January’s community call recap: (Personal) Resilience and Community (Management)

For January’s community call we focused on resilience. The topic of this year’s Community Manager Advancement Day, resilience is particularly important for scientific community managers, who tend to be prone to burnout due to busy and somewhat ambiguous roles, which require rapid switching between a broad range of skills. In addition, scientific community managers often work alone, behind the scenes, and with limited institutional support.

Following two prior presentations on resilience for CSCCE fellows, CEFP 2017 alumna Jennifer Davison agreed to share her talk with the entire community. You can watch Jen’s presentation in full below, or read on for a brief recap. Also in this post, a collection of tips for building a personal resilience practice gathered from the participants in the call, and a host of resources from blog posts to books to podcasts.

…resilience is seen as the capacity to withstand change for some time but also, past a certain point, to transform while continuing or regaining the ability to provide essential functions, services, amenities, or qualities.

Moser, 2008

(Personal) Resilience and Community (Management)

In this presentation, Jen describes an evidence-based approach to building a personal resilience practice, and talks about why it is so important for community managers to do so. The presentation sparked a lot of conversation in the chat and virtual notes document. Some of the points that particularly resonated with participants were:

  • Community managers are a human “hub” within the community, hearing both good and bad feedback all the time and deploying a wide range of skills to get their work done (see the CSCCE Skills Wheel Guidebook for more on this). They are also often the person called in to facilitate difficult conversations, particularly over the last year with the increased scrutiny of diversity, equity, and inclusion practices in science. This is emotionally exhausting work. 
  • Stress is stress. While Jen’s presentation focused on professional burnout, our discussion touched on the fact that this can spill over into other areas of our lives. Similarly, personal burnout, such as the stresses that come with homeschooling while holding down a full-time job during the pandemic, can affect how we show up to work. 
  • “Is it a sore muscle, or an injury?” When we assess our own situation, and recognize symptoms of burnout, how do we take care of ourselves? This might look like taking time out to rehabilitate your “injured muscle” so that you can come back fresh. Another option is to restructure your work week to match your energy levels or other commitments. However, sometimes we’re not simply “sore”, we might be “injured” and removing ourselves completely from the challenging situation may be the appropriate response. 
  • “Change is loss.” Even when it’s heralding new opportunities, change likely also involves saying goodbye to something or someone, and that requires time to grieve and adjust. As we considered a post-pandemic future, we discussed how there is no “going back” to how things were before. Instead, we must “go forward,” taking with us things we have learned and not returning to practices that were harmful. 

Giving and receiving, both, strengthen our social bonds—checking on a neighbor, seeking advice, even just offering a smile to a stranger six feet away, all can make us stronger.

Vivek H. Murthy

Tips to build resilience

You cannot channel your empathy, compassion, and care for others outward into your community if you have not taken the time to channel it inward to yourself.

Carrie Melissa Jones, CMX

In other words, you can’t drink from an empty cup. Jen’s evidence-based tips to “fill your cup” of resilience: 

  1. Take time away 
  2. Go outside
  3. Read a good book
  4. Listen to music, maybe sing really loud
  5. Sleep, exercise, and eat well
  6. Connect with *your* community

Some additional ways members of our community build resilience:

  • Put aside work once work hours are done. This might look like not checking your email or phone after work hours, physically putting things in a cupboard at the end of the day, or creating a dedicated space in your home that you “commute” to and from.
  • Connect with friends, either over Zoom or on socially distanced walks. If you’re finding it hard to maintain conversation due to having to stay home and having nothing to talk about, try playing games virtually, e.g., Codenames or Pictionary
  • Send a physical letter or gift. As a community manager, this might look like mailing participants in a virtual event a physical souvenir or thank you note. As an added bonus, writing thank you notes may actually make you feel better: gratitude causes synchronized activation in multiple brain regions and lights up parts of the reward pathways and the hypothalamus!
  • Develop a mindfulness and/or meditation practice. Building a mindfulness or meditation practice, which addresses the mind and body holistically, can be particularly effective for mitigating burnout. There are lots of apps out there to help you get started, and we’ve included a few suggestions in the resources section below. 

Resources and reading

resilience: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

adrienne maree brown

Short reads:

Long reads and books:

Podcast episodes:

Mindfulness and meditation apps:

Acknowledgements

A big thank you to Jen for inspiring important and supportive conversations within the CSCCE community of practice, and to everyone who participated in the call and generously shared insights and resources. If you have suggestions for additional resources to add to this list, feel free to add a comment below, or email us: info@cscce.org

Next month’s community call

Save the date for next month’s community call, which will cover tips and strategies for remote work. Do you have something to share on this topic? Let us know! info@cscce.org

February 2021 Community Call: 17 February at 4pm UTC / 11am US EST

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