One of the first things we are told by experts is how important structure and discipline is for children. We teach them the rules of the house, how to play with peers, how to behave with elders and the rules of the dinner table. We assign for them a time to wake up, a time to nap and a strict bedtime. No fruits after evening, no shoes inside the house, the rules are endless. Whether children enjoy it or despise it, structure is ultimately good for them. What this tells us is that from a very early age, we seek routine in our lives. This timetable of sorts teaches us that the world is a coherent, ordered place. We feel safe when there is certainty.
Adults are not too different. We like to have a certain level of control over our lives. Indeed, our present is largely spent trying to control our near or distant future: we make daily schedules, have monthly targets and formulate 5-year plans as if we’re certain we’ll live forever. But as anyone who has experienced life enough will know, not all things go according to plan. The hard or perhaps liberating fact of the matter is that there is only so much you can control.
This brings us to the need for resilience. Our lives are woven in such a delicate balance that circumstances outside our control can change our lives in ways we could never expect. The Covid-19 pandemic stands testament to that fact. During these times, we have individually and collectively been witnessing the loss of loved ones, loss of employment, losses of an overwhelmed healthcare system and overall a loss of life as we once knew it. Normal will likely not mean the same as before.
Building resilience may be one of the most important life skills you will ever learn. Adapting to change and difficult situations and coming out on the other side stronger or at the very least still standing is what resilience is all about. As a society as a whole, we certainly need to be more resilient and better prepared for crises like Covid-19. But what we can do as individuals is take a deep breath and take care of ourselves first.
Here are a few ways for you to make it through these difficult times with resilience:
Acknowledge your experience. Uncertainty and unpredictability are very uncomfortable. However, there is no overcoming a difficult situation through denial. Accept that things have changed, that it is unfamiliar and scary, and let yourself actually feel vulnerable. It is human to feel afraid or upset or angry. Feel it so you can begin to cope with it.
Learn the art of self-care. We tend to overlook taking care of ourselves during difficult times when we need it the most. Try to make self-care a daily part of your life through various practices that help you stay balanced. Examples of these include mindfulness practice, journaling, personal time for yourself or some form of physical exercise.
Make a place for joy. During uncertain times, you can turn to old hobbies that offer comfort, or pursue new interests that make you feel good psychologically. You can play games, read books, watch movies, walk down memory lane, plan for a post-pandemic future, make something with your hands. Do something you can enjoy without guilt.
Reach out. You may feel like you have to act strong to be there for others, but you don’t. Reach out to a counsellor if you are struggling with something. Reach out to loved ones and stay connected with people whose company you enjoy. Uncertainty can feel just a little more tolerable when its shared.
Have boundaries. This is also an important tool for building resilience: being able to say no when you mean no, asking for the space you need without guilt, not consuming too much news if you feel overwhelmed and so on. It is more than valid to have a say on how you decide to spend your time.
These are uncertain times, there is no getting around that. While surviving is top priority, doing so keeping our mental health intact is equally important. It is true we can’t control everything, but building resilience will help you come to terms with that in ways that you can actually control. The only real certainty in these uncertain times is change.