By: Deborah Connors

If there were ever a time for resilience, it is now. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have needed to make daily decisions amidst ongoing uncertainty. Our brains are good at this in the short term, but not when the uncertainty is indefinite. Our energy gets depleted and needs renewal.

I took a late 2020 trip with my daughter to see my parents in another province, for example. We had seen very little of them since COVID hit and it felt like the right time to go — after the first wave and before the second.

And still, the decisions were stressful. Triple-masked, with added filter, hand sanitizer and wipes in hand, we boarded the airplane to find that every seat was full. No middle seats vacant now, and after keeping our distance from people for months, it felt strange and scary to be in such close proximity to complete strangers (all of them, undoubtedly, having gone through the decision-making barrage that we just had, to arrive on that very plane).

The visit was wonderful and the hugs very much needed. Our plan was to leave their farm at 9:00 a.m. the morning of our flight back, arriving at the airport in plenty of time for our 11:50 flight. As it inevitably happens, the goodbyes take longer, and it was 9:18 as we rolled our way down the lane, and onto the gravel road to the highway.

We had one quick stop to make, that I had allotted 15 minutes of time for. We did it in 11, saving four minutes of our earlier lost time. (This is how my brain works.)

On the main highway, however, we found ourselves encased in a thick fog. It was so dense we definitely could not travel at the speed needed to reach the city, fill the rental car with gas, drop it off and make it to our bag drop with any time to spare.

Trying to keep our speed at the minimum required to get us there on time, yet having to slow down to a crawl in a few places as the fog thickened, I found my hands gripping the steering wheel tighter, my shoulders getting closer and closer to my earlobes.

Then, a deep breath. I considered what I know about stress and resilience, and in my mind, I went through the checklist of three questions that I learned from researcher Lucy Hone.

1. How can I accept this situation?
Resilient people know that bad things will happen to them, not just to other people. None of us are immune. Flights get missed, family members die, jobs are lost, and accidents happen. Knowing this doesn’t make it easy to go through these things, but it helps. And there are still more good moments than bad ones in our lives.

In my situation, what was the worst that could happen? We’d be late getting to the airport. We wouldn’t have time to fill the rental car with gas, or it would cost a bit more - not the end of the world. If we were really late, we might miss our flight. We could live with that.

Accept what is. 

2. Where am I putting my attention?
I’m riding with my daughter. At 16, she’s a great road-tripper and traveler, she has always been.  We’re singing to ABBA (rediscovered through the Mama Mia musical) and I Am Woman, by Helen Reddy, which I love that she loves. We’re laughing and drinking our Chai-Tea Lattes. These are the good moments. Much more fun than recalculating our arrival time in my head a thousand times.

Resilient people know where to put their attention. They focus on what’s good and what they’re grateful for.

Be in this moment. 

3. Is this helping me or hindering me? 
I asked myself this question. Is this (worrying, gripping the steering wheel) helping me or hindering me?

Well, that was an easy one - worry never helps. That doesn’t mean we don’t do it. But resilient people ask themselves this question frequently: “Is what I’m doing right now helping me or hindering me?” As another example: “Is ruminating about something that has happened (going through it over and over in your mind) helping or hindering?”

I gently removed my shoulders from my ears, loosened my grip on the steering wheel, made sure my speed was reasonable for the weather and road conditions, turned up the tunes, and we laughed and sang. It was a great moment. If we missed our plane, we reasoned, we missed our plane. There would be another. As it turned out, we made our plane.

We dropped off the car with no gas fill, so that cost a few extra dollars, but c’est la vie! The next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, no matter how big or small, go through this brief checklist:

  • How can I accept this situation?
  • Where am I putting my attention
  • Is this helping me or hindering me?

I think it is very important during this ongoing pandemic, that we think in terms of moments. In your average week, there are always those moments that are frustrating, annoying, time-consuming. Let them happen, because they always will. That’s just living a life.

But there are also those moments where you laugh, where you snuggle in to watch a 40-minute episode of something at the end of a long day. There’s the first sip of coffee in the morning. A walk with your dog. A phone call. When you finish something very big at work, and the relief you feel afterwards. So, say to yourself, “This is a moment.” Call it out so that you are aware of it. Remind yourself to give it your attention so that you can savour it.

Deborah Connors teaches leaders to radically shift culture so that people can flourish. A captivating speaker, storyteller, author, and workplace coach, Deborah researches breakthroughs in organizational health and culture around the globe. She has interviewed many of the leading thinkers, which forms the basis of her latest work, “A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture.” 

Deborah is a prominent figure in the story of how Canadian workplaces have adopted practices to become better places to work, through her development of The Better Workplace Conference. This powerful initiative, which she successfully led for 17 years, created a whole generation of workplace health professionals and a huge community of practice. She has distilled the knowledge from in-depth interviews with ten featured influencers and combined it with her own leadership experience to bring you the best of what we know to date on shifting workplace culture, and how it benefits the organization and the individuals who work there. 

For more information about Deborah's work, visit:

Article photo credit: Glenn Carstens Peters