Signs in Homer, Alaska, offer inspiration during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Michael Armstrong-Homer News)

Column: Resiliency allows us to adapt to trauma, changes during pandemic

Opening Our Eyes by Nan Dickie

We are all getting sick and tired (well, hopefully not sick) of this pandemic, and it’s not going to abate soon.

We must do what we are able to keep ourselves mentally healthy all the way through it. One component of good mental health is resiliency.

What does resilience mean? It is the process of adapting well in the face of trauma, threats or significant sources of stress. Well, here we are in the midst of the real and ongoing threat of COVID-19; many people have experienced trauma in the past eight months by losing their financial security, or their mental well-being or, in many unfortunate cases, loved-ones; and we have all experienced the myriad stresses caused by not being able to be in close contact with our friends and families, losing jobs or not being able to pursue long-standing or recent goals we have established for ourselves.

It’s easier to look at resiliency when we need to adapt to a single, short-term setback, such as breaking an ankle, losing our credit card, or not being able to do a favourite activity because of the pandemic. In each case, if we are wise, we take immediate action to deal with the situation: we seek medical attention for our broken ankle, we contact our bank to cancel our credit card, we choose another activity to participate in.

But how can we be resilient in the face of an ongoing, life-threatening, global threat that shows no clear signs of lessening in the near future?

Resiliency at this particular time is something we need to learn and practise over and over again, as the pandemic offers new challenges almost weekly. Resilience involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that each of us can learn and develop.

Several different core skills can empower us to withstand and learn from difficult and traumatic experiences such as the current pandemic. Four of these skills are: having meaningful connections with one or more other persons – not allowing ourselves to become isolated; maintaining as much physical, emotional and mental wellness as we are able; ensuring that our thinking is healthy, rather than negative; and having a sense of meaning throughout the pandemic rather than giving into meaninglessness.

It also helps if we find some special purpose during this time. For some people, their sense of purpose is just to get through this day. That’s enough. For others, it may be to volunteer – there are certainly ample opportunities for helping out at this time. For others, it may be undertaking projects at home which have been waiting to be done for months or even years.

Resiliency does not mean an easy ride through difficulties. We won’t bounce back to the way things were. However, resiliency does help us to move on with our lives, which is reason enough to practise those skills.

Nan Dickie is a local writer, speaker, and former facilitator of a local depression support group.

Read more: Column: Making the most of this new normal

Read more: Column: Dealing with grief and fear during the COVID-19 pandemic

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