Finding Resilience for Our Mental Well-Being

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In the final week of 2020, we have an opportunity to reflect on what this year has meant for us and how it changed us.  We have all been impacted by this pandemic, some of us more than others. 

Research has studied the effect of large-scale traumas and disasters on communities.  Not only has this pandemic caused mental health challenges for many of us, but we have also been given the opportunity to practice and develop our resilience. Some people think of resilience as a trait of someone who is born with hardiness or an outcome such as the presence of post-traumatic stress or growth. 

Resilience is neither lucky nor passive and can be strengthened with practice. Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity. When we get far enough past adversity to look back with perspective, we can consider its effects on our lives and identities, reflect on the skills we developed, the actions we took, the lessons we learned, and the reasons we kept going. Asking ourselves “what do I do when times get hard?” reminds us of our personal skills and characteristics that we can use. The question “Who helps me when times get hard and who can I help?” address our social supports and sense of connection. 

Finally, asking ourselves “Who do I want to be when this is over and what will it have meant for me?” helps us to focus on a sense of meaning and purpose. The COVID pandemic is far from over with vaccines providing us a bright light at the end of this tunnel. 

Until then, we need to be deliberate about navigating the middle of the resilience process, the part between getting through and looking back. We will do this by harnessing resources that work for us based on our individual and community needs. Think of resilience like a seesaw or balance scale where negative experiences tip the scale towards negative outcomes, positive experiences towards positive outcomes, and shifting the fulcrum so that the scale can handle more negative experiences without leading to negative outcomes. 

Here are three simple steps to help navigate and manage building anxiety in ourselves, our families, and our loved ones:

Inform
Begin by discussing that anxiety is a normal survival mechanism and is an integrated part of our bodies. It’s important to communicate that different people have unique sources of anxiety and experience different symptoms when facing something that makes us anxious. The things that inspire anxiety, as well as our individual symptoms and their severity, vary based on our unique physiologies and life experiences. What may be an incapacitating source of stress for one person might not affect someone else at all, and two people who experience anxiety over a similar topic may demonstrate completely different symptoms. Recognize that no matter what causes our anxiety or its effects on our bodies, these experiences are normal.

Observe and Strategize
Now that you’re aware of the sources and…



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