For most of the world, living through a pandemic is an entirely new experience. Perhaps the only thing we know for certain is that we’re dealing with profound differences to how we usually lead our everyday lives. So, what can we do to cope well with all this change?
1. Develop a resilient mindset
It’s possible to find new ways to cope with the upheaval we’re all currently facing and to become more resilient to life’s ever-changing circumstances. Resilience is about being able to adapt – or even bounce back – from life’s knocks. To process and learn from them, then move forward.
We are wired differently to cope with change, depending on our personalities. But there are some personality traits we associate with resilience, like optimism, mental toughness and the innate belief that you can overcome hardship.
2. Nurture your connections
Even if you don’t feel resilient, you might have more backing than you realise from your family and friends. A strong social network is vital. These are the people you can confide in, who listen when you need to vent your feelings. This is about giving and getting support, not just chatting with people across social media.
Research has found that having a confidant can improve mental health among those who have suffered mental ill-health. Individuals who had at least one person in their lives who provided them with a sense of emotional security and wellbeing were 3 times more likely to be in excellent mental health than those without a confidant.
3. Give yourself permission to feel a bit lost
Acknowledging that things around you are changing is an important first step. Humans don’t like to feel out of control, but it helps to accept that it’s OK to feel a bit lost at a time like this.
Work out what is important in your life – family, work, friends, study, health – and write it down so that you know what to focus on. Don’t be reactive; be proactive about changes that occur so you can have some control.
Then, look at your lifestyle. Are you sleeping enough, eating healthily and getting enough exercise? These are the building blocks of resilience. The World Health Organization recommends avoiding smoking, drinking alcohol or using other drugs as a way to deal with your emotions.
4. Consider talking therapy
If you’re feeling low, the opening up to people you trust can be a real relief. If you feel it’s necessary then it might also help to talk to a Psychotherapist or Counsellor. Therapy is a powerful tool for whenever you need extra support for good mental health.
So, don’t be afraid to reach out and get assistance if you need it, even if you find it hard to show vulnerability. A Therapist could help you to put things into context and guide you towards making decisions when anxiety or stress have crippled your ability to make up your mind.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be useful in times of change as it is oriented toward action and outcomes. This is more useful than therapies that ask you to ruminate or dwell on the past as it will empower you and push you forward.
It might also help to reduce the time you spend listening to media coverage if you find it upsetting. Find a credible source of information you can trust, such as the WHO website or a local or national public health agency.
5. Set one new goal
Set a new goal that is measurable and achievable, like learning a new language or something practical like gardening. But don’t give yourself too many goals, as that could become overwhelming.
Think about your decision-making process for coming up with the right next-step goal for you. There are pros and cons to every idea you have or change you need to make, so write two lists. One will be the pros of taking a specific decision and the other will cover the cons of taking that decision. This makes your feelings clearer and helps you decide on your course of action.
6. Stay hopeful about the future
Keeping a positive outlook is important. American scientists have found that hope can be a powerful indicator of recovery – and that it can also be a by-product of therapy. According to the research, adults who took CBT for common anxiety disorders and were encouraged to feel hopeful about recovery were also more resilient and more likely to make a good recovery.
So, from learning to be alright with an uncertain future to leaning more on our loved ones or simply remembering what we really want, perhaps changing times can be our biggest teachers. If we let them.