Resilience – How do we Remain Resourceful and Hopeful Through the Pandemic? With Jean O’Neill

Our resilience is being tested in these uncertain times. So, coach Jean O’Neill is here to help us stay strong and keep moving forward. Read to the end for a free download!

Who has been through a global pandemic before? 

The bottom line is none of us has!

Hence, we need to give ourselves ‘a break’ on the days we are finding it challenging. Or simply where tiredness, stress, tensions, depression, anxiety, worry, or exhaustion have caught up with us.  That, in itself, is the art and secret ingredient to honing our resilience…

Knowing when to ‘stop’, recharge our batteries, and recover. 

An empty sack can’t stand up!  As humans, we are all naturally ‘resourceful and whole’, we all have the power and ability to plant new seeds and emerge through the cracks that are appearing in life right now, for some more than others.

Try to keep your eye on the ball

People’s lives, livelihoods, daily lifestyles, and routines have been uprooted and disrupted in what still feels like a ‘surreal bubble’ as we bed into level five restrictions in the winter period. 

It is now a different ‘ball game’, as the last eight months have undoubtedly taken its toll… on individuals, front line workers, the health care system, society and the economy across the globe; where the ‘goal posts keep moving position’

I urge you to reflect on this for a moment. 

Imagine a game of soccer where the goal posts keep moving on the pitch – planning and strategy tactics would take a hit, and the ‘players’ playbook would no longer be applicable’.

Players would get confused and frazzled with the level of chaos and lack of direction in terms of where to aim their focus.  Naturally, their performance would be the first thing to suffer. Stress chemicals would flood their minds and bodies, impacting their decision-making ability, coordination, and functionality.

Fear of the unknown

What is happening with the impact of the pandemic isn’t too far off this scenario – the goal posts keep shifting, in terms of what level of our roadmap we are on, and for how long. 

There are great levels of contagious uncertainty in the atmosphere. A sense of ‘unknown’ anticipation. It is causing a lot of us to feel off-focus and off-balance as people adjust and then re-adjust.  We are all trying to bridge the ‘unsettlement gap’ between the different transitioning phases. Depending on peoples’ circumstances, some are struggling more than others.  Everyone’s experience will be different.

Winter blues – Resilience does not mean toughing it out on your own

Pandemic aside… We are in the season where, quite often, a lot of us that have good mental health throughout the year, experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  This is when a lack of sunlight causes a disruption in the biological clock (circadian rhythm), impacting a drop in serotonin levels, (the brain chemical that affects mood) and may trigger depression when low.  

Symptoms can show up with low energy levels, trouble sleeping, overeating, lack of concentration, and in general, feeling moody, with patience and tolerance levels running low.  It is a common occurrence for many people.  You don’t need to ‘tough out’ a dose of the ‘winter-blues’ on your own.  

A little gesture goes a long way

Should you recognise that you are experiencing some of the symptoms, reach out and tell someone how you feel.  Take steps to give your mood and motivation a boost, and reflect on what self-care tips and strategies you can put in place for yourself. 

A gentle reminder to everyone – for those that are important to you and perhaps you haven’t been in touch with them for a while, drop them a little message to let them know you are thinking of them. Often people can simply be having an ‘off day’. This small gesture and act of kindness can make the world of difference.

Facing Challenges – Untold Stories – Why Two Brains are Better than One

There isn’t a manual on ‘how to survive the pandemic’ and remain hale and hearty in the process. 

A lot of people consider that they are ‘working from home – WFH’… When in fact, the reality is, we are ‘parenting from work – PFW’, full-time, or clock-watching for the school run drop-off and pick-ups.  In saying this, I am incredibly grateful that I have a fully operational business working in the home environment. However, it does require discipline, planning and organisation to make the work and home life merged into one space effective. 

The avalanche of distractions and interruptions working in the home environment are snowballing for many. And this is impacting workflow and performance output. As a result, a lot of us are experiencing low self-esteem and productivity shame – feeling like we are ‘never doing enough’, where people feel like their jobs and work are somehow in jeopardy. 

A recent article from Fidelity Investments in Boston revealed that nearly 80% of 1.1 million workers who dropped out of the workforce in September were women. It further revealed that 39% of women are actively considering leaving their jobs or reducing their hours due to increased remote schooling and caregiving responsibilities.

Flexible working hours are essential

This research highlights the need for women in Ireland, and worldwide, to be proactive in negotiating flexible working arrangements with their organisations. 

I should add, Performance factors are not remotely confined to just those parenting from work. There are a host of factors impacting on peoples’ performance. 

For example, individuals worrying about job security, or trying to sustain peak pressures in challenging work environments are feeling isolated. They have no access to team resources, expertise connectedness… And these individuals are seeing a decline in motivation, self-belief, and confidence.

Tip of the resilience iceberg

The scenarios above are only some of the multi-dimensional layers of distractions we have disrupting our daily workflow and PFW environments.  Be it:

  • The winter-blues
  • Work fatigue
  • The overall ‘pandemic feeling’, with energy levels slumping
  • Hanging in by a thread in a relationship
  • Worried about your job security
  • Financial stress
  • Health concerns

Whatever the challenge or worry is, lean in on support. Talk it through with someone, to gain clarity and perspective and navigate your way out of the fog.

This is crucial to your mental and emotional wellness. 

Don’t be too proud to ask Google Maps

It’s like when we are driving, and unsure how to reach our destination. We don’t drive around aimlessly hoping to eventually find our own way… Most of us at least, will use Google maps to ensure we are on the right path, and arrive safely and on time. 

Untold stories can be a tremendous burden to carry. And they can potentially lead you into a ruminating rabbit hole, trying to figure out solutions on your own.

From my own experience, I know it is a very dark, lonely, uncertain and daunting place.  Two brains are better than one to navigate through the fog. Worries and uncertainties are a temporary ‘state of being’ – of course, it may not feel like it if you are currently submerged in problems and struggling to keep your head above water. 

There are always answers, options, solutions, and brighter times ahead. You accelerate that process when you reach out and ask for help.  I advocate you not to let pride or ego get in the way of that, otherwise muddling through on your own will take you longer to get there.

A Wake-Up Call for us all

The two most significant factors contributing to suicide rates escalating at the moment are:

  1. People facing job losses
  2. Isolation 

Outside of suicide, depression, stress, and anxiety are also on the rise exponentially. 

In 2019, the World Health Organisation declared burnout as an official medical diagnosis, proving that burnout is genuinely a problem that plagues modern workers.  Now, if we fast track to November 2020 as we continue to transition through an ongoing pandemic, we have a reality check in terms of where many employees are at. 

A recent survey carried out by the Department of Work and Employment Studies at the University of Limerick revealed that 60% of employees in Ireland are feeling more stressed since the onset of Covid-19. With 67% of women reporting increased levels of stress, compared with 45% of men. 

Harnessing hope and resilience

More than ever, it makes sense to harness our ability to lean into our ‘levels of resilience and resourcefulness’ to protect our mental, emotional, and physical health. 

Thankfully, mental health awareness is continuously being raised in the news, social media, etc… But what are we actively doing about it? 

How are you actively taking responsibility for your wellness, and at what level? 

An odd detox day? Or a marathon sleep session in bed to recover from workload exhaustion? These are, unfortunately, only temporary quick fixes. Sticking a band-aid on the problem, if you will.  

Our ability to maintain well-established daily routines and self-care play a crucial part in enabling us to remain resilient. 

Looking at what resilience means through the lens of neuroscience

The medical definition of resilience is

1) The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.

2) An ability to recover from, or adjust easily to, misfortune or change. (i.e. emotional resilience). 

We need to start listening to our bodies and paying attention to stress signals, the warning signs, and where they are coming from. 

Time to reflect 

Take a look at the following image, and review what is currently showing up for you in each of the four dimensions: Body, mind, emotions, and behaviour.  It helps when we breakdown the process to understand, notice and capture stress signals. This way, we can intercept them and get ahead of them!


Balancing our ecosystem (mind and body) is crucial to off-set against the new peak pressures we are experiencing.  A host of skills are required to enable us to consistently know how we return ourselves to our natural state of equilibrium.

Self Care is Key

When we invest in our daily self-care, in terms of our lifestyle choices, we increase our levels of wellness and robustness. Outside of nutrition and exercise, getting a good eight hours sleep is paramount to our cognitive, emotional, and behavioural wellness. 

The brain has a recovery neuroprotective process that occurs when we get the right amount of sleep. 

Should you be feeling off-track at the moment, start by prioritising consistent sleep habits to get back on track.

Prioritising your wellness goes hand in hand with building your resilience to show up consistently and be productive. I have created a tool that can help – ‘Adapting with Sustainability – Behaviour and Habit Investment Plan’ (in my e-book: Overcoming Resistance to Change).

How do I build resilience?

Our brains are flexible, like plastic. They have the ability to change!

So, this means, we can redirect our mindset and focus by shifting our thinking patterns. (Because our brain is in a constant state of flux with every thought we churn out). 

With new thinking skills, we have the ability to make that change happen.  To quote Ruby Wax, “Finding out about neuroplasticity, discovering that I can revamp my inherited neural wiring and rewire it for a better life was the greatest news I’ve ever received”.

We can’t use ‘age’ as an excuse either that we are ‘too old or stuck in our ways’, to make change happen. Neurogenesis is the process by which new neurons (brain cells) are created.  It is responsible for populating the growing brain – a process that thankfully continues throughout our life span.

In a nutshell – what the above is telling us is we have the ability to unlock new resources in ourselves. 

To put this in context, how many times have we seen people full of enthusiasm at the start of a new year with new year’s resolutions that fall flat a couple of weeks or so into the process?  People do not intentionally fail on purpose. The challenge is, people are using the same recycled autopilot thinking to achieve something they had already tried before and failed.  The autopilot thinking is fuelled by subconscious memories and experiences that confirm this past failure.  To quote Albert Einstein “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them”.

This is where a coach can help

In my capacity as a Neuro Wellness (stress management) and Emotional Intelligence coach – I enable people with the skills, tools, and techniques on how to create new thinking. 

New thinking skills on their own will not achieve our desired results. Naturally, the new thinking skills need to be put into consistent action to enable breakthroughs. To create the transition in our mindset from ‘old thinking to new thinking’, I have created the SHIFT model.


How does it work?

To fully appreciate how the SHIFT model works; you can read my e-book Unlock the Secrets to Boosting Productivity.

I share mindset insights, tools, and resources to support applying the learning into your daily lives. In turn, this enables wellness and performance success. 

To drown out daily distractions and fuel focus, check out the ‘Fuel Focus – Habit and Behaviour Investment Plan’ Tool, which accompanies the e-book.  It elevates conscious self-awareness, providing a fresh thinking process designed to overcome daily distraction stressors and triggers. Enabling consistency, to boost daily productivity. 

My methodologies take a systematic and heuristic approach. With the opportunity to reflect and evaluate ongoing progress, transitioning to sticking transformation, bridging to achieving sustainability success.

Nurturing ongoing resilience

Personally, I would describe myself as someone that has had ‘more knocks in life than hot dinners’.  Before the pandemic came along, I had to get back on my feet on numerous occasions, after setbacks and extenuating circumstances. The details aren’t important.  

What is important is that I know I am not remotely defined by my history. I have zero violins playing for myself, no blame game, no resentment.

Instead, quite the contrary.  

I am extremely grateful for all the learning, insights, and experience of where my journey has brought me to date.  Without it, I wouldn’t be where I am now: Immensely enjoying and engaged in the life and career I have created for myself.  It is not all care bears and rainbows, there is hard work and phenomenal effort involved.  However, with it comes a life full of ‘meaning and purpose’ with positive goals to work towards while acknowledging and banking incremental success along the way. 

Mindset Shift

My mindset, focus and energy are operating from my ‘present tense’ with a ‘feed-forward’ attitude.  If I hadn’t learned to make that ‘mindset shift’ for myself, the alternative would have been very bleak.

I am not remotely special here. And I am undoubtedly not on my own.

So many of us have had to overcome adversity and build our resilience muscles.  When we can find it in our hearts to let go of our past tense and overcome adversity, it loses its power and grip on us. We reach a level of acceptance and peace of mind that frees up and creates space to work and focus on a brand-new chapter in our lives.

The Road Ahead – Lasting the Pandemic Pace

There are a few fundamental factors that are fuelling my never-ending optimism, (which, by the way, gets tested the same as everyone else).

It is worth mentioning ‘optimism’ is one of 15 key emotional intelligence skills, and is highly learnable. 

Not losing sight of my ‘why’, ‘purpose’ and ‘vision’ has been crucial.  These keep me grounded, and act as a constant source of focus, strength, and resilience.

Yes, we need planning.

Of course, we need preparation.

Absolutely, we need strategy.

With the nature of the pandemic, and the goal posts that keep shifting… Not losing sight of our ‘why’, ‘purpose’ and ‘vision’ are the core foundations that will act as internal drivers and motivators when we hit speed bumps along the way.   

Changing my business strategy and having flexibility to try things out, see what works, what doesn’t work, and bring the learning forward to the next stage is all part of the evolving journey of growth and bridging to success.  

Leaning in on networks and areas of expertise from others, and staying connected with new communities is vital to our survival. To mention just one of these – which is growing from strength to strength, Ireland Together – a non-profit organisation that helps and supports SMEs, is such a rewarding and privileging experience to collaborate and share in.

If I was to add two things to the above:

  1. Practising gratitude daily is one of my bedrocks. It enables me to show-up daily.
  2. My daily self-care rituals, and adjusting them depending on what crops up in my day.

E-Books available free of charge to Back To Work Connect users!

From the onset of the pandemic, I was incredibly concerned about how ‘stress and anxiety’ levels were going to rise with the new peak pressures and adversity we are all facing.  As a result of that, I wrote two e-books, which I have previously mentioned in the article: 

  • Overcoming Resistance to Change
  • Unlock the Secrets to Boosting Productivity

Both e-books are accompanied with downloadable tools.  With these tools, you will be able to apply the insights from the e-books directly into your life. You will learn:

  • Adaptability and sustainability skills
  • Resourcefulness
  • Growth mindset
  • Stress management skills
  • Wellness and self-care strategies
  • Goal setting and enhancing your performance
  • Coping mechanisms

 As part of my connection and involvement with ‘Back to Work Connect’ I am delighted to make my e-books and tools available to all Back to Work Connect users free of charge.  My wish is to support your ongoing journey of resilience and sustainability. To bridge to your wellness and career success, in times of unprecedented change, with optimism, hope and courage in your heart. 

To avail of the free ebook, make sure you are registered with Back To Work Connect! We will be sending out the promo codes by email this Friday.