July 9, 2020
Jillian Van Auken
University of Dayton (OH)
"Every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give in to those moments, we build resilience and cultivate hope" (Brene Brown). During this time of uncertainty, it might feel like joy is in short supply. But it is more important now than ever to focus on the positive things happening in our life ---
and yes, those things do exist. Resilience is the ability to get back up when life knocks you down. So how do you get back up when it seems like there are new COVID developments impacting your life and work every day? The last 3 months have challenged us emotionally, physically and mentally as we've attempted to navigate a mountain of unknown. In her research, Brene Brown talks about "getting into the arena"; jumping into an experience with your whole self and giving a situation all you've got. But what happens when the arena is destroyed and the tools you need to build a new arena are no longer available? How do you pick up the pieces and chart a new path?
I've found the following 3 things to be helpful during this time:  setting an intention for each day,  focusing on what you have the power to control and  engaging in self-care (physical & emotional).
Taking time to set an intention for the day will assist you in staying focused and increase your level of productivity. This can be accomplished a few different ways: starting the morning with yoga to clear your mind and focus your energy on the day ahead, spending some time with nature on a walk or run or listening to a podcast. However you choose to start your day, it is important to start it on a positive note and come up with a plan for your day. Without a plan it is easy to get lost in your thoughts and to feel overwhelmed by all the unknown happening around you.
You might find yourself getting pulled down by the sheer weight of the unknown or maybe you're chipping away at a mountain of unknown, but you feel like you've made little progress. Focusing on the aspects of your life that are presently in your control can make the mountain of unknown less intimidating. Instead of spending time pondering questions about the future with little to no information available to answer, what if you focused on what you can accomplish today or within the next 2 hours? By focusing on the circumstances right in front of you, the world seems a little less overwhelming and a lot easier to tackle.
Self-care -- I could write an entire blog about the importance of self-care especially in our current COVID reality, but I'll leave you with 3 tips that I find useful.  Take 30 minutes each day to do something just for you. Cook dinner, start a new hobby, take a nap. Find a way to escape your current reality for 30 minutes and give yourself a break.  Schedule regular phone, facetime or zoom calls with family and friends. While our experience might look different from our family and friends, we are facing a similar reality and it helps to talk to someone about it.  Practice positive self-talk. It is easy to beat yourself up in this new normal by holding yourself to the same standards as you did pre-COVID, but the world as we knew it is no longer. You need to re-adjust your expectations to fit your current reality and be okay with what you can accomplish now.
In this new normal, find your joy and hold onto it. "Joy, collected over time, fuels resilience" (Brene Brown). The more you focus on joy; the easier life's challenges will seem.
Jillian Van Auken is the assistant director of Student Life at the University of Dayton (OH) and serves as the chair of the 2020 NACA® Mid America Regional Conference.
Related Professional Competency: Professional Development