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Kendra Kubala logs off her last telehealth session after a long day of appointments. She spends many of her working hours as a clinical psychologist offering online mental health check-ins, something she had to adapt to quickly when the pandemic began.
Kubala provides guidance on how to practice resilience, the ability to bounce back from adversity, which allowed her to treat frontline workers, such as grocery store employees, at the start of the pandemic, she said.
Being resilient is more challenging when there seems to be no end in sight to difficulties, such as living with Covid-19, said Kubala, who practices in New York and Pennsylvania.
Humans inherently want things to be logical, and we love a beginning, middle and end, she said.
“When we don’t have that readily identifiable ending,” Kubala said, “it can create some excessive worry that might lead to anxiety.”
Resilience is a skill, not a personality trait, she said, so you can strengthen it with various strategies.
Many people mistakenly believe mindfulness only includes meditation, but it’s also about being present in the moment, Kubala said.
One way to do so is to pay attention to your five senses, she said. Focus on what you can hear, see, taste, smell and touch when you may be feeling overwhelmed, Kubala said.
“Recognizing what’s happening in that moment can sometimes calm us down in a way that allows us to move forward in a more predictable, steady way,” she said.
Have a consistent routine
Some people like to keep a daily routine, which can help them feel more in control of their lives, said Jason Moser, professor of clinical science, cognition and cognitive neuroscience at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Routines can include anything that has positively affected your mental health in the past, such as having a sleep schedule or eating healthy foods, he said.
Exercising outdoors is another healthy activity to include in your toolbox of skills, and it can be done with a partner, Moser said.
Nature can also allow you to broaden your perspective, said Ethan Kross, professor of psychology and management and organizations at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. When he goes on walks, he makes a concerted effort to look at the trees, some of which may have been growing for hundreds of years, he said.
“I’ve only been here for a few decades,” Kross said, “and this tree has stood through all sorts of stuff like tornadoes, and it’s still standing.”
Build a strong community
One of the strongest strategies for coping with adversity is to build a strong support network of people whom you care about, Moser said.
It allows you to talk through what you are going through in a safe space and get advice from others with different perspectives, he said.
When you are suffering, you may feel like you are alone, but it can be comforting to talk about problems with others and realize you’re not alone, Moser said.
Other people can also increase your level of accountability to achieve healthy habits or accomplish goals, he said.
If you have another person whom you’re accountable to for a morning walk or a twice-a-week run, that social aspect can help make some of those healthy habits stick, Moser said.
Talk to yourself like a friend
People are much better at giving advice to others about emotional issues than to themselves and following it, Kross said.
One coping strategy is to shift your perspective and start talking to yourself as though you are speaking to another person, he said.
For example, at a difficult time, ask yourself, “How are you going to manage the situation?” Then give yourself advice, Kross said.
“This helps them shift their perspective to get them to start talking to themselves like they would to another person,” he said, “which often leads to wiser ways of managing situations.”