This spring was tough. There’s no other way to say it, other than possibly adding a string of expletives.
I can’t imagine anyone’s life was untouched by the ramifications of COVID-19 and the seeming relentless onslaught of bad news. The sadness and corresponding inevitable stress are substantial.
And here we are, in various stages of digging out.
Each of us must do what we can with meaningful actions to boost our own wellbeing as we simultaneously reach out to support others. Our individual self-care and positive mindset will lift us collectively. I cannot think of another time this has been more critical. We are stressed, and any glance at local or national news will show fractures that threaten the wellbeing of a community.
It is a difficult ride to say the least and it could be helpful to think of this spring in terms of Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
David Kessler, a Kubler Ross protégé, focused on a sixth stage, finding meaning. This appeals to me, particularly as it hints at resilience. It’s as if we say, “That was absolutely horrible, and I learned X, Y, and Z, and now I’m going to move forward.”
How do we do that? Resilience is a choice. It’s not that some have it and others don’t, like a genetic factor. No matter how difficult the spring has been, we can dig out. We can take care of basic physical and emotional needs and get plenty of sleep as it boosts mental health, helps prevent chronic disease and supports maintaining a healthy weight. Eat to nourish your body - not your soul. Connect with friends to nourish your soul, even if that needs to be over the phone, via the computer or outside six-feet apart. Find opportunities to make meaningful contributions to the community. Drink copious amounts of plain water. Get outside for some exercise every single day. Smile at people, even if it’s under a mask. You can see the smile in the eyes and maybe you’ll lift the spirit of someone who’s struggling. Learn something new, take a class or pick up an old hobby.
Try processing stress with journaling. If fear is part of the stress, write about the fear, the likelihood of it happening, and how you would cope with it if it did happen. When you are done journaling, remind yourself you can think about those challenges tomorrow, or the next day, when you journal again.
Until then, put the challenges down. Be the boss of your brain. You don’t have to think about everything all the time. I’ve been using this strategy this spring and found it’s helping me sleep better. After journaling, do something lighthearted, like watching a comedy or reading a fluff novel. Practice compartmentalizing stressful thoughts so that they’re not hovering over, like storm clouds, obscuring sunlight.
I can’t end without acknowledging that sometimes we are not resilient. And, for some, these ideas will seem too anemic. That’s okay. There’s a certain “readiness” factor and today might be a day to simply feel the antithesis of resilience. Let it be. But, don’t let it be for too long. Reach out for help if these feelings linger too long.
Finally, remember our commonality. When we see ourselves as separate from others, loneliness and stress are louder. When we feel connected to others, the ragged edges soften. This is not to deny stress or pain, but to lessen it by recognizing others feel it too. You are not alone; we are in this together.
See you out there.
Heather Hewitt Main, M.Ed., of Main Wellness Works, is a certified Personal Fitness Trainer and has worked as an instructor and presenter on public health education since 1989. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.