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Committing to Growth During the Pandemic: Building Resilience

We are excited to continue our blog series about staying committed to growth during the pandemic. We’ve already talked about how to better manage stress and how to eat smarter to reduce cancer risk. Both topics will help us emerge from this time of isolation and uncertainty stronger than when we entered.

Glenn Elmore, Director of Training for Combined Insurance, shares his advice on how he built resilience as former military and an ultra-marathon runner. He provides his top five tips on how to build your own resilience during these trying times.

Learning Resilience and to Accept Discomfort

by Glenn Elmore, Director of Training

Tip 1: Do not dwell on difficult times

One of the many lessons I learned in the military is that, at times, life will get very uncomfortable.  This discomfort hits you right at the start of your military career in bootcamp. For many, the discomfort becomes too much and causes them to quit. What sets me apart is that I am able to get over yelling and physical punishments quickly. Being able to move on from uncomfortable situations – both mental and physical -- allows me to be ready for the next stressful event that is inevitably coming. The ability to bounce back fairly quickly from the most challenging times has helped me throughout my career and into the rest of my life.

Tip 2: Work to find a silver lining even in tough situations

During my military career, I often had to turn a difficult situation around. For example, I had just returned from being gone for an extended period of time and I was excited to relax and spend time with friends.  As I walked off the base, I got a phone call asking if I would be willing to fly to Norfolk and assist another command. If I said yes, I would be required to sit behind an aircraft carrier for weeks. Despite looking forward to my time off, I immediately accepted. I knew my weekend plans were now cancelled, so instead of wallowing, I focused on the positive. It would be a new experience, where I would meet new people and see some amazing planes land on a carrier.  The ocean would provide, as always, some amazing views, and before long I would be back to my friends. And I knew sometime shortly thereafter we would be back out there away from the world again. 

Tip 3: Reframe your situation and find your compassion

Surviving boot camp and giving up plans with my friends wasn’t really challenging compared to what I would face later in my life. I’m aware that so many people have gone though much worse, but everyone is at different points in their life which is important to acknowledge when working to understand resiliency.

Early on, when I thought of resiliency, I thought of it as only a mental toughness. Now I feel compassion goes right alongside it. When I care about others, my resilience grows because I’m not caring for just my future, but for others. By justifying my pain and discomfort as a way to help others, it becomes less of a chore and instead becomes something I am proud of completing. 

Tip 4: Willingly put yourself in hard situations and visualize your positive outcome

Running is a part of my everyday life and is one way that I continue to build my resiliency.  Over the last 10 years, I went from running several marathons to now almost exclusively running races over that 26.2-mile distance and into the ‘ultra’ category.  There has been an abundance of pain and struggle during these races, but none more than my 100-mile race on the Hennepin Canal in Illinois. 

I am certain my training for this race was insufficient but going into it I was confident I could finish the it in under 24 hours. Through the first 50 miles I actually felt really great, for just having run 50 miles. But around mile 60 I started to experience a decent amount of pain in my legs.  Miles 70-100 were the toughest miles that I have ever ran and I started to be concerned I had done some real damage to my lower legs and feet.  However, in my mind, giving up was not an option. So, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, making forward progress towards my goal.

I was fortunate to have people cheer me on and encourage me on and off throughout the race, but what I felt most positive about, when I look back, are the times where I was completely alone, in the middle of nowhere. I literally kept telling myself to keep making forward progress, just move, and then kept visualizing the finish. 

Tip 5: Never stop learning and growing

When it comes to work, especially independent work that is stressful and not always positive, these same actions can help get you through challenging moments in time. There are times when you will want to stop making progress and give up and go home to rest.  It is in these moments where if you can keep moving, even with very slow progress, that you can ultimately get through the day to achieve your goals.  And when you do that, you become slightly more resilient and ready for the next challenging moment that comes your way. 

At Combined Insurance, we know that these are difficult times for everyone. We encourage you to try the strategies Glenn laid out as a way to help you get through this unprecedented crisis and teach you how to deal with future challenges.