Word-Of-the-Week #816: Resilience

March 26, 2020 by  

Resilienceability to adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.

How well are you adapting to the coronavirus situation? Is it becoming a significant source of stress? Or are you accepting the “fear of the unknown?”

This Washington Post article A psychologist’s science-based tips for emotional resilience during the coronavirus crisis by Jelena Kecmanovic offers 4 approaches that can help preserve our psychological well-being. This week features 2 of them.

  • Accept negative emotions

As the news about the coronavirus pandemic becomes grimmer, and governments and businesses issue closing or work-from-home directives, many of us are experiencing a variety of negative emotions. We feel anxiety in response to the uncertainty of the situation; sadness related to losing our daily sources of meaning and joy; and anger at whatever forces are to blame for bringing this upon us. As a psychologist, I believe following evidence-based recommendations for bolstering mental resilience can help us weather this crisis. 

It is important to acknowledge that a lot of anxious thoughts and emotions will show up during this time, and to accept them rather than trying to push them away or escape them. The same goes for sadness stemming from the loss of our regular ways of living, worry about lack of supplies or apprehension about kids getting cabin fever. That’s because research has shown that avoidance of such emotions will only make them stronger and longer lasting.  

Notice negative emotions, thoughts and physical sensations as they come up, look into them with curiosity, describe them without judgment and then let them go. This is an essence of mindfulness, which has been consistently linked to good psychological health.  

“By allowing negative emotions to come and go, and focusing on how to spend this time to still include engaging in meaningful and joyful activities, we can get through this,” Forsyth said. 

Instead of fighting our emotions, we can invest our energy in creating the best possible life, given the circumstances. 

  • Reinvent self-care

Many parents of younger children are facing the stress of taking care of them at home, often while teleworking themselves. And families with elderly or sick members are dealing with even stricter isolation in an attempt to prevent covid-19 in this vulnerable population. “I feel especially sad and worried for my elderly mom and aunt, who are sequestered in their assisted-living facilities,” said Larry Eastman, a retired engineer in Ellicott City, Md. “And I’m concerned about my dad being isolated, because he’s not leaving home.”

 It is hard when you’re robbed of your tried-and-true ways of taking care of your physical and mental health. But don’t abandon them; science has shown that exercise, good nutrition and socializing are directly linked to emotional well-being, so now is the time to get creative. 

“To keep your psychological well-being, schedule self-care each day. It can consist of running or walking outside, using apps for home exercise or makeup sessions, and FaceTiming your friends,” said Ilyse DiMarco, a clinical psychologist at the North Jersey Center for Anxiety and Stress Management. Whether you need to change already estabished exercise, eating and socializing habits, or whether you’re using this time to launch a healthy-living routine, the new routines will give you mental strength. 

One thing that is still available to us, unless we experience complete lockdown, is nature. I have never seen more people in Washington’s Rock Creek Park than the past two weekends. Studies show that spending time in nature, whether you are hiking or gardening, positively affects psychological health. Make sure, however, that you are observing social distancing guidelines.” 

This week’s focus is on maintaining our mental resilience. Are you acknowledging anxious thoughts or negative emotions that you are feeling? Are you exercising and spending time outdoors? Do you feel some sense of control over your life?

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