The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

Strategies to Become More Resilient in Work and Life

The time and energy it takes to lead and move multiple projects forward at our institutions and get things done on our personal checklists takes a toll on higher ed HR pros, and at times can leave us in a low place. When we reach this point, we need helpful nudges to get us back on track. This ability to rally — or be resilient — is a skill that we can all learn.

Maureen De Armond, associate vice president of human resources at Oregon Institute of Technology, shared in a recent CUPA-HR webinar several steps HR pros can take to become more resilient and better withstand and grow from hardship.

Step 1: Identify your core values.

Ask yourself, “Why it is worth it to me to persevere and get through this challenging time?” Your answer may be that you want to be a role model for your family, you want your team to feel supported or you have goals that you’ve not yet reached. Dig deep when writing out these statements. Next, determine which personal and professional values are embedded in the whys. Those values are an energy source you can tap when you need a nudge to move forward.

Step 2: Create and identify “value reminders.”

These are visual reminders that help keep your core values front and center. These might be photographs, a vision board or powerful quotes you post on your walls. On even the most hectic day, these reminders can be a way to center and move forward with purpose.

Step 3: Reflect on how you overcame past challenges and apply the 4 S’s. 

What has worked before that might work in your current situation? The 4 S’s are a good place to start:

  • Identify supportive people who keep you upright whether that’s through phone calls, group texts or therapy.
  • Develop coping strategies that keep you moving such as yoga, meditation, breathing techniques or even journaling.
  • Collect or identify sources of sagacity that bring you comfort and hope. What wisdom and insights can you pull from song lyrics, books, poetry, quotes or sayings that you can hold on to during difficult times?
  • Develop solution-seeking behaviors, like asking for feedback, seeking a mentor, reading articles or watching a Ted Talk.

A big part of being resilient is drawing upon your Rolodex of inspiration when you’re in a low place. Says De Armond, “A quote isn’t going to solve a problem, but again when we’re thinking about resilience, it’s not always about solving a problem — it’s getting that little nudge or that little push to get over the hump or the hardship or the negative head space to push on.”

To learn about other exercises and resources to help build resilience — for yourself and others at your institution —  watch the on-demand CUPA-HR webinar.

More from Maureen De Armond:

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint — One HR Professional’s Reflections on COVID-19 Burnout, Financial Anxiety, and the Need For a Really Long Nap (Higher Ed HR Magazine)

Mental Health in the Time of COVID-19: Episode 1: Highs, Lows and In-Betweens (CUPA-HR Podcast)


The CUPA-HR office will be closed Fridays through August 19.