The COVID-19 pandemic has been a source of fear and anxiety for most of us. From the moment we entered lockdown we faced a period of change and uncertainty. We had to develop new behaviours to help us cope and create a new ‘normal’, whether it was working from home, home schooling our children, being furloughed and for some dealing with isolation too.
A study by the European Journal of Social Psychology concluded that it takes around 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic. So by now we’ve made the adjustments we need to live in lockdown and created our own new ‘normal’.
As we move into this next phase of the pandemic with further restrictions and potential outbreaks just remember, you have adapted and coped with change before and you will this time too.
7 ways to help you navigate challenging and unusual times
Personal resilience can be described as the capacity to adapt to adversity, while looking after your wellbeing. Resilience helps us to develop and maintain some balance in our lives during difficult or stressful situations. Boosting your resilience can help to protect you against challenging life experiences and prevent them from becoming overwhelming.
This is about being aware of the situation and acknowledging what’s happening, as well as recognising your own emotional reactions and behaviour, and the behaviour of those around you. In order to manage your feelings, you have to understand what’s causing them and why.
Understanding that setbacks are part of life
Life is full of challenges. The trick is to learn from any setbacks and be willing to adapt to change. Setbacks allow us to start again. They give us an opportunity to reset and to rethink our approach. This is an important life skill.
Having an internal locus of control
Resilient people tend to have an ‘internal locus of control’. It means they believe the actions they take will have an effect on the outcome of an event. It’s important for our mental wellbeing that we feel we have the power to make choices that will affect our situation, our ability to cope and our future.
Ask yourself, ‘what can I do about this?’
There will be occasions when the answer to the question is ‘nothing’. However, analysing the situation gives you a sense of control. It highlights your choices. Very often the list of things you can do will far outstrip the list of those you cannot.
Strong problem-solving skills
As we move back towards a more restricted lifestyle it’s essential to calmly look at problems as they appear, explore potential solutions and work towards a successful outcome. Early on there may be a temptation to attempt to do too much, too soon.
List a maximum of 5 things you’d like to achieve each day, put them in order of priority and then address them in that order. Stop regularly to ask yourself, ‘how is what I am currently doing contributing to what I want to achieve?’ At the end of each day, reflect positively on your achievements.
Strong social connections
Coronavirus has changed the way we socialise. Many of us will have made greater use of technology, many will have supported vulnerable people and some of us will, maybe for the first time in a long time, have spent quality time with our family.
Research has highlighted for some time that stronger social connections in our lives increase feelings of happiness and self-worth. Those connections are valuable, so make time to reach out to the people in your life.
See yourself as a survivor, not a victim
Instead of focussing on the negatives, focus on the positives of the last year and see yourself as a survivor. Ask yourself, ‘what opportunities does this situation present?’ whenever you’re faced with a difficult choice or situation.
Ask for help
While being resourceful is an important part of resilience, it is also essential to know when to ask for help.
If you’re struggling, you won’t be the only one. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year.
In my experience as a psychologist and counsellor, far too many people wait too long before seeking help, especially men. If you need support, get in contact with CABA today.
Experience and research from other pandemics shows that we will move on, memories will fade as the risk reduces and that we move into the future to have new experiences and form new memories. The anxiety many people feel now will reduce in the coming months.
Written by: Richard Jenkins
Richard Jenkins is a Behavioural Psychologist with a particular interest in Resilience and how we can make simple yet often life-changing adjustments to the way we think and behave to improve personal wellbeing and performance. As well as running a counselling and hypnotherapy practice he is a frequent speaker on the subject of resilience, writing and delivering training, talks and seminars in the UK and abroad.
CABA provides lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff, and their close family members
If you’re worried about the impact of the pandemic on you and your family, find out how CABA can support you.