Weathering the Storm:
Strategies for Emotional Resilience in the COVID Era
By Chris Deisler
I yelled at my eight-year-old today. She didn’t deserve it.
For quite a while I believed I was handling this crisis well, cleverly navigating the emotional obstacle course I woke up to each day. Until, that is, I began to yell at loved-ones for little to no reason. After each instance, when clarity and shame returned, I became increasingly aware that my ability to cope was wearing thin.
I am not alone. In the wake of this global pandemic we are all feeling the psychological strain, and nothing in our collected experiences has prepared us for this constant and universal state of adversity.
Our ability to handle these challenges…our resilience…has been put to the test like never before. We think of it like a tree in a windstorm, bending with the gusts and returning to shape as they pass. But what happens to resilience when the wind never fades?
Our existing tools may not be enough. To adapt and grow under new and alien conditions we will need the help of those who have weathered great adversity before us.
One such person is Lucy Hone, PhD, a researcher in the psychology of resilience. After suffering a devasting loss a few years ago, she found herself forced to transition from the role of an expert eager to support those in need to that of a victim desperate for help. Through her struggle, she found a handful of simple strategies that worked and she chose to share them in her 2019 TEDx talk, “The Three Secrets of Resilient People.”
She advises we accept that adversity is normal, a task which is, perhaps, a little bit easier to understand today than in simpler times. Resilient people are those who can recognize that bad things happen without reason and to everyone. Learning to accept this frees us from feeling persecuted by fate and allows us instead to confront our circumstances head on.
Her second suggestion is to focus on the things we can change and learn to recognize and accept the things we can’t. When we dwell on the insurmountable, we have no choice but to be overwhelmed. However, when we take what we can’t change and push it aside to concentrate on the challenges we can overcome, we experience a fundamental shift in our way of thinking. Instead of wallowing in negativity we begin to find positivity and the hope that comes with it.
Dr Hone’s final strategy is for us to constantly ask ourselves: Is what I’m doing helping or harming me? This question is a powerful therapeutic tool for any of us who are battling personal demons. When we take the time to honestly evaluate our thoughts and behavior and view it through this simple lens, we can identify our harmful and pointless pastimes. And once we recognize them for what they are, we can do ourselves the simple kindness of finally letting them go, while simultaneously gaining some control over our choices.
Today, as we struggle with the shared state of our lives, learnable strategies like these may be a vital enhancement to our natural resilience. They could be the tools we need to help struggling folks, like myself, learn how to handle the stress of this crisis better.