One of the commonest phrases being mentioned by almost everyone is – these are extraordinary times. While that may be true, it is always relative to a sense of normalcy being changed. Over the ages, society has faced such “extraordinary” situations, either as the holocaust, wars, famine, natural disasters and so on.
A thread to all of these situations and scenarios is that the government bodies and civic agencies, who make contingency plans to handle the aftermath or in some cases plans to be used in dealing with similar situations in the future.
While this works or attempts to work in a community setting or in a organisation of people, the individual aspect of requirements is clubbed with the whole. The underlying focus of contingency plans and management plans is based on resilience. It is difficult to and largely impossible to focus in individual aspects but the focus should be on individual resilience.
Speaking from the individual point of view, resilience has been linked to having a healthy lifestyle, eating nutritious food and building up immunity. In an idealised everyday setting this would be the ordinary way of thinking, but you see these are extraordinary times. The point of exclusion in the way of ordinary thought has been mental health, and in these times it bring forward the stark reality of mental wellbeing as well as physical wellbeing.
As humans we are social creatures and in “these” times we all fall out of touch with everyone in the social network. In a scenario of lockdown and restricted movement there is state of negative emotion and this is dangerous for mental health. It is not clear how long the pandemic will last or how long it will be until we can resume our regular routine. There is also a looming danger of economic downfall people may be laid off and lose their livelihoods. The continuing uncertainty of the situation makes it difficult to plan ahead and chart a course of action. The normal coping mechanism or de-stressing, such as working out in a gym, watching sports, meeting co-workers or hanging out with groups of friends, have come to a halt. This dangerous scenario impacts resilience.
The most important aspect of building resilience is to accept the emotions that spring from negativity. Phycologists and social scientist use the term of mindfulness essence of mindfulness, which has been consistently linked to good mental health. One of the ways I have been able to build a sense of well being is to establish structure, predictability and a sense of purpose with new routines. I dress like I am going to work, have a set target to complete and I find that there is time and plenty of it, so I cook and bake and clean.And teaching this to my children is a way of improving their resilience.
In spending time with my family a theme that comes out is gratitude, i cannot stress this enough – Practice gratitude. The second most important point is to not take the blame for things not going perfectly in your home. Events and schedules will fly off the mark, but it is not the end of the world.
As a person who has faced mental health issues one of the most trying thoughts is when there is no reality check and fantasy thinking flourishes. It was and to a large extent remains important to me – what are other people doing, thinking and feeling. In a normal scenario, I could walk up to them and talk, not being able to do this stops my reality check and I tend to feel vulnerable and paranoid. This leads to a charged fantasy line of thought. The point is that without communication what is really going on with and for the other people in my life is inevitably a guess. They may have forgotten me. They may be worried for me. I don’t know. I sometimes feel that I am in the dark and endlessly speculate in hopeful or fearful thinking about what is going on. All that I need to do is to pick up the phone and call or video chat, the point is to have that as part of the routine. This is what coping challenging, while it is important, it is difficult but not impossible.
Building resilience is to leverage audio and video technology to stay in touch with others. As the normal routine and schedules recede, and the self imposed routine takes over, there is more time to savour heart-to-heart conversations with family members and friends, which should result in stronger social connect going forward.
This extraordinary time offers a setting for the often quoted saying “stop and smell the roses”, to in a way seek out the chance to check in with ourselves.
In building resilience for a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically, stress and emotions can be changed to have positive consequences. While governments and civic agencies build plans and contingencies to “build back better”, an analogy can be applied to ourselves. Use this time to emerge with a stronger sense of mental resilience, rekindled relationships and a renewed appreciation of life. With adequate self care and resource planning, it is a need of the hour to stay mentally strong and grow from this transformative experience.
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