Resilience in the face of COVID-19

By Dr. Stephen Gill
Posted 5/24/20

All can agree that we are in a crisis that is unprecedented. A quick search on Google will tell us that child abuse, domestic violence, intimate partner violence and substance abuse reporting are all up.

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Resilience in the face of COVID-19

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All can agree that we are in a crisis that is unprecedented. A quick search on Google will tell us that child abuse, domestic violence, intimate partner violence and substance abuse reporting are all up.

High levels of distress are with us considering many of us may represent “at high risk population.”

So how do we respond and get this right? Is there a silver lining? There is plenty of advice out there, but how do we in our communities translate all of it into constructive action?

The buzz word of the moment is “resilience.” So what is resilience? It can be defined as a psychological quality allowing those suffering from the challenges of life to bounce back and be at least as strong as before. Some say that it includes “a personal roadmap” that, when challenged, we respond and emerge stronger than before.

So, is “resilience” something we are born with? Yes it is, but it can also be learned. It often requires focus, sustained attention, motivation, patience and persistence for us to succeed.

A positive attitude is a must. If we find ourselves saying negative or pessimistic things we must stop it. This is a time for our communities to meaningfully connect or re-connect with family and friends where or when that is possible. Learn to listen, pay attention and be cognitively aware. Be supportive of your spouse.

Listen to their concerns. Get to know your neighbors better and find out who needs your support. Many of our community members are in need and would benefit from your assistance.

Stay in the moment and reduce the tendency to worry about the future that we cannot control.

As senior communities, we may feel alone and helpless. Consider watching your diet and commit to an appropriate exercise program. If you believe in the power of prayer, start praying or meditating for inner strength and peace. Some benefit from yoga and/or weight training. Or simply go for more early morning walks.

Choose or continue what program is right for you. Include doing those things you have always wanted to do but have never done.

In our family, we bought a good stationary bike and with the help of YouTube assembled it ourselves. My wife and I never had much interest in using a stationary bike, but now we love it.

New discoveries are wonderful experiences and act as “occupational therapy” to reduce the tendency to overanalyze and stress out over the uncertainties of life.

Home projects may include cleaning and organizing our home and garage or landscaping our yard. Re-organizing our finances or taking up a new hobby are also possibilities.

Consider reducing time watching the news because the news is not only primarily negative but is also repetitive, which feeds into obsessional thought patterns. Remember that many in our communities are homebound, isolated and estranged and are prone to fatigue and exhaustion.

If we have serious problems, such as a severe depression, uncontrollable anxiety or are excessively abusing alcohol or drugs, please reach out to others, starting with your own primary doctor who can provide referrals. Telehealth services, including phone therapy, are now covered under Medicare.

Remember that we all have the possibility of renewal and re-vitalization if we take good care of ourselves and use our resources wisely. It is critical to get a good night’s sleep.

This pandemic appears to be moving toward a new phase that includes re-engaging in the community, albeit in a cautious manner. The suggestions given here still apply. Nearly all of us are capable of resilience and personal growth. Please consider the wisdom found in the Serenity Prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.”

To sum it all up, practice self care, apply appropriate time management, be as productive as you can, be as positive and grateful as you can be and make healthy life choices. Let us work together with family, friends and community to manage this crisis successfully.

Stephen Gill, Ph.D, is a Sun City West resident and a licensed and psychologist.

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