Resilience for the new days

Coping with today, when the world feels like too much

Elba Ornelas
3 min readApr 2, 2020
Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn. Photo by yours truly.

Last week, my manager and I held our regular 1:1. After diving into the topics I had prepared for the session, he was next.

– So, can you tell me how you are keeping resilience on this quarantine?

It took me a split second to answer.

– By night, I scribble at least one, beautiful, and significant thing that happened.

It was more of an automatic response. Nonetheless true.

By default, and regardless of the circumstances, I tend to struggle with staying positive. Am I sugar-coating everything? Am I undermining a rather alarming situation? Am I a pessimist if I ask what could go undeniably wrong?


Always extremes.

Yet, for times like the ones surrounding us at the moment, these extremes are way harder to course-correct.

Yes, I have ventured into meditating — it is one of my favorite habits today.

I have attempted gratitude-journaling — yet ditched after a couple of weeks due to the ‘high’ maintenance I perceived.

I work out daily — which is something that makes me feel deadly proud.

And today, it feels like it’s not enough. Today feels like the world finally gets the type of anxiety that manages to wake me up at 3 in the morning. Today, the world feels a little too much.

The swift answer I gave to my manager made me realize the one thing I have been doing. Unconsciously, every single day, for more than three weeks in a row: a lean version of a gratitude journal.

I have a Women in Science calendar hanging in my room. It shares the life and fight of an inspiring woman per month — think Karen Horney, Edith Clarke, Esther Lederberg, among other uplifting women. They are not alone. I accompany their success with my daily wins. These tiny annotations reflect whatever sparked and made a difference in my day.

My theory of why this works? The small space available for these annotations acts as a constraint. It forces me to think of one thing only. Else, dedicate a more significant effort to fit in more wins! It also employs the legendary technique of sticking to a habit by not breaking the chain. Yet again, this was an unconscious move.

Women in Science. Calendar by Rachel Ignotofsky | Also pictured: Unicorn keychain from New York’s Museum of Ice Cream.

Having remote lunch with friends I haven’t seen in a while because they live elsewhere, accomplishing a no-phone day to turn off the outside world for a bit, trying a new baking or cooking recipe.

Aced a new yoga pose? It’s there.

Work out with my brother? That too.

Prepared breakfast for my parents? Yeap, there too.

Treated myself to a ‘slow morning’? March 4th, it’s there.

Played Roller Coaster Tycoon for hours? You bet so.

I rather not call them ‘little’ things. The property I care about is the impact on my wellbeing. Ditch their subjective size or dimension — a flash that made my day different, remarkable.

That’s what I scribble down.

On the surface, they might seem to be just words. If I zoom in, I would realize there is a substantial meaning in them.

What appears to read as a simplistic remote-lunch session with friends implies being able to have:

  1. friends that are roaming the world
  2. access to food and my favorite dishes
  3. time to spend with them

n) connection to the internet.

In short, the kind of things I am grateful for having, but not always name out loud.

The month-long view gives me a glimpse of the past. I feel energized. I feel inspired. I feel, ironically, anchored to the present with a past happening.

Battling extremes. Finding balance. Doing more. Doing less. Doing enough. I know I’m not the only one figuring out how to cope these days. And coping is guided by resilience, our capacity to recover from difficulties, our ability to come back to ‘normal’.

So, can you tell me how you are keeping resilience today?