We’re not even halfway through 2020, yet already this year will undoubtedly go down in history as a momentous one. We have been confronted with mortality. We have feared financial hardship and economic collapse. Nationwide protests calling for social justice for Black Americans are shining a light on systemic racism. And both the virus and the protests have sparked fierce debate and conflict nationwide.
Our country is in crisis. Coping effectively through crisis fosters resilience, or the ability to bounce back and ultimately make positive change after a hardship. As John F. Kennedy famously pointed out: “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis. ‘ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.” To be resilient as a country, we have to be resilient as individuals.
Here are three important tips for fostering resilience in the wake of a crisis:
1. Let your feelings be felt
When faced with a crisis, our basic assumptions about ourselves, others, and the world are challenged, and we are forced to confront things we tend to compartmentalize when things are operating as usual. Normal reactions to stressful events include anger, fear, sadness, and disgust. The problems we’re facing as a country are complicated, and many people are also feeling overwhelmed or helpless.
It may be tempting to resort to palliative coping skills, like reaching for comfort and distraction. But if we rely too much on band-aid solutions to cope with all this uncertainty, we are not allowing ourselves to work through crisis productively. In response to stress, our bodies pump out stress hormones meant to help us confront immediate threats to our survival like tigers and bears, not long-term and elusive threats like viruses and societal corruption. Chronic stress like this has its own downstream consequences like physical and mental health problems.
There may be a time and a place for distractions from uncomfortable feelings, but times of crisis call for letting our feelings be felt. Why? Our emotions are reactions that are hardwired into us to propel us to do something. Resilience is fostered through taking action in times of crisis. Talk to loved ones about what you’re feeling. Write in a journal. Express yourself creatively through art or poetry. Come up with a plan for how you can be of service. Invite yourself to feel it all – even the uncomfortable stuff.
2. Stay informed, but stay balanced
You may be finding it difficult to stay away from the news or social media lately. That’s understandable. There’s nothing wrong with staying informed and seeking out information to educate yourself. But too much exposure to media can be counterproductive; when we’re consumed with the media, we’re at risk of neglecting our health. Take breaks to focus on things you enjoy or to complete daily tasks. Remember to get some exercise, eat healthy foods when you can, and maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Preserving this balance is imperative for staying physically and mentally healthy.
3. Seek help when needed
It is normal to feel distressed in reaction to a crisis. Left untreated, however, stress reactions can take a toll on your mental health. If you notice any of the following changes persisting for more than a week or two, this may be an indication that it’s time to seek help:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Falling behind in work, school, or household tasks
- Changes in appetite
- Sleeping too much or not enough
- Changes in mood like feeling down, irritable, or anxious much of the time
- Headaches, body aches, or muscle tension
- Social withdrawal
If you are suffering, know that help is available — either from the safety of your own home or in any of our conveniently located offices (click here to learn more about how we are prioritizing safety in our offices). If you’d prefer to start online therapy in the wake of the pandemic but anticipate that you’d prefer to switch to in-office therapy at some point, you have the option of choosing a GLPG therapist located in your community.
Great Lakes Psychology Group values access to mental healthcare for all, and we believe that getting started with therapy should be simple.