanne Anderson is a psychotherapist serving the Singapore and international community through mental health-based practices. She is an expert on crisis response, responding to traumatic events in the Asia Pacific Region for nearly two decades. She was a guest speaker for the Circulus courses last summer. Her blog is one to follow for evidence-based supports during crises. In this post, she provides a definition of what resilience is and what it isn’t and how we can support those around us struggling to find their own resilience.

#5: Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, By Emily Nagoski & Amelia Nagoski

This book couldn’t have come out at a better time…right before 2020! In it Emily and Amelia Nagoski (sisters and authors) discuss how emotions have their own life cycle with a beginning, middle, and end. When we feel stuck in that cycle and don’t allow our feelings to go through their lifespan, we are left feeling stressed and emotionally depleted. Though they focus through the lens of women, this book helps us all understand how we can give ourselves the time and space we need to avoid burnout.

#4: Lessons for School Leaders: Findings from the Edurio Covid-19 Impact Review, By Edurio

In an extensive study, Edurio has released two reports in the last six months studying the impact of COVID-19 on schools throughout the UK. Over 46,000 participants provided the authors with realistic and sustainable recommendations for school leaders on the disruption the pandemic has caused our schools. This is a must read for school leaders as they go into the second half of this school year.

#3: Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think, by Tasha Eurich

Much like resilience, self-awareness is a skill one can develop. When we increase our self-awareness, we have stronger relationships, better problem-solving skills, and greater success at work. This is a heavily researched yet approachable book packed with evidence-based strategies to improve how we see and care for ourselves.

#2: Teaching While Black: An Open Letter to School Leaders, by Sharif El-Mekki

Sharif El-Mekki, founder and CEO of the Center for Black Educator Development and a former teacher and principal, writes an open letter to school leaders on how to support black educators. As this past year has shown us all, we must do the difficult work, analysis, and personal reflection on the effects of racism in our schools and the impact of racism on our students, faculty, and larger communities. This piece is an important read to help frame how schools can better comprehend the experience of the black educator and how we can all provide better support to our students and begin to understand the experience of our colleagues.

#1: TED Talk: The Three Secrets of Resilient People, By Lucy Hone

Dr. Lucy Hone is a director of the New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience and author of Resilient Grieving. In this amazing TED Talk she shares what she has learned both personally through her own grief and as a researcher. Our participants highlighted this video as one of the most impactful resources we provided in our Reclaiming Your Resilience courses.

Have a restful and relaxing holiday season.

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