We are six months into our pandemic, with a continually changing landscape of restrictions, re-openings, sudden starts and stops to the new normal since Covid-19 began. While many have adjusted successfully to the continual uncertainty, the sustained period of disruption and loss is taking its toll on even the most resilient among us. Bracing for what may indeed be a new round of risk in the coming months as we await a vaccine and end to the pandemic, techniques for resilience become paramount for buffering against hardship and restoring our reserves.
Now, more than ever, we must exercise self-care and do whatever we can to strengthen our resiliency to stay strong for ourselves and our families. While so much is outside of our control, several practices informed by psychological research can be cultivated in our daily lives to strengthen our ability to withstand and overcome adverse circumstances and bounce back for a new day.
Each of us can develop our own unique strategy for not only coping during these difficult times, but growing in ways that help sustain us going forward.
- Experience Flow
The state of human consciousness, called Flow, in which we are performing optimally while totally immersed in a challenging activity of our own choosing, elicits a sense of immense satisfaction and utter wellbeing that provides an escape from all else. In the flow state we lose track of time. We are in ‘the zone’. We may forget to eat. We are challenged but not overwhelmed. We are progressing to an attainable endpoint. Flow exercises our strengths and abilities and satisfies basic psychological needs for autonomy and competency. It is sometimes easy to forget what it is that brings us to a Flow state – whether it is playing the guitar, painting, restoring the antique desk from Grandma, fishing in the lake, solving a puzzle or building that doll house with your daughter. Flow is unique to each of us and our unique interests and abilities. Identify what activities bring you into a flow state, and increase the frequency of flow opportunities into your life. Schedule time for this on a regular basis.
- Grow Your Play Ethic
When we think of toddlers, who seemingly thrive and live life with endless zeal, their world is full of play. With working and learning at home during the pandemic, distinct lines of work/home schedules have been blurred. The open laptop in the dining room ever beckons us to check for that email. Students’ bedrooms become their classrooms. There is little visual and physical separateness to isolate work/play so we must consciously choose and enact a virtual separation to foster time for play. When we grow our play ethic, we become more like that inner toddler! Cultivate a play ethic by planning to do enjoyable things on a regular basis. Take mini breaks throughout the day and get up from the screen. As simple as getting outside for an impromptu game of dodgeball with the kids, driving along a scenic back road, or taking up a new sport or hobby as a family can develop your play ethic. Play offers all of us a much-needed respite which restores the body and mind.
- Build Yourself
Make you a priority. Re-examine the sources of positivity in your life, and choose sources of positivity that build you up. Once you know what builds you, try to incorporate opportunities for these sources to be part of your new routine. There are many positive emotions which serve to build positivity – joy, hope, love, inspiration, awe, serenity, pride, gratitude, amusement and interest, to name but a few. Pursue an interest you neglected when you were busy. Learn something new. Spend time outside and appreciate the emergence of Fall. Consider reflecting on gratitude and genuinely thank someone, offer hope or make someone laugh. Go for lots of small boosts. They add up and accumulate over time to provide an abundant base of enjoyment upon which your resiliency rests. The magnitude of the elicited positive emotion is less critical than its frequency, so no need to pursue lottery winning joy. Incremental positive emotion accumulates like pennies in the bank.
- Meet Your 3 Psychological Needs
Competency, Autonomy and Relatedness are basic psychological needs which, if unmet, hinder our ability to thrive. We must be able to express our skills and talents, make choices for ourselves, and relate to others. Consciously decide to develop and use your talents. Feeling a loss of autonomy? Try articulating each and every decision you make every day. Often, we find hidden choices we’ve made long ago, and upon careful reflection we see those choices influencing our daily lives. And while connecting with others is physically limited during the pandemic, we are fortunate to have technology available for virtual connectivity, and with some creative physical distancing, can still enjoy the company of others. Relating to and connecting with others is more challenging during the pandemic but perhaps ever more crucial. Greeting others as you walk in the park, smiling (from behind your mask) and thanking the clerk at the grocery store, waving to neighbors as they drive by are simple yet impactful ways to increase relatedness in everyday life.
- Make Wellness a Strategy
Today people have strategies for all kinds of goals – financial, weight loss, fitness, job search, dating, even acceptance into that competitive pre-school. One frequently overlooked strategy that has the power to ultimately improve our lives is a wellness strategy. When we consciously develop and create a sustainable wellness strategy, we make an investment in our overall health which pays dividends over the long term. We must devise ways to increase opportunities to experience positive emotions and flow into our everyday lives. We must continue to play, learn new skills, resurrect our old hobbies and develop our selves and deliberately choose to make space for these in our lives. In doing so, we allow the concrete of our being to cure, laying a solid foundation for sustainable well-being and resilience during these tough times.
Practicing resiliency techniques now and as part of an ongoing wellness strategy helps to buffer us and stokes the fire in our rainy day toolkit from which we can draw as future challenges arise.