Resilience

What We Are Learning About Ourselves From the COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

 

Some say that life will never be the same again, that we’ll forever be haunted by the tragic loss of life, untold suffering, mental anguish, diminished economic prosperity, curtailment of basic human freedoms and so much more. On the other hand, what’s unfolding as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is a reawakened sense of life’s meaning and purpose, recognition of our hidden strengths, and willingness to tap into our core goodness and generosity. We are learning a lot about ourselves, which benefits everyone.

Learning to quickly adapt

There is no doubt that what America and the rest of the world are experiencing is a reality that no one could have anticipated. Despite the fact that some in the medical community and those who’ve extensively researched viruses and past pandemics provided warnings of collective ill-preparedness for any pandemic of the magnitude of COVID-19, most people went about their lives unconcerned about potential catastrophic and widespread illness and death.

Now, however, since there is a new reality forcing a reassessment of how to live everyday life while maintaining social distancing, businesses, factories, and public and private places closed, we’re learning to quickly adapt. Long-held habits changed overnight. Commutes evaporated, replaced by the recommendation to stay in place.

Rediscovering our humanity

While there are instances of hoarding, selfishness, greed, and isolated crime, most people in America are united in a common bond: We are facing the pandemic, doing what we must to survive, and pledging to work tirelessly to find solutions to universally-experienced problems. In the process, we’re rediscovering our humanity.

Adopting technology at an accelerated rate

From online business meetings to connecting in-person and live with family members, loved ones and friends, we’re adopting technology at an accelerated rate. Social media networks, long a technological tool for connection, are even more important during a time when people are inside for weeks at a time. Mobile and online ordering for curbside pickup of staples, food, meals, and medicines is rapidly becoming the go-to way for Americans to conveniently and safely get what they need on an immediate basis. There’s a measure of confidence in adopting technology for these purposes since it means we’re not going to starve, run out of toilet paper, or much-needed medicine. Telehealth is also ramping up, as medical practitioners and patients connect via secure and HIPAA-compliant portals to ensure necessary medical and mental health needs are professionally addressed.

Discovering we are resilient

No one knows when the threat of the COVID-19 virus will subside, or if it will resurface again, perhaps seasonally, or undergo mutations that could be even more deadly. There is an unwavering focus on developing effective treatment medications and vaccines to combat coronavirus. Dealing with such uncertainty calls into question our personal and collective ability to bounce back. Yet, in the face of the crisis, we have discovered just how resilient we are. We have strengths we took for granted, and courage that we didn’t know we possessed. Recognize that resilience is a strength that can be cultivated and can then serve as a reservoir to utilize as needed.

Repurposing factories, tools and processes to meet urgent medical needs

From the automakers to plastics-makers to tobacco companies and virtually every type of business with machinery, equipment, and the processes and know-how to jumpstart an entirely new model, we’re repurposing assembly lines, retooling equipment and revamping processes to meet the country’s most urgent medical needs. These include making ventilators, N95 and surgical masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPEs) so desperately needed by front-line medical personnel, first responders, police officers, and others serving a citizenry affected with coronavirus.

Becoming more generous

Parents raising their children at home during this challenging time can impart invaluable lessons about the importance of generosity by serving as examples. Put together shelf-stable items such as canned goods, flour, and baking items, spices, condiments, packaged milk, and other staples and deliver them to the doorstep of someone who’s unable to get out and shop, or who may be ill, or is scrimping just to buy food. Americans are also showing their increasing generosity by donating money online, funding critical resources for disadvantaged individuals. In times of calamities and natural disasters, people in the United States have always stepped up to the challenge, yet the COVID-19 pandemic is proving just how generous this nation’s inhabitants can be.

Realizing life is precious

A recent story about a couple married 51 years, contracted the coronavirus and died within minutes of each other showcases how quickly life can be snuffed out. The two were in good health until the husband, aged 74, came down with a cough, developed breathing problems, had to be hospitalized, was diagnosed with COVID-19, and was intubated. His wife, aged 72, wracked by stress, became ill and her condition progressively worsened. When doctors told their son his dad didn’t have long to live, he took his mother to the hospital where she was tested, proved positive for coronavirus, and put the couple together in the same hospital room. She died within six minutes of her husband.

No matter how well you feel at the moment, follow CDC recommendations on the COVID-19 virus to take precautions and stay home, only venturing out with proper face mask, gloves, maintaining the minimum social distancing guidelines. Send one person to the store for food, instead of shopping together. The least contact with others outside the home as possible is the best practice.

While no one knows how long they’ll live, everyone can recognize how precious life is – every second of it.

Living in the moment

Now, more than ever, we’re keenly aware that this moment is what we have. This is what is real, the here and now. There’s less time spent dwelling on the past and no reason to engage in endless self-berating, constantly recycling negative and painful memories. We’re finding constructive things to do, making plans, and encouraging each other to enjoy today.

Reconnecting with family and loved ones

Granted, living in close proximity indoors takes its toll and familial arguments are unavoidable at times. Yet, even with the fact that staying inside is somewhat claustrophobic and emotions can be overwhelming in some instances, we’ve found ways to reconnect with family and loved ones – even those living in the same house. There’s more time to talk with each other at the kitchen table while doing chores in the yard and around the house, helping each other prepare meals, clean up, watch favorite shows and movies on TV. Communicating with family and loved ones honestly and lovingly at this time is more important than ever. For those suffering anxiety and depression, providing reassurance and support is crucial. Indeed, coping with anxiety now demands attention. Ensuring uninterrupted contact with that person’s therapist via phone, telehealth visits, email, instant messaging is another way to show your love and support.

Learning perspective

Things that once were annoying and stress-producing may now seem largely irrelevant. Personal peeves about a co-worker’s behavior or workplace habits are perhaps a distant memory. What siblings and family members argued about prior to COVID-19 have little bearing on what everyone is going through now. In essence, all Americans are learning perspective, as what is really important becomes abundantly clear: each other.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Finding Resilience in the Midst of Challenges

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“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” – David Brinkley

One thing is certain, and that is that each day presents new challenges. It isn’t the fact that challenges occur that is most important, however, but how well an individual is able to adapt and bounce back from setbacks and go on to face daily challenges. The secret is resilience, yet a little known fact is that it is possible to find and tap into a wellspring of resilience even in the midst of challenges.

Are You Up for Today’s Challenges?

A common misconception for many people is to wonder if we’re up for the challenges today brings. For some, the go-to course of action is to do anything and everything to avoid what is happening today. More specifically, to avoid what responsibilities should be attended to today. The difference between someone who acknowledges, accepts, and rises to meet the challenges and one who shirks, denies, ignores, or blatantly refuses to take action may well be their attitude.

The good news is that this is one area where proactive steps can be taken to turn a negative outlook into a more positive one, thereby improving outcomes regardless of the challenge at hand. Hence, going back to the reservoir of resilience can produce dramatic results.

How to Deal With Difficult or Unpleasant Tasks

Many people find that they steel themselves to tackle difficult or unpleasant tasks experienced on a more or less regular basis. Another common behavioral tendency is to shy away from anything unknown. Why is that? For one thing, people often feel at a loss as to how to deal with the situation, not having sufficient (in their estimation) experience or knowledge to take on the task with any degree of success. For another, they may be afraid – either that they’ll fail at it or that they’ll succeed. Success may mean yet more challenges, and they may not feel all that up to the job just now.

What If You Have Depression or Other Mental Health Disorder?

This can be especially true for anyone dealing with the difficulties inherent in coping with a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and others. Often, in addition to the uncertainty and self-doubt the disorder creates, the individual feels ill-equipped to make sound decisions. There’s also likely a fear that a previously-used coping mechanism or method may be faulty.

Even so, consider the fact that there’s probably a wealth of lessons just beneath the surface of the various daily challenges encountered, whether one is dealing with a mental illness or any other daily challenge. By failing to pay heed to these lessons or automatically rejecting them as unworkable, too difficult, indicative of failure or not worth the effort, that does a huge disservice to the individual. By way of illustration, think of the last time paying attention to a truth that’s become apparent during the course of tackling a difficult challenge made a tremendous difference in the task outcome. By tapping into that residual memory, it’s not only possible to benefit from resilience but also to jumpstart it this time. The circumstances may be different, yet our inherent knowledge source remains constant.

Finding Resilience in the Midst of Challenges

As to actually being able to find resilience in the midst of these challenges, this is a skill that can be developed and built over time and with practice. It’s possible to somehow stumble on a way to discern what’s hidden beneath or train ourselves to find the good in everything that we do, whether it is a daily task or taking on something that seems complex, demanding and out of normal expertise.

What we’ll find is that we’ve got more going for us than we realized. There are strengths that we each possess that will serve us well, but only if we give ourselves the opportunity to put them to work.

Look at challenges that arise and figure out ways that to possibly tackle them, where to start looking for the solution, how to implement it, when, and where to ask for help or marshal resources.

The stronger the foundation of resilience is, the more strength and resilience there’ll be to utilize when something unexpected threatens to derail progress in working through challenges. Indeed, every action taken makes us stronger we get stronger – as long as we constantly strive to learn something from our efforts, successful immediately or not.

How This Works in Real Life

How does this work in real life? What is an example that we can all identify with? Suppose we’ve attempted a task and find that we run into a roadblock of considerable proportion? We’ve tackled something that really goes beyond our area of experience or knowledge and believe we can’t go any further. There are, however, ways to look at this. Granted, it could be marked as a failure. On the other hand, it is also possible to acknowledge what was learned in the process. That may well be that we have the strength to take on difficult challenges and not shy away from them, or we’ve learned when we need to step aside, possibly turn over the task to someone with more experience and/or follow by their side so as to learn how to do it ourselves.

What we can take from the experience is the fact that all of this adds to our residual body of resilience, knowledge, experience, and self-confidence. While total success may not have been achieved this time out, this should not deter us from tackling challenges again. In fact, we’ll likely find that we’re more hopeful than ever, given the fact that we’ve learned how to make use of our innate resilience to identify and pursue innovative and workable solutions to everyday challenges.

Suppose others are critical of our efforts? Those are neither true friends nor supporters of our goals. Keep attuned to giving challenges complete effort and focus, doing the best possible in the moment. What comes out of this is something profound in return, and that is a belief in our ability to succeed in the end. Remember, as humans, we learn when we act. The more we learn, the more we grow. The more we grow, the stronger our resilience reservoir becomes.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Why It’s Important to Your Mental Health to Deal Constructively With Self-Doubt

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How to Start Making Plans When You’re Recovering From Depression

Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of Is You

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Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more. I also invite you to like me on Facebook, follow me on LinkedIn,  TwitterInstagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

 

Best Way to Effect Change

Best Way to Effect Change

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

 

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

 

When something’s not right and you want it to change, there are several ways to go about it. No doubt you want to tailor your actions, so they reflect the best way to effect change. While taking the initiative and acting may be the quickest and most efficient approach, there are some caveats to consider. You might not have all the facts, for example, or what you do know may be distorted by perception or long-held belief. It is also quite possible that your viewpoint is skewed, thus leading to erroneous conclusions and poor judgment.

Considering that there are always going to be situations and instances where change is desirable, as well as times when only you can do something about what needs changing, perhaps the best way to effect personal and situational change is by changing the way you look at things.

Granted, this isn’t easy to do, especially if you grew up in an atmosphere of rigid compliance where any testing of authority was not tolerated, and you were constrained to act within certain boundaries. Questioning the status quo may feel like anathema now that you’re an adult may feel like an impossible task, one that you’re loathe to entertain. A little-known yet very powerful way to begin to assert your independence is by thinking outside the box you were put in when growing up.

Suppose you were always called stupid and told you’d never amount to anything. Many well-meaning parents fall into the trap of being overly critical of their children, perhaps projecting their own insecurities while wanting in good faith to ensure their offspring have a better life. That their thoughtless remarks and labels have the opposite effect may never occur to them, at least without parenting counseling. That kind of cruelty on the part of parents, siblings or others is enough to stunt anyone’s growth. Finding your own path under such circumstances was likely difficult because you believed the criticism was right. Difficult, but not impossible.

Maybe you’ve attempted to change things in your life and failed repeatedly. This also tends to put a damper on any motivation to seek further change. Again, the prospects for self-change are difficult, yet not impossible.

It is important to note that there is no directive of human behavior that requires any individual to steadfastly accept their circumstance. You have the power to effect change for yourself above all else. It doesn’t matter if you grew up impoverished, in a dysfunctional family, with no support system, suffering childhood illness, mental health disorder or some other condition. Nor does an upbringing in an affluent household guarantee the ability to enact change, even if such changed is steadfastly desired. What is necessary, however, no matter the circumstances or conditions under which you grew up, is the willingness to put aside old beliefs and negativity and look at the world around you with open eyes and an unbiased heart.

Is there a wrong you seek to make amends for? What about an injustice you believe came about as the result of your actions? What avenues can you take to create a better life for yourself than that which you came into the world to? Can you find the path to follow to achieve greater success? Is it possible to mend your ways, repair your reputation, begin to love again, heal damaged relationships, find a way to balance work and home, explore your true potential and achieve almost any goal?

You bet there is.

If you are willing to cast aside the barriers and suspend judgment so that you can take in the reality that is now, you may be surprised that what you thought was so, what seemed impossible to change, is false. What is available to you, what you can change, will not only astound but also invigorate you.

How to get started with a plan.

Once you’ve cast aside beliefs that may have held you back in the past and resolved to move forward with determination and enthusiasm, you still need a plan. Venturing forth without a firm grasp of the change you’d like to effect, or a timetable to help guide your actions and help you stay the course, or a guide to refer to so you know if you are making progress or not, the mere desire to effect change will stall. To help you navigate effecting change, your plan must consist of the following:

  • The plan must be motivating, a course of action that you can not only see yourself taking, but one that fills you with vigor and excitement. The more internally motivated you are, the more likely your chances of success. “If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

 

  • It must be workable, a blueprint that you readily accept and believe yourself capable of putting into action. Deciding on a plan that’s going to put you in a position of tackling goals currently far out of reach is not the way to go. You need incremental stages, perhaps smaller goals or ones that are shorter in duration, before you can feel confident of your ability to take on harder goals or ones that require skills you don’t now possess. “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities. Without reasonable but humble confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” – Norman Vincent Peale

 

  • To increase likelihood of success, the plan must consider potential hurdles and contain alternate scenarios and courses of action. Weigh each one according to its merits, gauging how close it gets you to your goal. “I have a number of alternatives, and each one gives me something different.” – Glenn Hoddle

 

  • The plan must also be modifiable, a guide that you can modify as conditions or needs change, or you’ve attained the goal and want to proceed to something else. Being constrained to a rigid plan is a quick recipe for disappointment and abandonment of the impetus to change. “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins

Expect the unexpected when proceeding to effect change. To the extent that you can bounce back from setbacks, learn from your mistakes and missteps and find the lesson that’s often hidden within seeming failure, you’ll be developing and enhancing resilience, a crucial self-strength that allows you to overcome life-changing situations and stressful circumstances.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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Why It’s Good That You’re Not Perfect

Why Its Good That Youre Not Perfect

Photo by Monica Galentino on Unsplash

“Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” — Brené Brown

 

It’s practically a universal fact that almost everyone wants to get ahead. If I’m being honest, I must confess that I do. Even though I’m no longer striving to achieve a lofty career goal at a large corporation, I still have goals and want to succeed at them. It’s just that striving for recognition, money and advancement is no longer at the top of my wish list. I used to want that more than anything. Now I prefer to live a life of abundance: of spirit, joy, surrounded by loving family and friends, healthy, content and curious, willing to go out of my way to help others, to rejoice in the goodness of others.

I also know that I’m not perfect. The fact that I can readily admit that alleviates a certain amount of tension.

Trying too hard to be perfect never gets you anywhere. I learned that a long time ago. Granted, you make mistakes. Everyone does. Some of mine have been colossal blunders, while others were the result of being too hasty or careless or skipping some steps in pursuit of a goal. After beating myself up about it, I finally figured out that such hyper self-criticism was a waste of time. It made more sense to determine the lesson from the failure, if for no other reason than to not repeat it again. But perfectionism, trying to be perfect? According to experts, that’s an impossibility and a losing strategy.

On the other hand, striving to do better is an effective approach. With a worthwhile goal providing motivation, healthy striving can lead to a richer and more fulfilling life. I’ve found that to be true with goals large and small, some more immediate and others requiring considerable time and effort to achieve.

Suppose you’re not very good at math and want to become more proficient. Or you want to train yourself to be better at differentiating differences and spotting changes, as in identifying what’s different in a field of changing icons and images in a brain teaser game online. With diligent practice and the belief that you can improve your skill, you do indeed get better. That’s not trying to be perfect but striving to improve. The former is a hopeless pursuit, the latter laudable and likely to succeed.

In an average day, most of us experience a few disappointments, make the wrong turn, put the wrong ingredient in a recipe, rush through a quiz and make a few mistakes, forget what we were going to say, say the right thing at the wrong time or the wrong thing at the right time. These are examples of what we’d consider a failure, blunder, mistake or stupid move. With the mindset that always demands perfectionism, we’re likely to continue to spiral down, never quite making the mark and sinking deeper into a less hopeful and more negative state of mind.

In contrast, by taking mistakes, disappointments and failures in stride and striving to do better, we’re bolstering our resilience, maintaining good balance and promoting a healthy way of living. Sure, it may take practice to overcome a tendency to get things right every time, as well as learning to ignore the comments from others about “Better luck next time.” This is especially true if perfectionism has become ingrained and those who know you expect you to be perfect all the time.

Having witnessed a few friends and acquaintances who’ve succumbed to the tantalizing and wrong siren song of perfectionism – and coming close myself on one or two occasions – I know that the preferred and much more effective and satisfying way to live is to engage in healthy pursuit of achievable goals.

If you tend to believe the same way I do, you’re not perfect – hooray! Neither am I, thankfully. Life is so much more enjoyable this way and that’s why it’s good that you’re not perfect. Keep in mind, though, that just because you’ve let go of pursuit of perfectionism does not mean you relinquish your goals. Adding incrementally to your strengths, skills and accomplishments boosts your self-confidence and self-esteem and intensifies your sense of purpose in life.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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