How to build personal resilience during this Global Health Crisis

Thursday, 19 March 2020.   During this  time of a global health crisis, we’re all confronted with new realities in an uncertain environment. This requires all of us to work on building and strengthening our personal resilience. Being resilient means being psychologically flexible. To take hold of our minds in order to calm our emotions. To face the new realities that confront us with clear sight and thought.

Sandy Lewis is a clinical social worker and head of therapeutic services at Akeso mental health facilities, in Johannesburg, South Africa.  She explains how people can cope with the potential future challenges  that the COVID-19 pandemic holds for us.

Building personal resilience

Anxiety and worry are understandable emotions when looking into a future we simply cannot know. Our anxiety serves little constructive purpose. It tends to erode our personal resilience in the face of challenges. However, what we should be trying to do is to accept our rapidly changing reality for what it is. And turn our minds to confronting the immediate challenges we face. In this way, we can solve problems in a more constructive manner. This can meaningfully improve the situation for ourselves and others.

What can we do to build and strengthen our personal resilience?

Don’t get stuck in negative thinking

We can start by not getting stuck in negative thinking. Not dwelling on the past with thoughts like “I always expected something bad to happen to me.”, or “Why me?”

Furthermore, worrying about the future and asking yourself questions such as “Am I perhaps going to fall ill and die?”, or “Will the economy crash and leave us destitute?”,  will lead to more anxiety.

Direct your energy towards focusing on what we need to manage today

In other words, we should focus fully on the present.  Without any other noise or clutter from either the past or the future to stress our body and mind. And then work towards dealing with the practical daily tasks at hand.

Practice social distancing if you are worried about being at risk due to the spread of COVID-19

Take all practical steps to safeguard your health. If you are at home with your children, plan their day to provide them with the necessary structure and routine to keep them feeling safe. Focusing on addressing the practical aspects of today is far more useful than worrying about a future that none of us are able to predict.

resilience in trying times

Avoid your anxiety or depression triggers

By establishing what triggers anxiety or other distracting responses such as self-blame in you, you can try to either steer clear of those particular triggers. Or you can find ways around them that will stop you from feeling anxious or negative.

Also, should you find you are having trouble stopping yourself from thinking about the past and/or being anxious about the future, you can consider distracting yourself in healthy ways. For example, rather than worrying, go for a walk, take up gardening, listen to music, cook a meal, try a new hobby or watch a favourite movie or series.

Staying in the present

Staying present with the reality that you are faced with today, focusing on your current tasks and distracting yourself if you find you are having trouble coping, can all assist in developing greater resilience.

The Bottom Line

In the interim, strength, grace and tenacity are needed, so that we can all get through this together. We need each other, both to prevent the spread of this disease, and to offer each other the support to cope with it until it is over.

Now is the time to be generous, thoughtful, kind and compassionate. We need an attitude that embraces the well-being of all. If the world is a different place after COVID-19, then we will face that new reality with renewed strength. We will cope with its challenges day by day, in the same way that we dealt with this pandemic.

About  Sandy Lewis

Sandy Lewis Personal resilienceSandy Lewis is a clinical social worker and head of therapeutic services at Akeso mental health facilities, in Johannesburg, South Africa

About the Akeso Group

Akeso is a group of private in-patient mental health facilities, and is part of the Netcare Group. Akeso provides individual, integrated and family-oriented treatment in specialised in-patient treatment facilities, for a range of psychiatric, psychological and addictive conditions.