COVID 19 has brought with it an enormous amount of uncertainty, and our world seems to have changed overnight. Previously familiar parts of life now seem strange and even disorienting (like driving through downtown on a gorgeous Saturday and seeing stores shuttered and no people). Reports of tragedy and sickness surround us, and fear can take over if left unchecked. Managing the stress of coronavirus is made easier by finding inspiration and sources of hope which help us build resilience during COVID 19. When this is over, I wonder how long it will take for hugging friends and standing next to strangers to seem normal and devoid of thoughts about social distancing and virus transmission.
Resilience during COVID 19: Managing the fear of the unknown
Because unknowns are unsettling, it’s comforting to draw comparisons to previous experiences. These help to put a familiar framework around the unfamiliar and make it feel more predictable. But there aren’t many of us who have any experiences to compare with this coronavirus pandemic. Besides the unsettling graphs predicting the time until peak infections in each location, there are no familiar formulas to understand what’s going to happen. Because we can’t use our past experiences of “how it turned out last time,” it’s harder to minimize one’s fears or reassure ourselves that everything will be okay.
Although we may not personally have experienced anything similar, some people have. Finding inspiration in other’s stories of recovery and healing can help make managing the stress of coronavirus easier. Even if the details vary, the essential take away is the same: we are resilient.
We are resilient: Finding inspiration in others and resilience during coronavirus
Two extraordinary women, ages 101 and 95, are the epitome of strength and resilience. Their story, beautifully captured by the New York Times, was written about how they are handling the current pandemic. Both women have lived through some of the worst of times (think Holocaust, Spanish Flu, Polio, lack of antibiotics, Great Depression, and family tragedies…), yet their words are like a breath of fresh air. They are truly inspirational. The only sadness I felt reading about them was that the article came to an end.
I highly recommend taking a moment to immerse yourself in their story and use it to think about examples of resilience in your life, those around you, and in the world.
In these times, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the negative things happening around us. But it is crucial to take time to recognize the other side: positive stories of healing and connection, acts of kindness, and, most importantly, reminders of our resilience.
Managing the stress of coronavirus: The antidote to fear
The best antidote to fear of the unknown is the belief in one’s own ability to deal with, figure out, handle, and heal from adversity. If you have faith in your ability to care for yourself and recover, you can reassure yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed and immersed in catastrophic predictions. Strengthening resilience during coronavirus is an essential part of stress management.
From the New York Times article:
“When catastrophe is sequential, it eventually trains its survivors to greet terror with the serenity of the enlightened.”
Remember, it’s normal to be worried about what is happening in a time of crisis. By managing the stress of coronavirus, we can prevent being consumed by fear and having it take over your life.
If you are struggling:
- Write down examples of adversity you have faced and got through.
- Write reminders of your resilience so you can refer back to them when needed.
- Read about other people’s resilience and recovery and use them as inspiration.
- And if you are stuck, this is a great time to reach out for support.
Tip: In moments of high stress or overwhelm try Box Breathing
Dr. Harry Karydes is an Emergency Room Physician and wrote 5 Ways to Ease Stress Amid Crisis. He shares what he has found helpful when faced with moments of incredible stress working in the ER. He suggests an effective way to calm oneself is with box breathing, a technique developed by US Navy Seal, Mark Divine.
Here are the steps for Boxed Breathing shared in his post:
- Close your eyes and exhale all the air from your lungs to a count of 4 seconds
- Retain and hold for 4 seconds
- Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose for a count of 4 seconds
- Retain the air in your lungs and hold for 4 seconds
- Exhale slowly through your nose
Don’t underestimate the depths of resilience: Finding inspiration
I wrote an article, published in Psychiatric Times, about my experiences working with a patient 20+ years ago, the valuable gifts she gave me, and how she made me a better psychiatrist. Although I changed the identifying details to protect her identity, my sentiment, and the depths of her resilience are real.
If I was to ever wonder about a person’s ability to recover from extraordinary adversity, all I have to do is remember her. Although her life was overflowing with hardship, she found words amidst her years of silence. She had the ability to grow, the capacity to love, and a gentle spirit that was never destroyed.
In a situation where things feel impossible, let her story be a reminder of how incredibly resilient we are.
Share with us examples of resilience during COVID 19, enjoyable distractions you have discovered. What are your strategies for coping during this pandemic?
This series will continue to focus on resilience and ways to make these stressful times a bit easier. Here are the next posts:
The Gifts Brought by the COVID-19 Virus: Connecting with Others, Resilient Reminders, Recovery, and Hope
Building Resilience to Balance our Fears and Anxiety about COVID19
How to Stay Positive During Quarantine: Fun Distractions to Lift You Up
How to talk to children about COVID-19 and help them feel less anxious
Looking for additional ways to inspire yourself?
For thoughts on the meaning of life and finding joy, read:
Life in Search of Meaning: Finding Your Meaning and Purpose of Life
Is joy possible? Finding your purpose through active living (not all the suggested activities in this post are feasible during this time of quarantine, but there are still options that are).
Take this time of reflection and reevaluation as an opportunity to set goals. Spend time thinking about how to live a life you love:
Achieve Your Dreams! A Series on the Importance of Setting Goals
Feeling stuck in life? Instructions from a psychiatrist on how to live the life you love
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