Life after the Coronavirus lockdown: Lessons in Resilience
If someone had told you last year that you would spend the spring of 2020 in lockdown, due to a pandemic, what would you have said? You probably would have found it unbelievable. You probably would have said there was no way you could stay at home for days and weeks on end, without going “crazy”.
But it did happen. And whilst a heightened level of distress and anxiety are completely normal reactions to a situation as worrying and uncontrollable as a pandemic, most of us did not “lose” our minds. You may be experiencing some stress-related reactions may including iirritability, poor concentration, insomnia and reduced productivity. But we faced some of our worst fears and we survived. You probably learnt recently that you are more resilient than you had realised.
We must not minimize the extent of the loss, trauma and hardships many are enduring as a result of the pandemic. It will take time to heal the wounds of many. Humans are vulnerable. Many things in life are temporary. Uncertainty and the feeling that we are not in control can be stressful. And resilience in the face of adversity is not just up to you. Past and present conditions and experiences, as well as current external factors that are beyond our control, influence a person’s ability to be resilient.
There are, however, many things that are within your personal control that you can do to enhance your ability to resilient, to “bounce back”. We can learn how to bounce back from adversity if we embrace change rather than resist it.
Create, maintain and nurture relationships. Invest time and energy in your relationships with family, partners, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Social support is the key to good mental health. The latest research from China shows that social and psychological interventions significantly improve the wellbeing of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 crisis (Chen et al., 2020). Decades of psychological research shows us that we all benefit from social support, in terms of having better outcomes for both our mental and our physical health.
Remember the saying “when one door closes another one opens”? Look for the opportunity that can come out of a crisis. This doesn’t mean just pretending everything is ok - it is important to accept your feelings of disappointment and frustration that this year probably isn’t turning out the way you had planned. Take the time to talk about, and reflect on, these difficult feelings. And then try new ways of looking at the situation. The ability to adapt to new situations, to be flexible, is an essential component of resilience.
Take care of yourself and avoid being overly self-critical. When you are having a hard time try to show yourself the same compassion you would show to a friend if they were in the same situation. Make some time in your daily schedule for self-care.
Whilst you can do these evidence-based things to enhance your level of resilience, it is important to realise that resilience does not exist only at the individual level. It also exists at the community level. In times of uncertainty and in the face of threat we are more likely to support and identify with our ingroup. Therefore bias, discrimination and hate crimes tend to increase during such times. We know that people of low socio-economic status, and minorities, are more at risk of developing stress related complications to illness, partly because of the stress of living with daily stigma and discrimination. Let us all be aware of this and create a more tolerant and resilient community, for all.