The word "resilience" is one we hear a lot when talking about mental health. Resilience refers to the ability to bounce back from adversity, or the process of adapting well when under significant stress or trauma.
There's no doubt many of us feel particularly stressed as we navigate changes to our lives due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Our daily lives have been disrupted: We're not seeing our friends and family in person, we may be worried about our health and finances, our children aren't attending school, and grocery shopping has become stressful.
Being resilient doesn't mean you don't feel stressed or pain during challenging times. Being resilient does mean, however, that you find ways to navigate what you can control and figure out how to make the most of a tough situation. And if you need help, our psychiatrists and psychologists are providing video visits and group sessions for our patients who need support during this time.
You Can Become More Resilient
Resilience is a trait that is partly genetic, partly cultural and partly learned. Regardless of where you fall on the resilience spectrum, know that there are steps you can take to become more resilient.
Everyone has a "locus of control," which is the degree to which people think they have control over the events and circumstances that touch their lives. People with an internal locus of control believe they have some degree of influence over their situation. They believe that they have some influence over their lives, even if they can't control everything.
People with an external locus of control believe they can't control what happens to them and what becomes of them. They believe they can't influence the events in their lives because outside forces are at work. They don't think they can change their situation.
Those with an internal locus of control tend to adapt better to adversity. They tend to be more resilient in the face of crisis.
When something bad happens, those with an internal locus of control think about what is within their control, and how they can affect their outcomes. They may also see the situation as an opportunity for growth. They recognize they cannot control what happens to them, but they can control how they respond to it.
How can we build resilience now? How can we develop an internal locus of control? What choices do we have?
- Choose to stay connected. Social distancing doesn't mean social isolation. Use technology to connect with friends and family. Look to your already established networks, whether it's a religious institution, your child's PTA or an organization where you've volunteered. Connecting will remind you that you aren't alone.
- Practice self-care. Take time to exercise, sleep well, eat right and stay hydrated. Get help to quit smoking and limit alcohol use. When your body feels good, you're better able to manage stress and build resilience. By practicing self-care, you will boost your outlook and your overall mental health – while also re-energizing your immune system.
- Find purpose. Set goals and look for opportunities to grow. Make a list of what is in your control and what you would like to accomplish during this pandemic. A great way to find purpose is to help others. Maybe that's by making cloth face masks, fundraising for charity or calling an elderly friend to check in.
- Live according to your values. You know your values, and you can continue to abide by them. That is within your control, despite the storm that is happening around you. Doing so will give you a sense of control and build your resilience.
Building Resilience in Children
When children build their resilience early in life, they are better equipped to face adversity later in life. Children learn how to be more resilient by watching how trusted adults handle challenges.
Be a good role model. Explain we're going through a difficult time, yet we're responding by washing our hands, keeping hands away from our faces and practicing social distancing. Remind children we will get through this challenge together. Reassurance can go a long way toward building resilience.
Involve them by letting them offer suggestions on how to be more compassionate and take care of our bodies. Have children make a list of how they can grow during this time, such as learning new skills.
When to Seek Help
Some level of stress and anxiety is normal during a global health pandemic. People are suffering emotionally and financially, and some are grieving the loss of loved ones. Sadness and some anxiety are normal reactions.
However, if your feelings are overwhelming and harming your daily function, ask for professional help. If you notice severe anxiety that harms your ability to function, weight changes or sleep changes, feel down most of the time, or lose interest in things that brought you joy in the past, reach out. You may connect to your primary care physician, a therapist or a psychiatrist depending on your needs. We are helping patients through virtual visits, so don't hesitate to reach out if you need help.
You can't control many aspects of this pandemic, but you can control how you respond – and if you need help, we are here for you.
Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group, P.C. (Permanente) is our network of over 1,500 physicians who practice in our medical centers located in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia.