by Lewis Forrest II, Associate Dean within University Life
In 2017, I wrote a blog for Graduate Student Life on Resilience at Mason. It seems so long ago, and the world was a very different place. This year has been a rollercoaster, and we all have everyday challenges that come with being graduate students. 2020 on the other hand, has brought us all stressors that we could not have imagined.
While life brings many challenges, I’d like to specifically acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic and the struggle for racial justice via the Black Lives Matter Movement. While COVID-19, has changed the way we operate on a day-to-day basis, it has also challenged our resilience. This pandemic has forced all of us to shift to new home and work environments, has created distance in our personal relationships, and limited many of the activities we enjoy.
The energy our country is experiencing around the social justice movements has tested our emotions, challenged our beliefs, and called many of us to stand up in the face of adversity. During all of this we still have maintained the call to be students. In many ways you are already resilient, and I give you a lot of credit for enduring through virtual classes, and all the ways that the educational environment has shifted.
What also remains from what I wrote in 2017 is the need for us to continually attend to our personal well-being. One of the keys to remaining resilient is knowing when to ask for help and when to take time to – as one of my colleagues reminds me – “Take care of you.” You might be thinking this is a somewhat selfish approach, but in the end, if you cannot take care of yourself, you are less likely to be at your best to attend to your studies and take care of others.
At Mason, the definition of resilience is: Enhancing the capacity for successful adaptation in the face of stress, challenge, and adversity. Here are a few questions I posed in 2017 that are related to your personal resilience. I think these questions are still relevant to ask today:
1. How are you holding up?
Has anyone asked you this question?
Researchers say having a solid social group and even a mentor has huge gains for your well-being. Steven M. Southwick and Dennis S. Charney’s book Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, discusses role models: Your ability to be resilient increases when you have good role models because you can learn by example. Your role model might be someone you know and have an existing relationship with, or your role model might be someone you don’t know but who serves as inspiration.
2. Are you able to attend to your well-being and stay focused during this important time?
What practices do you have in your life to help you maintain your mental health? What do you do to consistently to bring balance to your life?
It may be beneficial for you to find practices (walking, listening to music, journaling, etc.) that make sense for your interests and lifestyle.
3. Are you more resilient than you realize?
Have you thought about this question, and given yourself some grace?
Dr. Kristen Neff’s website has a wealth of resources to help us recognize and embrace self-compassion as a skill to develop in our daily lives.
To help us all continue to be more resilient people, Mason has developed a fully online, asynchronous learning opportunity called the Resilience Badge that will allow you to further develop your resilience through content knowledge and practices. This experience is backed by the science of resilience and is designed to deepen your own knowledge and become more flexible, more adaptable, and more creative. This will help you when it comes to solving problems, making decisions, and building the life you want. While some of the content may speak to an undergraduate population, much of the experience will be rich for anyone.
As you complete each of the six modules you will:
Discover what resilience is.
Engage resilience through a growth mindset.
Deepen your understanding of optimism to benefit resilience.
Explore fear in the context of resilience.
Find ways to respond to stress from a place of resilience.
To learn more about the value of earning the Resilience Badge click on this link. If you decide you want to learn more, you can access the Resilience Badge via Blackboard. You can enroll by sending your name, G#, and Mason email address to ResBadge@gmu.edu, or enroll by logging into Blackboard. Click on Life@Mason (top right of your screen). Select Sign Up Now and then select Submit.
I encourage you to “Take care of you.” It is never too late to attend to your personal well-being and focus on refining your resilience.
Be safe, stay connected, and take advantage of the many resources Mason has available to you as a student.
Gallup CliftonStrengths Assessment (free to all Mason Students)
This blog post has been edited to reflect updated information and web addresses.
Edited by Nikita Thadani, 1/25/2022.