Building Resiliency During COVID-19

resilient yellow flowerBuilding Resiliency During the COVID-19 Outbreak

During this challenging time of the COVID-19 virus we are bombarded with horrific facts of the number of people who have died, the crippling economic effect it is causing, quarantines, and the overall uncertainty as to how long it will last and what life will be like when it is over.  It is important not just to COPE with the challenges COVID-19 presents us, rather to build our RESILIENCY.

So what is resiliency?  Resiliency is not simply being able to endure or weather the storm, or the ability to bounce back to who one was and how things were before the traumatic event.  Rather, resiliency is the ability to grow from that trauma and build a stronger sense of self, relationship with others and create a new way of functioning and accepting the changes brought about by the storm.

Some people seem to be more realistically optimistic than others, more resilient.  Research has found there are common characteristics among people who overcome hardships or tremendous obstacles and do not come through trauma unscathed, but rather transformed.

Below are 5 basic characteristics I have found of resilient people:

  1. Understanding and Acceptance of What Is and Is Not Within Their Control

-Resilient people focus on what is within their ability to control or change and accept, though they may not like it, what is not.  Think of the Serenity Prayer: God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

  1. Strong sense of Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy

-Resilient people believe they are basically good, worthwhile human beings who believe they deserve to have good things happen to them.  They have a sense of hope, optimism and see themselves as survivors rather than victims.

  1. Mindful of their Thoughts and Emotions

-Resilient people have a high degree of self-awareness.  They acknowledge their thoughts and emotions, both positive and negative ones without judgement and focus on finding a sense of calmness in the mind that allows respite from being bombarded by internal and external stressors.  Visualize being in the eye of the tornado or how a surfer rides in and through the tunnel of a wave.

  1. Good Problem Solving Skills

-Resilient people are able to recognize the immediate and long-terms needs and issues which a crisis brings and engage in thoughtful, not impulsive or desperate decision making.  They seek out other people’s opinions and ideas and entertain solutions which may be contrary to their own.

  1. Emphasis on Social Connection

-Resilient people value the support and interaction with others as vital to their well-being.  They express their gratitude and appreciation for other people, respect and find value in their differences, and focus on what brings them joy and laughter.

For more information about building resiliency see: https://www.bloomsandsmiles.com/5-characteristics-resilient-people/; https://www.huffpost.com/entry/resilient-people_b_5507387; https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-build-resilience-for-tough-times-1717568; and https://www.psychreg.org/characteristics-of-resilient-people/.

Additionally, here are some suggestions as to how one can translate these characteristics of resiliency to today’s challenges of the COVID-19 virus.

  1. Begin practicing mindfulness, whether this be actually meditating (there are several good guided imagery apps such as Head Space and Calm), having a quite cup of coffee before the house erupts into the morning chaos, or focusing fully on a simple task.
  2. The COVID-19 virus is here and there are things you can do to reduce your risk of contracting it. Do frequently wash your hands, avoid gatherings of greater than 10 people and if possible work from home.  Don’t obsessively watch the news, scour the internet for information on the virus or have it as the primary topic of conversation.  The virus has resulted in financial stress for many people.  If you are one of them, reach out to your creditors to explore what options may be available, don’t put your head in the sand.
  3. Be good to yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, limit your alcohol intake and get enough sleep.  These things will not only improve your sense of self-worth, they will also improve your immune system and reduce your vulnerability to the virus or severity of symptoms if you do contract it.
  4. Social distancing and quarantines are challenges to find new ways of staying in contact with friends and family. Social media, telephone calls and other on-line group activities can provide that support and sense of connection.
  5. More time at home also provides opportunities to engage in or discover new hobbies, read books or watch movies you didn’t previously seem to have time for, or finish other home projects.
  6. The Pillsbury Biscuit commercial says the average family spends 38 minutes together daily. The COVID-19 virus has certainly changed that statistic!  This is an opportunity for family time, so get creative.  Baking with your children can be turned into a math lesson.  Turn back the clock of technology and turn into story time on public radio (check out WBUR Podcast on NPR), and playing cards or putting together puzzles teaches strategic thinking and problem solving skills.
  7. Keep the focus on what is positive and how to be helpful to others. We are all in this together and verbally attacking or blaming others for the virus or circumstances which have resulted from it will not change those circumstances or quicken the end of the virus.

Della Martinsen licensed psychologist in Minot officeArticle written by Della Martinsen, Ph.D. and a licensed psychologist in our Minot office.