Feeling stuck because of COVID? Try these four R’s to break free.

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rep resilience window 550pxANDREA MABRY | University RelationsOne of the remarkable stats of the COVID pandemic in 2021 is its effect on the workforce. According to a Microsoft survey of 30,000 workers worldwide released in early 2021, 40 percent of employees are considering leaving their jobs this year. In April alone, according to the Department of Labor, a record 4 million U.S. workers quit their jobs. Some of them opted to start their own companies. New business applications in the United States hit a 15-year high in the year from mid-2020 to mid-2021, according to research by economists at the University of Maryland. Meanwhile, 3 million Americans retired during the first six months of the pandemic, raising the percentage of Americans in retirement to 19.5 percent of the population.

Many of these job changes and retirements have come “as people have engaged in soul searching” during the pandemic, said Angela Stowe, Ph.D., director of Student Counseling Services at UAB. “People have realized what’s most important to them. ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with my family,’ or ‘I want to transition to a new career,’ for instance.”

Stowe and colleagues at UAB have coined a new phrase for this phase of the pandemic: the sandbar. It is a time when we have some stability, but many people are restless with their circumstances. 

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Work that muscle

All UAB students have access to Stowe’s Canvas course on resiliency, Blazers Bounce Back. Learn more about Blazers Bounce Back and how to access the course in this story.

Are you feeling stuck in your current role and needing a change? Maybe you were working from home and enjoyed it but now find yourself back in the office. Or perhaps you’ve made a move and it has not worked out as you hoped. Whatever the situation, Stowe points to the benefits of practicing resiliency in these unstable times. An ability to bounce back stronger is not innate, she says — anyone can work on adopting a mindset that thrives even in adversity. “You can do things to grow your resiliency and make it stronger,” Stowe said. “The more you practice it, the stronger your skills become.”

Stowe likes to take people through the “four R’s” of resiliency:

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1. Recognize

“First, recognize that change has happened,” Stowe said. “Perhaps you can’t work from home even if you want to, or whatever it is. Name it, acknowledge it and accept how you feel about it. I may wish I wasn’t mad about it, but I am. Recognizing those feelings is important. And once you recognize it and name it, you can do something about it. Until you do that, you will be stuck.”

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2. Reframe

“Once you realize that you are looking at the situation in a certain way, you can ask yourself, ‘Is that keeping me stuck or moving me forward?’” Stowe said. “I may have lost a lot — opportunity, family members, the ability to participate in some very important events — but staying sad and mad keeps me stuck. You can also realize, ‘I have gotten closer to my friends. I have stayed healthy. I have been able to stay employed.’ Gratitude is a very important tool that can be helpful in this situation.”

Another powerful tool is to cultivate a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset, Stowe says. This can be particularly helpful if you have tried something new during the pandemic — changed jobs, started a new business, changed majors — and it has not worked out as you planned. “A growth mindset realizes that failure is not permanent,” Stowe said. “Failure is an opportunity to do something different. And now you know something you don’t want to do.”

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3. Reflect

The next step, once you have recognized your emotions and reframed your thinking, is to pause. “You stop and ask yourself, ‘Is what I’m doing what I want to be doing and what I need to be doing?’” Stowe said. “Take a careful look, and make decisions about what you might need to let go or take on to get you where you need to go.”

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4. Reach out

The great benefit of working and studying at an institution such as UAB is having resources available to help, Stowe says. “This is the point where you can make connections and seek the resources and people you need to support you. We are stubborn, and when we find ourselves stuck or discouraged or down, our first reaction is to retreat into ourselves. It’s important to say, ‘There are people in my life who can help support me in this, and there are resources available.’”

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Start here

UAB employees can learn new skills in communication, leadership, technology and more with free classes from Organizational Learning and Development (see a list of courses, including 24/7 access to online classes from LinkedIn Learning) — or use the Educational Assistance benefit to earn a new degree. (New interdisciplinary degrees in the Graduate School allow students to build their own master’s degree from two approved certificate programs.) Employees also can access a range of free counseling services — including financial counseling and life coaching — through the Employee Assistance and Counseling Center.

Students who are contemplating going in a new direction can talk to their adviser about the best ways to achieve their educational goals (see how to find your adviser here) and learn more about internship options and other ways to prepare for new careers through the UAB Career Center. Student Counseling Services is available to support students in achieving personal, academic and lifelong goals with individual and group services and programming.

Employees and students can develop a self-care plan, access a wide range of tools and resources, and find all upcoming events on the B Well UAB app, which is a free download from the Apple app store for iPhones and iPads and the Google Play store for Android devices.