Routes to resilience: 3 ways to bolster your emotional wellbeing during the COVID-19 crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly a public health emergency. Beyond the threat of the virus itself, however, widespread uncertainty and a UK lockdown also poses an indirect challenge beyond the virus to our mental and emotional health.
As we work remotely and, in many cases, adapt and react to changing business circumstances, it is crucial that we maintain motivation, responsiveness, and clarity of thought. Worry and fatigue can impact the efficacy of our decision-making and make us more reactive than reflective. It is also important for our immunity that stress levels are kept low. Furthermore, stress and anxiety are contagious, and thus our reactions and coping mechanisms have further implications to those we work and live with.
It is therefore vital that, in the coming weeks, we each protect and reinforce our capacity to adapt, ‘bounce back’ and cope when faced with adversity or significant change – in other words, that we bolster our emotional resilience. In so doing, we can continue to bring our best to both our working and personal lives, and address whatever challenges we face as constructively as possible.
To aid you in doing so, concerted steps to cultivate and bolster emotional resilience are set out below.
It is remarkable that a matter of weeks ago our lives looked rather different than they do today, and that it is currently unclear when 'normality’ will be restored. When confronted with adversity and uncertainty, it is easy to fall into a rut of negative thought and to anticipate the worst. However, such a mindset is debilitating and can have an adverse effect on our mental wellbeing and ability to engage proactively with our work.
Despite the ambiguity of current circumstances, our reactions to the challenges that we face remain within our control. Focusing on that which we can control in both our personal and professional lives fosters empowerment, as well as constructive action and decision-making. Adopting such a mindset can directly impact our ability to adapt and cope, as our thought processes are shifted from rumination and worry towards problem-solving and purpose.
Ultimately, concentrating on that which we can improve or change converts challenge to opportunity, whilst simultaneously bolstering productivity and innovation. Limiting exposure to pessimism or negative news is therefore advisable. By taking one day at a time and proactively channeling energy into hurdles and questions that can be actively tackled, it is possible to keep things in perspective, thus helping to prevent becoming overwhelmed by doubts, ‘what-ifs’ and matters which we cannot change.
Practice self-care and mindfulness
Self-care is fundamental to optimal emotional resilience. The phrase ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ dates as far back as Roman times for good reason. As the previous reference to the link between stress and immunity suggests, there is an ultimate truth to the assertion that looking after one’s physical health has a positive impact on one’s mental health, and vice versa.
As habits are disrupted and we remain indoors for an extended period, it is important to create a new daily routine that is well-balanced between work, rest, leisure, exercise and novelty. Separating one’s work and home life will be especially trying for the coming weeks. However, isolation at home offers ample opportunity to nurture hobbies and interests, be they old or new. Miniature projects which bring joy can have a spillover effect, by allowing us to remain more engaged, agile and responsive in our working lives, as well as reinforcing a personal sense of progress and achievement.
Practicing mindfulness, meditating, or focusing momentarily on our breathing are other forms of self-care associated with emotional resilience and life satisfaction. As practices which enable us to remain present and alert in our decision-making, as well as to keep stress and reactivity under control, they are valuable tools in aiding us to continue to offer our best both at work and home.
Humour, altruism and gratitude are considered some of the most effective coping mechanisms. Encouraging and maintaining positivity in our outlook and relationships with the world and others ultimately reinforces our emotional resilience.
Humour fosters positive relationships with others, as well as enabling us to see the light in any given situation. As mentioned in our recent article, ‘Managing from afar: Supporting your team during the COVID-19 crisis’, our team at Dods D&I engage in fun activities together each day. Despite the fact that we are operating apart from one another, these thirty-minute bursts of levity enable us to laugh together and to retain our sense of connection.
Altruistic acts are another positive form of engagement with others that improve mental wellbeing and self-esteem. By focusing outwards on how we can help others, we are empowered by our ability to effect positive change. Our sense of belonging also increases, whilst isolation is decreased. Checking in with colleagues and providing support to them, as well as considering other positive actions which we can take within our households, communities and wider networks, create not only positive outcomes for others, but also for ourselves.
Finally, gratitude is closely correlated with emotional resilience. Concentrating on the positive in our lives enables us to reconfigure pessimistic thoughts as positive ones. Gratitude is also linked to better metabolic and hormonal functioning, further reinforcing the link between positive mental and physical health. Furthermore, by acknowledging and appreciating positive presences in our lives, we feel more loved, cared for, and hopeful. Ultimately, gratitude helps us to move towards a place of acceptance by bolstering our efforts to keep circumstances in perspective and focus on the good and that which we can control.
These coming weeks will undoubtedly test us all, as responses to and consequences of the COVID-19 continue to disrupt and hold sway over our daily lives. However, challenges also present opportunities, both for personal growth and for innovation; as the old adage dictates, necessity is the mother of invention. Fostering our emotional resilience will be of paramount importance going forwards, if we are to respond as constructively as we can to the challenges in our working and personal lives. By doing so we may even emerge from this crisis better emotionally resourced than we were before.