By Sally Rummel
Relationship stress, job loss, homeschooling, and 24/7 parenting are just a few of the anxiety-producing stressors affecting us all as we navigate our way through the “new normal” of the global coronavirus pandemic.
Our lives have literally been turned upside-down in the last few months, ever since the coronavirus became an unwelcome household word.
This loss of security and sense of well-being may have a major effect on peoples’ mental health, long after the pandemic has run its course or a vaccination has been developed and distributed.
But you don’t have to wait until then to protect yourself from your own mental health fall-out. You can move on from these difficult circumstances—and others that will spike throughout your lifetime—by harnessing the power of your own resilience.
According to the American Psychological Association, resilience is “the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.”
In practice, resilience means being able to not only move on after difficult circumstances, but to actually thrive, according to SELF magazine. Even though resilient people experience pain and distress during these trying times, they are eventually able to adapt and move themselves forward.
Some people have more resilience than others, based partly on one’s own neurochemical systems and unique personality traits. Your system of social support and resources like education, health insurance, etc., may also play a role in your powers of resilience.
If you’re basically an optimistic person, it’s easier to push through very dark times and do your best to thrive afterward, if you fundamentally believe that good things will happen to you.
Even if your personality bends toward pessimism, you can learn to be more resilient—it’s a process. Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, wrote in The New York Times, “The good news is that resilience isn’t a fixed personality trait; we’re not born with a set amount of it.”
To boost your own resilience factor, try these tips in looking at your current situation:
*’If I did it before, I can do it again.’ You can take your own past challenges in your life and remember how you overcame them, to prepare you for the next challenge.
*Build supportive relationships. Reaching out to friends and family with encouraging texts and calls is one of the best ways to build a supportive community that will provide support long after the pandemic.
*Look at religion and faith. For some people, religion or spirituality allows one to re-appraise a situation and put it into better perspective.
*Identify and use your strengths to overcome adversity and enhance your feeling of well-being. If compassion is your strength, helping others is a proven way to feel better during difficult times, while strengthening your own support network.
*Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions you might be feeling during a time of crisis, rather than avoiding your emotions. This provides you with a greater ability to decide how you want to respond to your circumstances.
*Reframe the situation so you can focus on a possible bright side—i.e., more family time, no work commute.
*Use humor and distractions of activities you enjoy to alleviate stress. Laughing is a stress reliever and sharing a laugh with others can help you feel more connected.
*Review your day with a bedside calendar and ask yourself, “What was the best part of my day?” Lisa Curtis, founder of Kuli Kuli Foods, spoke about her daily review ritual on her TED Talk on “Optimism.” “I’ve found that this practice helps me find the joy in life, even on the darkest of days,” she said.
If you’re finding that you just aren’t functioning well in your daily life, you may want to seek out the help of a mental health professional.
“These are abnormal times,” said Kelsy Hoerauf, licensed marriage and family therapist at Peace Services, P.C., in Fenton, Mich. “It’s a unique situation and we as counselors are going through it, too. If you’re stressed to the max, it makes sense that you’re having these worries.”
Her advice is to do what you can control in a situation you have no control over. “Plant a garden, for example. Getting outside is fantastic, even if just for a brisk walk, breathing fresh air. Stay informed, but take a break from the news. Instead, take in positive vibes with reading, devotionals and play music you like. Be fully ‘in the moment’ in your activities, instead of being distracted by the virus.”