History has taught us that humanity has always moved towards a brighter future and emerged stronger after every disaster
Even as the new decade begins, the world continues to reel under the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. To date, there are over 85,554,736 confirmed cases of COVID-19 while 1,851,952 people have succumbed to the deadly infection globally. In the midst of a global race to inoculate people against the virus, the pandemic continues to mutate and resurge in several parts of the world.
If we take into account frontline workers, including healthcare professionals, their families and friends, billions would have direct exposure to the infection and would experience severe fear, anxiety due to the lockdown and isolation necessitated by the pandemic. A major part of the world’s population will carry emotional scars left by the outbreak.
The need of the hour is to be mentally resilient and focus on healing our emotional scars so that we can regain physical and psychological fitness. Emotional resilience is the ability of people to bounce back from adversities and difficulties. Life, as we all know, is full of ups and downs. A resilient person not only bounces back from a setback but achieves a higher threshold of emotional well-being. Emotional resilience is a skill that can be learnt by anyone by following these simple steps.
Acceptance: The first step towards gaining emotional resilience is the acceptance of reality. Many of us tend to avoid adverse situations but this doesn’t help solve the problem. Avoidance only makes the situation worse. We have to learn to perceive reality in an honest and pragmatic manner. We should neither be too pessimistic nor should we be over-optimistic about life. We also have to assess the causes of our difficulties in a clear and rational way. It is only after thorough introspection that we can begin the journey to overcome adversities and bounce back.
Adaptation and innovation: The second step is to adapt to the new situation. Remaining firmly wedded to the past does not really help the cause because what had worked before will rarely work in a changed scenario. Continuously pondering over past successes and regretting mistakes stops us from moving forward. We should not only adapt ourselves to the new realities of life but must find innovative ways to thrive in them. In the current scenario, humanity needs to change its behaviour, attitude, thoughts, emotions and learn new skills to overcome adverse circumstances. For our progress and growth, we must adapt continuously, else we will become extinct.
Manage negative emotions: When faced with adversities, we often experience negative emotions like anger, frustration, hopelessness and despair. Many people ask, “Why me?” None of these negative emotions help. Such thoughts not only act as barriers to our revival but also tend to make us physically and emotionally weak. The key is to remain optimistic and focus on the future instead of the past.
Opportunity in adversity: Napolean Hill, the self-help guru, famously said: “In every adversity lies an opportunity.” The trick is to focus our energies and abilities not only to spot the opportunity but to exploit it for our growth. As we navigate through the darkness, we need to continuously strive to find the light. Our Vedic mantra “Tamaso maa jyotirgamaya (lead me from darkness to the light)” has never been as relevant as it is these days.
Control what you can: Steven Covey, the famous management guru, developed a simple but highly effective model of commanding the controllable. Many people worry a lot about situations, factors and circumstances that are beyond their jurisdiction. Emotionally resilient people focus on what they can control while ignoring everything they can neither influence nor control. Worrying about the uncontrollable is a futile exercise leading to frustration, stress and anxiety.
Resetting: We have to reset our goals and dreams in the backdrop of the new situation. Many of our future plans like buying a new house, getting married, going for a holiday, studying abroad, promotions and so on may have to be deferred or even cancelled. We must not regret that our original targets can no longer be fulfilled. But we must define a new set of goals and dreams that are achievable in the changed circumstances.
Rebalance: We have already started to rebalance our lives and the concept of Work From Home (WFH) has been the biggest driver of this. In the new normal, we have to restore focus on work, self, families, friends and society.
Renewal and regrowth: Time and again nature has proved that after every cataclysmic disaster, life comes back to normal as the natural regeneration process begins. Our rejuvenation should begin with a positive desire to grow and with the optimistic view that the future is bright. History has taught us that we have always moved towards a brighter future and have emerged stronger after every disaster. People can cope with stress and anxiety by taking care of themselves. On every flight, we are told to put on the oxygen mask before helping others. Taking care of oneself is not selfishness but is indeed the best way to help others. “Me time” and hobbies are absolutely essential now. Sleep, rest, breaks from screen time and exercise are essential.
Organise yourself: In the beginning, we all thought that WFH was temporary. Now it seems that WFH or a hybrid variant of remote working will be the norm of the future. People have to organise themselves, their homes, time and energy, given that the working environment and methods have changed forever.
Set clear boundaries: The changed work situation has led to different types of expectations from bosses, colleagues, family and friends. Now, everybody feels that they can interrupt any time but these intrusions and expectations cause frustration and relationship rifts. People have to set clear boundaries and agree on a new set of behavioural rules even with their children.
Stay positive: Bad or negative times require an extra dose of positivity and optimism. Don’t brood, don’t think of the worst, don’t be obsessed about the vaccine. Instead, laugh, play, look at the sky, hear a bird sing, tell your children a story, enjoy the warmth of your partner’s embrace. The world has a lot more light than darkness in it. Further, don’t be shy or afraid of seeking professional advice from a counsellor or a psychologist. They are trained to heal people emotionally and to guide them on their journey of resilience, renewal and regrowth. And these three positives are what the world needs the most right now.
(The writer is chief psychologist at Emotionally.in. The views expressed are personal.)