Not like we have to tell you, but 2020 was an especially tough year. As arguably the most trying times experienced by anyone alive today, it has been difficult for many to remain hopeful yet, somehow, resiliency abounds.
The long-running COVID-19 pandemic has been hard for people. From money issues and isolation to social conflict and identity politics, society is facing an unprecedented rush on the mental health system from overstressed individuals who often feel alone in their struggles.
Despite the hardship, struggling often brings about newfound strength that many people otherwise would not know is within them. If there is one thing we can take away from difficult times like these it is that humans have remarkable resiliency. But how does that come about? Let’s talk about it.
I’m feeling pandemic fatigue and just want to go back to normal — what can I do to make 2021 better?
The coronavirus pandemic of 2020 (and into 2021) is not the first time our Greater New Orleans community has shown the ability to live through multiple layers of loss. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was described as catastrophic loss and similar to a warzone. Each family had the same dilemma: how do we return when our home is totally destroyed, our jobs have not returned, and the schools are closed? Our essential medical, grocery, and fuel services were so limited that it was also challenging to figure out how to care for our families’ basic needs if we did resolve those primary needs.
The good news is that from that awful devastation came a great opportunity to learn about how our families survived the long-term recovery we needed, plus how to thrive as we rebuilt our normal lives while we were still experiencing intense emotions about the storm. This is called resiliency.
The psychological research following Hurricane Katrina identified the actual aspects of resiliency, the behaviors we did to muscle through that really tough time even when our community’s infrastructure remained distressed. These simple actions are working now as we live through pandemic fatigue and our community’s essential and cultural resources are struggling.
Stay connected with your support systems
Our strength is in connecting with those that we care about and those who care about us. Social support systems are typically found within our homes, however, living within current guidelines has meant that we are spending most of our time with those in our homes. Current advancements in technology have afforded us free video conferencing platforms to socialize virtually. Our geographical location gives us the advantage of more inclement weather during the winter months (than that of our northern states). Church services and social groups (e.g., Carnival krewes, Scout troops, etc.) have shown their ability to be creative while safe by meeting outdoors and using social distancing so that we are able to visit in person. Connecting with others increases healthy neurotransmitters (like oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone”) and decreases stress hormones (like cortisol); together this means we can feel hope from being together.
See yourself as capable
We can accomplish multiple small, realistic, and achievable steps, thereby allowing us to reach those important changes in our lives. Hope in a better tomorrow comes with taking action towards a well-defined goal. Working with your family or with a friend provides the added benefits of connection, encouragement, and positive change in our lives as we meet the steps for those changes, and then we accomplish our big goals.
Be open-minded and curious
Early childhood development research has repeatedly supported curiosity as a strong factor in intelligence and communication. Being open to new perspectives has been shown to be important in the healing of anxiety and depression. The single effort of choosing to be curious enough to look for a different perspective that includes gratitude or empathy for the other people impacted or involved can turn our mood from grumpy, dissatisfied, and negative to content and positive. Which would you prefer as we get through this pandemic?
Keep the “We” concept going
The pure act of joining with others means we want to connect and we want to be with another in the experience. Inclusive choices have the ability to lower the stress in our daily living when we live life together. Our decision to be actively engaged in change with someone supports our adjustment and management of the stressful event. We gain a sense of control regarding the results of our efforts. We view the change happening as beneficial.
Keep up your daily self-care
The simple actions we take and do not take each day make all the difference in how we feel and interact on that given day. For example, forensic and neurological research was done on our past president, Abraham Lincoln. It was determined that during his two terms as president he was clinically depressed. Imagine that. His efforts and determination during his presidency were key in the emancipation of slavery while he was clinically depressed (and without medication or therapy) resulting in “A Courage Born of Depression.” It has been said from the research, he wrote in his journal each morning then he would put that famous tall hat on his head and tell himself “It is going to be a good day.” Then he would walk out of his bedroom and start his official duties. His journal writing and encouraging self-talk are examples of self-care.
What is the significant action that you and your family take each day to be caring and kind with one another with the intention of encouraging one another to have a good day?
Hope and meaning are a must
Identifying the hope and meaning in our decisions has been shown in forensic psychological research to help us live longer and happier lives. In fact, it can be as simple as believing WE are capable to take on stressful choices, like when families moved back to the New Orleans area, because of the meaning we have in living here. We believe there is no place like New Orleans. So, the majority of us returned and took responsibility for the rebuilding of our community and its culture. This choice assisted us in finding meaning in our life’s journey at a time when resources were low and emotions were intense. Our beliefs and actions showed our resiliency.
Want to know more about resiliency?
Watch this video of Susan Harrington, counselor and founder of Maison Vie New Orleans, discussing what you can do to improve your life. You can also contact us to see how we can help guide you through personal counseling sessions.