As we start to rebuild our lives and resume some sense of ‘normal’, we asked Clinical Counsellor Olivia Sakamoto to write about strength from within, as she reflects on several months of gathering the gems from this challenging time that is the pandemic.
For a generation that has not experienced directly a World War or Great Depression, Covid-19 has the potential to wake up the depths of resilience and goodness in many.
When life had small stresses we could usually change our outside world to calm our inner world. This proved impossible in the chaos and adversity that comes with a pandemic.
As a result, some people have frozen and increased unhealthy behaviours such as excessive negative thinking, drinking, computer usage, quick dopamine hits or isolation. However, others have discovered that while they have no control over their environment, they can change and influence their inner environment – namely their thoughts.
Click here for Olivia’s seven strategies to reduce anxiety and stress
Changing behaviour for good
Pre-pandemic many of us were mostly accustomed to having all our needs met relatively immediately and felt entitled to complain when a need wasn’t delivered in the allotted time.
With a pre-pandemic lifestyle on hold, there has been a natural resurgence or resurrection of healthy character traits such as patience, compassion, gratitude and self-control.
Along with patience, people are tapping into their innate kindness and genuine love for fellow humans, with many isolated people taking great comfort in the knowledge that they are a part of a community that extends across the globe.
While we all have levels of resilience, patience and compassion, what is different now is we get to use these for longer periods of time. And like a muscle, these traits will get stronger and bigger within us.
It seems this gift to humanity can only be birthed through adversity and strain.
Moving away from busy
The exciting part is when we get to the other side of this pandemic, we have the potential of being stronger, more resilient, more compassionate and giving than the self-focused souls many found themselves becoming before this commenced.
In the mental health arena we see many people taking this time to reflect on their pre-lockdown lives. I have heard parents vow not to return to the busy life they once thought was productive and enjoyable.
Lives where meals, work, exercise, sport, after school activities, shopping, vast holidays, beauty, family and even sex were neatly scheduled to cram the most into every day. What was disguised as productivity is now resembling unnecessary and unhealthy stress.
Drawing on the strength of others – and ourselves
It’s also brought into greater focus how friends and family with past horrendous and life-changing experiences such as illness or disability, have had in them all the tools that the more able-bodied people need in order to get through this pandemic. This recognition and understanding is profound.
My childhood best friend for example, has been using gratitude, patience, resilience, humour and self-compassion for the almost ten years she has been in a nursing home living with MS. And my own chirpy, positive and faith-filled mother who has been on a similar journey for the last three years, has thrown several lifesaving buoys at me – humour, compassion, faith and recognition that self-care and love is vital.
These living legends can now be seen as pillars of strength in our society and we can and should notice how they overcame their internal adversity and got through the unfair aspects of this life.
Click here for Olivia’s five ways to build hope
Putting family time first
Another beautiful biproduct of this pandemic has been the increase of focus on families. I have seen couples reunite, as well as children and grandparents experiencing higher levels of communication and attention from loved ones.
Moreover, the skill of being solution-focused usually reserved for work, is now being used positively by many to create and find ways to interact to keep each other mentally healthy.
Families are slowing down and finding that the luxury of a walk, creating something together, cooking or talking is fulfilling and enjoyable.
With many privileges removed there has been the discovery of how much we actually had and took for granted.
Our thoughts frame our future
All of this is not dismissing that Covid-19 has been unfair and with it comes bi-products that will affect the social fabric for decades to come. But just like natural and humanmade events that have disrupted the lives of previous generations – it’s important to realise that this too will pass.
The best skill we can nurture and cultivate at this time is to be aware of where our thoughts are taking us.
Become aware that we will never get back the vast quantities of internal energy that has been spent on fear, worry, catastrophising and negativity throughout this pandemic. Remember, these are natural responses to have experienced during this time.
However, if we take small steps of change and make the deliberate choice to challenge the validity of our negative thoughts; and focus on the good and positive things that are happening; we can keep our strength up for those who have been directly affected by the virus.
And as compassion calls, we can be the voice of hope and resilience for establishing their thoughts too.
If you, a family member, friend or colleague would benefit from discussing your financial situation, we are offering free of charge, 45-minute financial consultations (via phone or video conference) to those who are affected by this COVID-19 crisis. Click here for more information.