Lincoln Absence Advisor

The art of resilience

June 25, 2020 Lincoln Financial Group Season 1 Episode 17
Lincoln Absence Advisor
The art of resilience
Chapters
Lincoln Absence Advisor
The art of resilience
Jun 25, 2020 Season 1 Episode 17
Lincoln Financial Group

Living through these unprecedented times can be a challenge for many of us, but how do we adapt and remain resilient? In this episode of Lincoln Absence Advisor we are joined by Dan Eck, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor for ComPsych who focuses on mental health and in particular a background with resiliency training for employees. During this episode we:

  • Define resiliency for all of us
  • Share how to assess one’s own resilience and how to build on it
  • Discuss back-to-the-workplace anxiety and how important resiliency is
  • Dive into the role of the manager and leadership when it comes to resiliency




LCN-3137608-062320 
© 2020 Lincoln National Corporation. All rights reserved.

Show Notes Transcript

Living through these unprecedented times can be a challenge for many of us, but how do we adapt and remain resilient? In this episode of Lincoln Absence Advisor we are joined by Dan Eck, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor for ComPsych who focuses on mental health and in particular a background with resiliency training for employees. During this episode we:

  • Define resiliency for all of us
  • Share how to assess one’s own resilience and how to build on it
  • Discuss back-to-the-workplace anxiety and how important resiliency is
  • Dive into the role of the manager and leadership when it comes to resiliency




LCN-3137608-062320 
© 2020 Lincoln National Corporation. All rights reserved.

Chris Takesian:

Hello, again, listeners Chris Takesian here, marketing manager for leaving disability at Lincoln financial Group. And today we're talking about personal resilience, a topic that is very much top of mind right now. In this episode, we not only dig into what resilience is, but how it translates to different aspects of our lives. And more importantly, how to build your own personal resilience. Joining me for this conversation is Dan Eck. Dan is a licensed clinical professional counselor for ComPsych, the world's largest provider of employee assistance programs. So Dan, it's so great to have you on. I really appreciate you joining.

Dan Eck:

Thanks, Chris. It's great to be here and excited to talk about the topic of resilience today. It's something I'm certainly pretty passionate about and so excited to, to help out.

Chris Takesian:

Absolutely. And I'll just jump right into my first question. The COVID-19 situation has bubbled the idea of resilience to the forefront of many of our minds, but to level set. Can you discuss what being resilient means? Is it more than just bouncing back?

Dan Eck:

Yeah, absolutely. Great question. You know, we, we often hear this idea of, you know, being resilient as bouncing back and I actually, as a mental health counselor, not a big fan of that idea of bouncing back. One, it's a little bit of a jump from what the actual definition is, right? When we look at the definition of resilient it's the ability to work through or to overcome or to recover from some type of, of difficulty or some type of challenging times. So that idea of bounce back just doesn't quite fit for me, uh, in terms of what the actual definition and Merrian-Webster might look like. But there's a clinical reason that I say this as well. You know, if you've ever, um, you know, learned to ride a bicycle, when you fall off the bicycle and uh, they say, Oh, well, you just got to get back on and you gotta try again.

Dan Eck:

Right? And so you're learning to ride this bicycle. You're going to continue to fall off until at some point in time, you recognize why you keep losing your balance, right? What is it about what I'm doing presently, uh, that I'm losing my balance and I'm making it that that is making it difficult for me to maintain my balance. And so when we think of resilience in this same type of way, there's something in the distressing or in the discomforting or difficult times that's causing me to struggle. Right. And so I need to be, have some awareness if you will, uh, around what is causing me to lose balance, um, and causing, uh, my resilience to kind of begin to fade.

Chris Takesian:

Yeah. I really liked that analogy. I think that that makes perfect sense. And in line with that topic, why do you think resilience is, is so important these days?

Dan Eck:

Another great question and something I get asked a lot of times is, is, you know, why are these times so, so challenging right now? Or why does resilience or stress management becomes so important right now? And I think it's just, you know, we live in a time period, um, where there's a lot of uncertainty all around us, um, from all different angles. Uh, we don't need to get into all the different ways to take everyone as aware. And I think why resilient then resilience really becomes extremely important then is if, if uncertainty is around us on a constant basis, it's keeping us as humans in this fight or flight stress response. Uncertain times often put us in a place where we feel a lack of control or agency of control. And so when we feel that lack of control or that lack of agency of control, it interrupts our ability to feel safe and comfortable, to be able to predict what even tomorrow might look like or what I hope tomorrow might look like.

Dan Eck:

So it's really causes a really a distressing set of emotions for us, these distressing emotions often then when we look at all of the uncertainty, that's around us, from everything from COVID-19 to everything that's going on in terms of Black Lives matter. And in terms of all these different types of things that are going on around us, all of this puts us in a place where we have mixed emotions and it becomes difficult to kind of parse out what am I upset about here? And what's bothering me over here and, and so on and so forth. And so resilience and the importance of resilience is being able to then as it go back a little bit to what I said in the previous question, that self awareness of, uh, being able to figure out what is actually going on with me and how do I begin to manage and respond to this?

Dan Eck:

How do I begin to find those little ways to, to have a little bit of more control where I like to, or where I feel that I might need to. And so I think this is why resilience becomes so important right now is because we were just inundated with so much uncertainty and so much, um, unrest that that is around us. And so it could be a real challenge, but certainly something that resilience is something we can build as we grow that awareness.

Chris Takesian:

And something in my research that I found interesting was that resilience can be very individualized. You know, it can vary from person to person in your opinion, what makes some people more resilient than others?

Dan Eck:

There is this mentality, right? That some people were born resilient and other people are not, I, you know, I'm just not a resilient person. I actually get away from that a little bit in didn't go back to the definition of resilience. Resilience is the ability or the capability. If you will, to overcome or manage difficult times, we all have the ability to do it. It might be difficult for us. It's certain periods and certain times of our lives, it might be more difficult to manage those distressing and difficult times. So I don't know that it's, that certain people are born more resilient than others. I think undoubtedly, there are certain personal characteristics or certain life factors that become really, really important in our ability to maintain resilience in the face of adversity, in the face of challenge. And I think that the many of those things come with self awareness. And when I say self awareness, I don't just mean, uh, I'm aware of that. My name is Dan. I mean, I mean, I'm aware of who Dan is and what Dan is all about. I'm aware of my emotions.

Dan Eck:

I accept my emotions. I accept my thoughts, not to judge them, not to qualify them, not to say that they're good, bad, right, wrong or otherwise, but simply to acknowledge that my thoughts are my thoughts. And if I would like to change my thoughts or my feelings or my feelings, and if I'd like to change those feelings, I uniquely have the ability to do that. It's easier said than done. I'll concede that, but certainly something that we are, we have the ability to do, then the other thing, I think the other pieces that really come into an individual's ability to show or demonstrate resilience in a difficult time, it's going be certain things like, you know, their support groups, you know, uh, you may have a great group of, of friends and you may have a really supportive family member or a spouse or partner, um, that you, that you rely on very heavily.

Dan Eck:

But as we see in these types of uncertain times, everybody's struggling, right? Many of us are struggling with all kinds of different things. So, so that person you once relied on when you were in distress is also in distress. So are they able to provide that same level that you need? And so I think it's important for us to remember as we look at resilience and as we look at our own ability to be resilient, you know, what, what are some of those things that, that, that impacted or what some of those characteristics, it says, self-awareness, this has strong relationships and that, that, that ability, um, you know, to rely on other people, it's the ability to communicate and advocate for yourself in a way that you feel is getting your needs met. Right. And so I, you know, I think then when you think about whether people, you know, some people are more resilient than others.

Dan Eck:

I think it comes down to what is my history in relationships and in good relationships and unhealthy relationships and, or do I have those healthy relationships? What's my history of my ability. Um, you know, has my life experience have my life experiences rather taught me that it's okay to speak up for what I need and what I want and advocate for that and so on and so forth. And then, and then adding in that last component, I think are really most important component. My ability to be aware of my thoughts and feelings and the way they interact with how I, um, how I behave and engage with this crazy thing called life.

Chris Takesian:

Yeah, exactly. And it's a good segue to my next question. So if I'm looking to build my personal resilience, I think an important step without judging of course, would be to assess my strengths and weaknesses in this area. How might somebody go about doing this if they are new to this topic?

Dan Eck:

Great, great question. As a mental health counselor is probably my favorite question so far. And I think it's because one important to recognize that if I struggle with that self awareness of my thoughts and my feelings and those types of things reach out for help, there's nothing wrong with that. And to be candid, we all need help at times understanding ourselves in our own complexities. And so one, I think first and foremost is is that if resilience is something that you feel you really struggle with reaching out and asking for help is always a great way to start, but to your point about the strengths and the weaknesses, you know, I think sometimes we get in this mindset of, um, you know, I need to take my weaknesses and make them strengths.

Dan Eck:

I'm not sure that's what we need to do. Right. I think in part, what we can do is examine what our strengths are and try to build off of those strengths because when we're in times of distress, trying to perfect a new skill, and if we think of resilience as a skill-set, it is right. It's, it's not much different than learning. You know, if I'm learning to play the piano or I'm learning a sport, I have to practice the skill or the craft of that. And there are pieces of it that I can be better at. I just say for myself playing the piano, I can read music really well, but I sure can't count. So, you know, uh, you know, I can throw a football really well, but sometimes they struggle to read a defense when I'm playing quarterback or when I used to, I should say.

Dan Eck:

Uh, and so I, you know, those are skills that we can perfect. Well in a game, I don't want to be trying to practice trying to read it a new defense. Instead. I want to stick with what I know I can do. I want to stick with within my abilities and really try to, to, um, you know, draw on the strengths that I might have in that instance. And so, or if I'm playing in a piano recital, right. I don't want to get overly caught up about making sure my tempo in my timing is accurate. As much as that I'm, I'm hitting the strokes of the keys correctly. And so I think that's what we want to try to do when we are in the distressing times. Right. Um, and then I think that when we focus on those weaknesses, maybe I want to grow myself, uh, uh, awareness in terms of my emotions or in terms of my thoughts, the time to really focus on that weakness and make it a strength is when some of that distress has settled.

Dan Eck:

You know, when we're feeling a little bit more in control, we're feeling a little bit better, and then we can begin to examine some of those different types of things. And so sometimes that happens in therapy. Sometimes that happens within our relationship. Sometimes it happens by finding, um, you know, new ways to master or to perfect or to, to practice those skills, um, that I might, uh, be a little bit weaker in.

Chris Takesian:

And I think somebody listening, you know, and I'm sure you get this question a lot, where do we go from here? Are there strategies that you can share with us on how to build that personal resilience? Once I've kind of assessed strengths, weaknesses areas I want to build, how do we build on those?

Dan Eck:

To me, and this you'll hear the mental counselor and me come out a little bit, but to me, the most important piece to that resilience really becomes that self awareness. And so how do I practice self-awareness that sounds like such a big task and it is, but I think the easiest way to do this is to become emotionally curious. And there's the reason I say this. So I'll give him just a little brief neuro-history or neuroscience, uh, for, for history of historical purposes of this answer, human beings are emotional creatures and we are emotional creatures first. And that's not my opinion cause I'm a counselor. Uh, fortunately neuroscience proves this with the fight or flight stress response. So anytime we experience distressing emotion is experienced in a part of our brain called the amygdala. And that amygdala has no logic. It has no reasoning. It has no cognitive thought. But we often, when we think about times that we were feeling sad, or when we think about times that we are feeling maybe anxious or nervous about something, what do we often do?

Dan Eck:

We try to convince ourselves not to feel that way, right? Or we tell ourselves to be strong, which I'm not quite sure what that means, right? But we tell ourselves to be strong or we tell ourselves that we're being ridiculous with our anxieties. Well, unfortunately that, that anxiety or that sadness, they live in a part of your brain without logic. So they get to be a logical. You do get to be ridiculous right now because you're being a human and you're being emotional. So when I say being emotionally curious, it's about understanding that emotion and where does it come from? So there are three questions that I often tell clients that I work with to ask themselves when they're struggling to be aware of their emotional States and to be in more control of their thoughts and or behaviors, I encourage them to ask them, what am I feeling at this moment?

Dan Eck:

I'm feeling provoked, I'm feeling out of control, I'm feeling whatever. And I asked you, so what are some of the things that I'm feeling I'm feeling anxious, I'm feeling nervous. I'm feeling frustrated, whatever it may be. And then from there I say, why am I feeling this way? I'm feeling this way. Uh, because, uh, you know, my, my colleague isn't pulling their weight. And so I'm frustrated with them, you know, it makes sense that I would be frustrated, right. And then from there I say, okay, well, what else can we do about that then? So what can I do about this emotion that I'm in? What this, what these three questions do is they help us to take a little bit deeper, dive into what I'm experiencing in the here and now moment, and then empowering myself around what I can do in the moments thereafter, why this is so important, especially as we talk about resilience is because part of again, what resilience is doing is it's about how do we respond to what is happening or what has just happened, or what is currently going on.

Dan Eck:

And these three questions, they may seem like that. And the first couple of times that people will do them, they'll say, well, Dan, that took me awhile. You know, I was going to vacant for a little period and that's okay, you'll get better with it, with practice. But what this does then is you ask yourself those questions is it helps you to mobilize as opposed to feel paralyzed. And I think in times of great uncertainty, as we face today, you know, I hear a lot of folks talking about feeling paralyzed and where do we go next? And what do we do? And so on and so forth. So that's the, to me, I think that's one of the most important things that we can do, uh, as it relates to how do we build resilience, that emotional curiosity, but then I think there are other really important things to, and these will be a little bit quicker.

Dan Eck:

So, you know, I think that, you know, that there are those things of putting control, energy and control, where you can so often in distress, we are lacking that control. And so we look to seek control and we look to seek control oftentimes by either acquiring more information, uh, we try to seek control by controlling our children or our spouse or our family members or whomever, right. We try to control these things, but those things are beyond our control. So when we try to focus that energy and that effort back internally and say, how do I control myself? What's one thing I can do to feel a little bit better. What's one thing I could do to feel a little bit more control. What's one thing that I can do to foster or nurture the sense of self, you know, so is that reading, is that, uh, practicing a musical instrument? Is that doing a jigsaw puzzle? You know, putting that time, energy, and effort back into you because the stress and the distress that's impacting your ability to be resilient is essentially taking that energy and that effort it's, it's debiting from the account of you. And so you need to deposit something into that account to have that energy, to maintain some of that resilience, if that makes sense.

Chris Takesian:

Yeah, it does. They are excellent strategies. And I think the one thing that you mentioned that I really resonated with it, it's, it's about staying kind of grounded if you will. And then, and then I think, you know, as I, as I go to record an episode, I kind of like to pull some of my friends, family, coworkers, you know, what questions should I be asking this podcast? And one that came up is, is about offices reopening and how these resilience, um, tactics and strategies can relate to someone who may be feeling stress about going back to the office, are strategies outside of what you've already given. Um, or it might be the same to build resilience in that way?

Dan Eck:

Yeah. I mean, I think my answers are a little bit the same, but with, with a shade of gray, I guess, or a tinge of, of difference maybe is a better way to say that as we go back to the office and go back to the workplace, everyone is going to be managing the distress in their own unique way, how human of them, right? And so we're often meant to manage that in our own way. And what will happen is we've become so accustomed to managing the distress and the uncertainty with the folks that are in our home, or if we've been working in living in isolation, just being so reliant on the self, um, that as we get back into the workplace, and we're going to see, you know, folks with different thoughts and with different feelings and opinions about things at different practices, uh, of how they manage themselves in the day to day and all of this, what it does is it serves as a distraction. So I think when we get into the workplace, it's just really about that idea that staying internal and controlling, what I can control is staying present with what I need and what I want and where I'm at. Um, and, and try my best to manage that and advocating for it. When I feel as though maybe I'm being infringed on.

Chris Takesian:

Yeah, that's really well said. And, and, and then I think about managers and leaders, so they have a super hard task, uh, as we go back into the office because not only they are assessing the needs of their employees, but, you know, they, they sometimes need to be the rock. They, you know, they need to demonstrate solid resilience themselves. Can you talk about these aspects? And by that, I mean how to ensure mental health of both their employees as well as themselves. I'm sure it's a tough task.

Dan Eck:

It absolutely is. And so I think the one way I want to answer this is to dispel a quick myth. And that's that idea again, of being strong, strong by definition, if you look it up in the dictionary, says the ability to lift something of weight or physically durable. So for those managers and those leaders who think that I have to be strong for my employees. First of all, I don't even know linguistically. I'm not sure what that means, right? If you hide from your nervousness, anxiety, worry, or fear for others, you'll be able to bench press 225 pounds. You'll do great at the NFL combine, right? I mean, what does that even mean? It doesn't, it doesn't make sense. It's something that we've said. Um, it doesn't quite make sense.

Dan Eck:

So I think first of all, let's just dispel that myth. And then let's recognize that whether you're a manager, a leader, you have your own things in your own life, your own worries and concerns that you have to navigate. And I think then the added pressure of having to have the show that care, that concern for others just puts you in a unique position where it could become very overwhelming and that resilience can deteriorate very fast. So what I often encourage managers and leaders when I work with them. And especially in this, in this stage of, of return to work is telling folks to lean in. You know, I think about when my boss, um, a few months ago started off a team meeting by talking about the ways that she was struggling with the stay at home and all of the uncertainty and all this different stuff.

Dan Eck:

And it turned into a really, really impactful thing for all of us on the team where we began to recognize that it was okay for us to struggle as well. It's okay for us to not be handling this, all that great as well. And so when the, when the leader gives us permission to feel and feel in the workplace, now it becomes a place where we can all begin to lean on each other. And let's not forget that one of the most important things for resilience, supportive relationships, those people that we can lean on, and then the workplace that could be a great source of support or at other times it can be something that can lead to some, some very challenging experiences. And so I think if the leader and the manager takes the lead on that and says, Hey, mental health is an important piece in your mental health.

Dan Eck:

And my mental health is an important piece of how we make sure that we get through all of the uncertainty that still lies ahead, right? It's not as though we just go back into the office place and everything is back to it way. It was in December, right. That's not how it's going to go. We have all kinds of different variables that we're going to be continually changing. Uh, and so I think that this is an important piece then when change becomes a new norm, uh, making sure that mental health is openly discussed openly, talked about and encouraged, uh, is a great place to do that. And then last piece with that is just that managers and leaders, you know, reach out, ask for help for yourself, find a mentor, senior leader, or mentor, uh, someone that you can, uh, share it and reflect it and talk about things with, you know, making sure that that idea, you know, you're putting your mask on first.

Dan Eck:

Um, you know, I tell parents when I do counseling family counseling, managing your emotion first is the most important piece of parenting. And not to say that managers and leaders are parenting, um, their, uh, their, their employees, although it may feel like that sometimes, but, uh, they're, they're not parenting their, their employees. Um, you know, that same mentality applies as managing your emotions first and taking care of yourself first. Um, so that I can be the best version of myself that, you know, the best boss, the best employee, you know, be thinking in the right way. Um, that's going to really help other folks to, to follow that modality, uh, and take care of themselves as well as others.

Chris Takesian:

Yeah. And you talked about, uh, finding a mentor, um, and that's definitely a positive resource, but can you talk about other valuable resources? I know, you know, working for an EAP yourself is definitely a good place to start if you have that offered, um, with your employer. Uh, can you talk about some other good resources that, that may be helpful during these times?

Dan Eck:

Yeah. You know, I think, you know, the, the, the EAP obviously is a great place to start. And I think when a lot of times we think about the employee assistance programs, um, you know, we, we often think just of the mental health counseling, right? Oh, I can get a counselor in my area and I can go for counseling and yes, you can do that. And yes, there's a great value that, especially as it relates to resilience, but many employee assistance programs ComPsych included have well, other wellness offerings, legal and financial guidance, um, information, resources, and tools through, through websites and different things like that. Uh, you know, and I know it comes like one of the things that I am often telling folks is, you know, we call the EAP when you're just not quite feeling like yourself. And you just wanna talk about something with a counselor.

Dan Eck:

Uh, you know, you can call us for that in the moment support. Um, when you don't feel like you can go to other people or, you know, those types of things. So I think thinking about the EAP from a sense of wellness, as opposed to a sense of there's something really wrong, let me call that number that they told me about in the HR meeting. One time I'm going to call them because things are going off the rails, think about it in terms of, you know, what, um, I'm trying to find a new daycare because, um, you know, the they've reduced the class size at the, at the daycare. So I need to find a new date as I'm trying to figure out, you know, how I'm going back to work and that new travel routines and stuff like that, you know, you call your EAP, they, you know, ComPsych helps with those different types of things.

Dan Eck:

We help with those legal and financial questions, um, is, and so, you know, I think those are other, those are some really good resources, but then outside of that, you know, outside of your EAP, there are oftentimes all kinds of really great resources. Uh, you know, we just moved my wife and I actually two weeks before, um, uh, all of the lockdowns, um, throughout the US started, we moved, uh, from the Chicago land to, to Virginia.

Chris Takesian:

Oh, wow.

Dan Eck:

It was not a fun time to move, but, um, but you know, my, since being here, you know, my wife was in a, uh, uh, in a mom's group, uh, in the, in the suburb of Chicago that we were in. And, you know, within a matter of a week or two, she joined a mom's group here. And just how important those types of different community support groups that are out there.

Dan Eck:

They're not always from a clinical lens, right? Sometimes it's just that ability to feel connected within a community. Um, and again, if we're talking about resilience, that, that, that sense of connection becomes really, really important. When, you know, you have a community of folks, whether that's a moms group or whether that's a, you know, some type of community mental health agency or volunteer groups and things of that nature, um, all of these different types of resources become really, really important for us to think about, uh, as we, as we navigate, again, just a new change going back to the workplace. And certainly don't forget about your EAP, uh, the value that it offers.

Chris Takesian:

I think this is a fantastic episode, and I really, really appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today.

Dan Eck:

Absolutely is my pleasure. And thank you for having me. I wish everyone continued health and wellness as we navigate these, these difficult challenging times. Thank you.

Chris Takesian:

To everyone listening. Thank you for joining us. We will continue to cover topics that help employers and their employees to this new environment. So be sure to subscribe to Lincoln Absence Advisor on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Disclosure:

Please remember that our content is advisory. Only the information contained in this podcast is for general use and is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney or your human resource. Professional Lincoln Financial Group is the marketing name for Lincoln National Corporation and its affiliates, the Lincoln National Life insurance company, Fort Wayne, Indiana Lincoln life and annuity company of New York, Syracuse, New York and Lincoln life assurance, company of Boston Dover, New Hampshire, the Lincoln national life insurance company does not solicit business in New York, nor is it licensed to do so. Affiliates are separately responsible for their own financial and contractual obligations.