Mental Health: How to Build Emotional Resilience During a Pandemic

Mental Health: How to build emotional resilience during a pandemic
Relaxation At Work. Afro businessman meditating at work, dealing with stress and anxiety. Free space

“Stay calm” — Oh dear! This phrase has been done to death, and especially in the current times, staying calm alone is not enough. So, what does it take to maintain your sanity, peace and strength of body and mind not just to survive but to THRIVE? 

Building emotional resilience is not rocket science. Just like you work out, watch your diet and so on to build your physical muscles, you also have to take care of your mental muscles. They don’t build overnight, but they sure can snap at any second under the stress you may be going through consciously or subconsciously.

I have broken it down into a few simple yet effective steps to help you effectively cope with the stress the pandemic has caused you and your life, breaking it down into ways that you will best know how to use.

 

#1 Think long-term not short-term – Start with thinking about what your goal is. Let’s say prior to the onset of COVID-19, your goal was losing weight. All you would have to do is be mindful of what you eat. If you give in to comfort food all the time, there is no way you will progress towards your goal. You’ll just pile up extra pounds. To make matters worse, if there is less or no physical activity, you are storing more fat now. This is not meant to scare you, only to get your thoughts aligned to your goal. 

 

So, write down specifically what you need to do in the next few weeks and follow that. Don’t beat yourself up if you are not losing weight right away, however, if you manage to keep off the extra pounds that’s a job well done. Also, try to get some physical activity by working out in the space and resources you have. Keeping your focus on your long-term goal will enable you to align your actions so that you advance towards your goal with each passing day. 

 

Now you have an action plan and something to be focused on physically. Let’s get to taking care of your mind and its well-being.

 

# 2 Respond, don’t react. Being aware of your emotional state and triggers will help in responding to a situation, rather than reacting. Reaction is always driven by a state of fear, panic and stress. It doesn’t involve rational thinking. If you find yourself in a situation you did not plan for, or haven’t envisaged would happen, it’s natural to panic. The moment you catch yourself with signs such as rapid breathing, stomach cramping or squishy feeling, start counting 1,2,3,4,5 … VERY SLOWLY. Counting slowly, or moving away from that place, will force your brain to move its focus to another activity, and it will begin to ease signs of panic. Use the time your brain is taking to switch into “calm mode” to plan your response. 

You are not going to get an Academy Award for reacting, but it will help you and your relationships to not react in haste, but to respond in a thoughtful manner. You may justify panic by telling yourself you are doing all the household chores, watching over the kids and working from home all at the same time while your spouse is just lying on the couch and watching TV. But getting into unnecessary arguments isn’t going to help anyone, especially now that you can’t storm out the door but will have to bear each other’s presence. So, why not make the most of it? 

Communicate your feelings, and if you need help, reach out and seek help and support. Talking to each other and listening to each other’s feelings helps. I can bet on that one. On the other hand, if homeschooling your kid is driving you crazy, think of how your kid is feeling with all that unspent energy and being cooped up at home. The moment you start thinking more about the other person, your problems will appear to be smaller. They may be larger, but we aren’t comparing them here. The point is you are not working up your nerves unnecessarily. No one wins with harsh words; use loving words, and if you have trouble finding the words, try a nice hug to get started. 

 We have taken care of your physical and mental strength; let’s get going on the emotional part of it.

# 3 Community. Treasure relationships with your friends and family. A sense of belonging helps you weather the storm together. And as you pass through these trying times, be sensitive towards each other’s needs and wants. 

Just like you water a plant, pluck out weeds and prune branches to help to grow and bloom, relationships are to be nurtured with love and care, weeding out misunderstandings so that love grows. You just don’t plant a seed in a pot and expect it to grow by itself; you take care of it. So why would you expect your marriage or relationship to grow on its own? Show love and care. 

Communicate clearly without demeaning or using any harsh words, and see how your relationship blooms even in the time of this pandemic. It’s strange, but true. And just imagine after a few decades when you are old, how you will love sharing these stories with your grandchildren as they are cuddled on your lap listening intently to each word you utter with sparkles in your eyes. I can imagine how beautiful the story will be. Start writing it today.

Should you still find yourself in an anxious situation, here’s one of my personal favorite methods that works well to calm anxiety. I call it the “calm me down” technique. It makes you use all your senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste in that very order to get you to a completely relaxed state.

 

5 – Identify five things you can SEE around you. (television, computer, files, etc.)

4 – Next, identify four sounds you can HEAR (fan, music playing, birds chirping, typing on a keyboard, microwave beeping, etc.)

3 – Then, identify three things you can FEEL (the texture of your dress, your ring, the chair, mobile cover, the peel of a fruit, etc.)

2 – Next, identify two things you can SMELL (the aroma from your kitchen, flowers in your garden, perfume, etc.)

1 – Lastly, one thing you can TASTE (even if you need to recall the taste of something you just had)

Doing this, you are actively engaging all your senses, and you will forget what bothered you a few minutes ago. It takes your mind away from it, calms your nerves down, and you will be able to think clearly and respond — not react — to the situation.

About the author: Aureen M. Monteiro is a multi-passionate entrepreneur, consultant, coach and mentor for ambitious women, enabling them to overcome their adversities and live the life they always dreamed of. Aureen is an author of a soon to be released book “RISE Higher: 9 Steps for a Woman to Overcome Any Challenge, Become the Leader She Deserves to Be & Do What She Loves.” As the Founder of Aureen Monteiro International (OPC) Pvt. Ltd. she is on a mission to liberate the spirits of one billion women across the globe, helping them gain back their right to happiness. Aureen can be contacted via email at [email protected]

 

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