Many of us are coming out into the world again after quarantine, others have yet to do so. Everyone’s experience of this time has been unique. For some it has been peaceful. For others, a time of difficult isolation or painful loss. So we will be in different states of mind as we emerge.
What can be useful for all of us at this time?
Research shows that genetics and upbringing contribute a lot to our levels of resilience. However, luckily we can also develop it.
A characteristic of resilient people is that they do not dwell on negative thoughts. This does not mean that they ignore difficult moments, one cannot force fake ‘cheerfulness’, rather they accept the things they cannot change and know that they can choose their response to them.
This means rather than deny or push down difficult emotions they acknowledge them and decide a response. This can be to choose a different thought or take an action. ‘I feel lonely today. So I will phone a friend / go for a pleasant walk in nature / be in my garden / watch an old film I enjoy.’ – whatever works for them. Simply using the word AND after the negative emotion helps : “I feel ….. AND I will ….”.
Connecting with others is of course important for many reasons. This means reaching out to family, friends and other support networks for contact, or making an effort to find new ways to connect. If you are reading this you will have access to the internet where there is a world of opportunities to connect with others in a way that feels comfortable for you. During the pandemic many of us have discovered the ease of joining a friendship group or discussion group online. I have taken free online courses with futurelearn.com (no exams necessary) where you can discuss the course material with other participants. I have attended online talks where those watching can share their questions and thoughts. ConsciousCafe has been running a number of such interesting online events. There will be others to suit every taste.
A powerful characteristic to teach ourselves is discernment, and the art of perspective. So when fear of the pandemic sets in we need to be sensible about risk and safety, and also rational. Too MUCH media coverage and the catastrophising of others does not help us gain a calm evaluation of the risks we face. Try placing some healthy distance away from this ‘noise’ for yourself. “Don’t let people pull you into their storm. Pull them into your peace.” (Kimberley Jones).
The other self-mastery skill is the art of ‘Being in the Present’. It is not helpful to ruminate endlessly over what might or might not happen, which only makes us feel bad. Far better to use our self-talk differently e.g. “At this moment all is well, and it is the only moment that really exists. I will just focus on today. Now.”
You will know other ways to help yourself through hard times that I haven’t listed here. The power of being seniors is that all of us have a lifetime of rich experience, which has taught us that all things pass. We have all had troubles and we are wise about enduring and surfacing from them. And the power of gratitude cannot be left unspoken. Whatever our circumstances, research shows that thinking of just ONE good thing that happened that day lifts our mood. Better to think of three and note them down to read and relive another time! We can cultivate our awareness of these moments, and learn to take notice. Appreciation of the maybe small yet beautiful things we see and experience all around us, the moments of joy that the day brings, is a good way to make it through life, and even more so in challenging times. Yesterday a Red Kite circled majestically just in front of my bedroom window. A rare treat. I watched it, breathless, felt the flash of awe, and whispered “Thank you”.