Psychology’s silver linings during this time

Chloe Lister
Psychology’s silver linings during...

We are in the midst of a global paradigm shift, as the impact and status of the COVID-19 virus evolves daily. As the world faces uncertainty, fear and anxiety are heightened and may impact mental health.   This unforeseen and currently uncontrollable pandemic is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on our collective resilience.  The Chinese word for crisis, 危机, is composed of two characters signifying “danger” and “opportunity”.  Let’s search for the opportunity, the silver lining, and open ourselves up to the potential for global post-traumatic growth.

What is being called forward from us as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic? 

1. COMMUNITY:  Even though we cannot hug our friends and hold hands in solidarity at this time, we are all in this together.  Social distancing and self quarantine have become common language since COVID-19 does not discriminate.  Unity, collaboration, and harmony are being called forward in the hopes of birthing a successful global response.  On a macro global level, we must act as one.  On a micro level, children are out of school, families bound to their homes and some people suddenly out of work, which creates an increasing need to structure and balance our time. We are being called to connect to our communities with phone and video calls, live stream events, virtual play dates, and virtual learning platforms.  Many yoga and fitness instructors are offering live classes, spiritual leaders are streaming services, friends are meeting for virtual chats, virtual dance parties are sprouting up, and many therapists, coaches, and dietitians have moved their services to a telehealth platform.  Our idea of social interaction is transforming rapidly before our eyes.  How well we create and stay connected to a community will be a major factor in our personal resilience equation.  Could we come out of the other end of this with deepened relationships and enhanced communication?

2. GROUNDING:  When collective energy becomes chaotic, we need to work harder to set boundaries, both internal filters and external boundaries to support grounding and inner peace. Helpful boundaries may include limiting news and social media consumption or asking family and friends to limit anxiety producing conversations about the virus or economic recession. Staying grounded in difficult times doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid or don’t have feelings.  It is very important, especially now, to have a safe place and safe person/people, with whom to process fear and other difficult emotions.  Remaining grounded requires experiencing your feelings but not getting swept away with the current.  Breathing exercises, DBT mindfulness skills, yoga, guided meditations, hot baths, and co-regulating with loved ones are all great for activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases anxiety and enhances our body’s ability to rest, digest, and heal.  Balance and self-care, will in turn promote strong immune function.  A second silver could possibly be a more grounded global community and individuals who have emerged with a deeper connection to their core values.

3. RESILIENCE: Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulty or challenge. While we cannot avoid adversity, we can practice bouncing back from it and letting it positively shape our character.  COVID-19 has personally invited each of us to strengthen our resilience muscles.  While most of us have experienced a slowing down of our schedules, we are being called to assess our individual situations and to creatively pivot.  Employment, financial status, health, housing, and education have shifted for many, and life as we knew it a month ago, won’t be the same.  The prediction is that those who hold on to what was will suffer the most and those who listen to the call of what is to come will thrive.  Since many people will be forced to find new jobs, the job market will be uncertain and the other side of that coin is space for new companies to be birthed. The last US recession 2008-2010 brought about companies like Uber, Air BnB, Square, and Vemno.  Our ability to engage a community and to creatively pivot will build resilience as our life structures change. 

5 tips to protect your psychological well-being during COVID-19:

  • Conscious consumption of news and social media
  • Self-care: Eat and sleep well to boost the immune system, integrate exercise and take vitamins, hot baths, as well as what you need for mental and emotional self care.
  • Sleep hygiene practices: 7-8 solid hours, if possible, guided relaxations, calming teas, no electronics in bed rule.
  • Uplifting conversations: I challenge us to show up for one another and to stimulate conversations that create hope and calm fears.
  • Create community. Reach out to someone, throw a virtual dance party, watch a movie virtually with a friend, start a virtual interest group, check in on a neighbor, sing from your porch or balcony, take a virtual yoga or special interest class.
Taken from Psychology today

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