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Guest post: What is resiliency, and how can I pursue it?

Posted by John Jackson in eBrandon, 3/23, 9:55 PM

In a demonstration of what sort of difference a week can make, the lives of many in Brandon and surrounding areas have been turned upside down. For most of us, we haven’t experienced anything like this in our lifetime: social distancing, self-quarantine, and possible financial hardship. You may have heard terms being used to describe the atmosphere in the community such as “Canada hasn’t seen this level of alter since the world wars”, or, “We all have to do our part to lower the curve”. And its true: our recent experiences are unparalleled, and we are all in this together.

With life as we know it significantly altered, you may have noticed your mood decreasing, or the way you respond to things that normally wouldn’t bug you, changing. Heard of cabin fever? It has suddenly become a common term, with people being forced to stay at home with each other for days on end. On the other hand, many folks are seeing the positives in staying home and having to adjust their lives to cope with what’s happening; in fact, some have said it has been a beneficial change.

We do not have any sure-fire answers as to how long this crisis will last, and what life is going to look like when its all over. As we start to adjust to this new normal, we realize that it may be weeks or months before we see a major resolution. It seems like what we are experiencing now will become our new “daily grind”, and so this means we need to learn how to adjust. Today we will be talking about just that: adjusting. 

What is resiliency, and how can I pursue it?

None of us are newbies at adjusting: we're often forced to adjust and change to things that are happening around us, just maybe not at the scale the current crisis has presented. When we talk about change (especially big change), we hope that we can pursue resiliency. Resiliency basically means the ability to cope with negative things we might face, in a healthy or adaptive way. We all may know people who seem to have gone through many difficulties in life, and yet somehow manage to soldier on. How can we build our skills in this area? Here are a few ideas.

Try and maintain your usual routines and schedules- just modify them.

One way we can build resiliency is by trying to keep some of our daily habits and activities, although they need to be changed. Try sitting down and writing out a note about “What life used to be like” before coronavirus, and start jotting down a list of what you can “Keep doing”, “Need to drop”, and “Can keep doing, in a changed way”. An example might be your usual daily trip out the door to work. Although you might be trying to do some work from home now, can you start the day by getting ready, then going for a walk before you start the rest of the day? If you have children, you know that routine for them is important. Is it possible to keep implementing some of the little things they usually do day to day while they are at school? It may take some thought, but in the long-term it will bring benefits.

Stay connected

You may have heard people talk about how fortunate we are to be living at a time where we are so well connected with technology and the ability to communicate electronically: and they are right! Part of being resilient is maintaining our communication skills, and avoiding isolation. Although we might not be able to see our regular group of friends in-person, make sure you are using FaceTime, phoning, emailing and doing anything else you can to maintain those relationships. This will build a sense of accomplishment and connection which is key to remaining positive. Its also possible that the act of staying connected with people will serve a bigger purpose. We know that social isolation is difficult for people, and so your simple act of connecting to communicate will definitely help others get through the crisis, too. Its important that we maintain our sense of community.

Build Hope

It can be all too easy to get weighed down by negativity: perhaps things we are reading or seeing the media, the negative effects of what is happening with our work and finances, or the stress of feeling stuck at home. We need to remind ourselves that this current situation WILL end, and our lives will return to some level of normalcy. Holding onto hope, or building hope, is a key part of resiliency.

A few ideas for building hope include:

  • Make a list of things you are looking forward to when the crisis ends
  • Make a list of positive things that you have in life, or things you are grateful for 
  • Be mindful of which type of stories you are reading or focusing on in the media, or in conversations with others. Can you change this to include or focus on positive items?

Bringing it all together

Taking care of our mental health hygiene is just as important of maintaining our physical health, especially when we’re faced with the challenges the coronavirus has presented. If you find that you’re having concerns with your mental health, ensure you take steps to connect with a mental health professional. Resources include public services such as Community Mental Health and the Mobile Crisis Unit, or private services such as Divergent Counselling.

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John Jackson is a Registered Psychiatric Nurse and holds a master of psychiatric nursing degree. He has a private counselling practice, Divergent Counselling


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