“Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the most wonderful things that will ever happen to us”Nicole Reed
The last couple of weeks were obscured by talks of uncertainty, which resulted in thoughts such as “what’s going to happen?” “How will we get through this?” These were subsequently followed by feelings of fear and anxiety, fluctuating throughout the day. As a result, I recall my heart felt heavy at times, my body not motivated to move, as if paralysis took over me. After a week or so I didn’t know what to think, feel, or do; I simply went through the motions and got my day to day done. However, as we approach the fourth week of social distancing in the COVID-19 Pandemic which has come with immense changes in the way I work, my home and school life, the way I carry out my relationships and connectedness; I am starting to realizing a subtle sense of still starting to emanate within me.
How does this chaos in our minds dissipate? How does the body not automatically turn into a frenzy at news reports, fear fueling statistics, and those funny memes embedded with subtle messages? How do I carry myself through the day with motivation and purpose? I learned the answers to these questions years ago as I worked with individuals escaping violence. Anyone who has been through a traumatic or painful experience can tell you that eventually, after chaos comes a calm. And after this calm, begins a period of growth, a time where we rise from our learnings and move forward stronger, with more value, meaning and purpose.
If you’re reading this and you still feel uncertain, fearful and apprehensive about your present new normal, It’s okay! Recovery and its subsequent follower growth happen at different rates for different people. The key is to allow the process to happen naturally, don’t judge it, don’t time it, don’t push it.
Research now shows that not only do we bounce back from adversity due to something called resilience, but we can also create better, more positive and meaningful lives aftermath. An expert in the field of post-traumatic growth Dr. Tedeschi identifies five main areas where we can experience growth as an outcome of our adversities: an appreciation of life, relationship with others, new possibilities in life, personal strength, spirituality. What better time than now to exercise these and learn ways to increase our resilience so that we can grow out of this experience in a better direction.
I will provide you with ideas that you can implement in your lives, pick all, pick one the key is doing it intentionally and consistently.
- Appreciation of life
In addition to showing gratitude for the little things in life, it’s essential that you start noticing the little things you let pass you by in the past. There are many things, events, people, places that we didn’t pay much attention to. For instance, do you notice the beauty in the sky, the colors of the sunset, your child’s smile or appreciate the food on your table?
Look at the different creation and forms of life, those apart from humanity. If you pay attention, you’ll hear the birds chirping, the squirrels dancing back and forth, the bugs building homes and carrying food. You’ll see the sun rising and setting exploding with breathtaking colors.
Focus on little things, gratitude, presence, intentions and hope.
- Relationship with others
The key is to connect with those that give you hope. Search out those that make you smile, that appreciate you, that make you feel warm when you speak to them. Take your connections to a deeper, more meaningful level. Put down your phone when you’re having dinner with your family, really listen to the laughter of a child, call up a loved one just to ask how they are instead of pouring your day on them, wave to a neighbour.
Ask yourself How am I fueling hope in people’s lives?
Focus on intention, being present and authenticity.
- New possibilities in life
If there is one thing COVID-19 has brought about in many people’s lives, including my own, is the opportunity to evaluate my priorities. Ask yourselves what now seems important that was on the back burner in the past. Who now seems important? What promised activities have you not embarked on due to a “lack of time”.
During this time, what opportunities are you drawn towards? How can you apply yourself? What can you do to honor yourself? Is there a book you wanted to embark on, a course you were interested in (online of course), is there someone you wanted to connect with? Have you always had fitness goals?
Before COVID-19 I was one to shy away from social media. And to be honest, while I haven’t yet embraced it with open arms (And I don’t know that I ever will) I am slowly learning to connect to people, put myself out there to help others. It is no doubt a vulnerable feeling, but one I know will bring positive outcomes.
Ask yourself, what are your values? What brings you meaning?
- Personal strength
What about you gets you through your days at home presently? What strengths have brought you this far in life? Think back to a past hardship, how did you get through it? Find these strengths and bring them to life in your day to day so that you can continue to enhance your experience.
Are you creative, kind, curious, brave, have a love of learning, spiritual? The list of character strengths is vast. I urge you to take some time and find out your strengths. Then make a plan to carry out these goals. Draw, paint, color, create, pray, connect, read…
- Spiritual change
Wherever you are on the spectrum of spiritual connection, search for ways to increase your sense of purpose and meaning. Ask yourself, how do I live out that meaning on a day to day basis? How do I connect to this purpose? What can I do to increase this connection?
I’ve carved out times in my day when I connect to my spirituality. Apart from mandatory connections, I have started to look at the signs in nature as reminders of a higher being. Something is taking care of this Universe and beyond. This connection gives me a sense of peace, serenity, elevation and control as I know in my heart that I cared for.
Take home message!
I invite you to contemplate these five points of growth and make a plan for yourself. Remember, with every hardship there is ease, with every storm comes a calm. The question I pose to you is, how do you want to come out of this Pandemic?
Reena is a Registered Psychotherapist who treats individuals, couples, and groups for various issues including anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, relationship, and parenting issues. Her approach to therapy is holistic, integrative, and trauma-informed.