If you were to look up the meaning of “Flourishing” in the dictionary, you would find a definition similar to “grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly congenial environment.” However, what if we tell you that you can at times flourish even if the environment is not congenial?
The pandemic has been a huge stressor, studies confirm that the second wave has taken a huge toll on our mental health. And this is true not just for healthcare workers or people infected with the virus but for almost everyone. The emotions experienced due to the loss of a normal life are similar to the grief experienced due to the loss of a loved one. This calls for action.
Let’s see how Psychology can help!
If you know Victor Frankl, you know how much he emphasised on the search for meaning, even during the toughest times. He was one of the Holocaust survivors and accounts it mostly to his will to strive for meaning, hope and purpose. He had plans, places to be, and people to meet after the war was over. Perhaps, that is really what kept him going.
People who report higher levels of meaning in life also are happier, express more frequent and strong positive emotions. Recent research suggests that a meaning in life acts as a shield against trauma, adversity and stressors. It is what keeps us going. Having a meaning, even during the pandemic, helps us to cope with COVID-19 related stress. It also acts as a buffer against boredom, anxiety and depression.
A study in New York, USA reported that despite spikes in acute stress, depression, and anxiety among front-line healthcare workers, an astonishing 61% of them said they had found increased meaning and purpose in life. This reveals that having a meaning can help an individual to grow even during a time of crisis.
Searching for meaning during Pandemic
You can start by exploring what all ways have you felt diminished by the change in your normal life.
Try to understand which of your short-term and long term goals have been affected due to the pandemic as a way to see clearly about what is causing the distress.
It is also important to work on your beliefs. Explore how beliefs about life have been disrupted. Invest the time to consciously construct a modified yet still optimistic set of beliefs.
Try to find meaning in little things. This would include your everyday chores like laundry, making your bed, organising your stuff. While there is so much that is not under your control, you still have the charge of a lot. Find meaning in that,
Self-compassion is a robust tool to cope with the curveballs life throws at you, this also includes the COVID-19 Pandemic. It involves treating yourself with the same kindness, care, and concern you would show to a good friend when they are struggling in some way. We are often so hard on ourselves and do not give the compassion we need at times.
People who are self-compassionate are at a lesser risk of depression, anxiety and other psychological disorders. It is also a reminder that everyone is imperfect and it is okay to be that way. It means embracing your suffering and with kindness and care, without seeing yourself as the victim.
Self-compassion during a pandemic has proven to be a guard. A study in 2020 confirmed that people with more self-compassion felt less traumatized by COVID-19. What is interesting to note is that it can be learnt, even during a pandemic.
Here is our take on practising self-compassion:
-Be mindful of your negative emotions, making space for fear, uncertainty or sadness without trying to suppress them or make them go away.
-Know that this pandemic is a shared experience, we are all in the same boat. It might get lonely at times (Social Distancing, important yet DISAPPOINTING!) but we are in this together.
-Talk to yourself with warmth and love. You can even tell yourself things like, ‘I’m so sorry you’re struggling;’ ‘It’s going to be okay;’ ‘I’m here for you.’
-Practise self-care. Now, self-care isn’t always going to be putting on a face mask and watching your favourite show. For some, it may be developing habits which are necessary. It can mean different things to different people
Do you remember Piglet from Winnie the Pooh? “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” Maybe we could all try being a little more like Piglet because Gratitude has more benefits than you can imagine.
Grateful thinking bolsters self-worth and self-esteem. It helps us to cope with stress and trauma as one can always count the blessings and positively interpret stressful or negative life experiences. Another major benefit of practising gratitude is that one stops comparing with others, once they are grateful for what they have..
Here is Psychology’s guide to practising gratitude
You must have heard of this good old technique of gratitude. Write it down! One reason why it is so much emphasized upon is because when you write down, it takes longer than simply saying it . Therefore, you can be in a state of gratitude for much longer. You could start by writing down 3 things you are grateful for, despite the pandemic. It could be as small as having your favourite ice-cream today to as significant as thanking the health workers for working so hard.
Expressing gratitude to others directly
“Thank you!”, “I couldn't have done it without you,” “I am so grateful for you,” Don’t we all light up when someone expresses gratitude towards us. You could have the same effect on people as well. Tell them how grateful you are. Thank your mom when she makes your favourite meal.
Naikan, a Japanese form of meditation
This Japanese technique is known to enhance one’s sense of gratitude. It is based on three gratitude-related questions -
What did I receive?
What did I give?
What troubles and difficulties did I cause to others?
“Where there's hope, there's life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.” Perhaps Anne Frank, a Jewish victim of the Holocaust was right when she said this. In fact, psychology says it too!
A study in Poland suggested that there is a negative relationship between hope and COVID-19 related stress. Hope is the expectation that things will work out eventually, that you will not always hurt like you are right now. It is equally important to know that it is okay not to be okay.
Staying hopeful during COVID-19
-Focus on the bright side. If you are working from home, you have more time to spend with your family. Perhaps you have nailed the recipe you were meaning to try for so long.
-Take up a new hobby or rediscover an old one.
-Lean on your social support system, call up your friends, and have virtual dates!
I would like to end this with a much needed thing that I read recently, “Someone recently told me, ‘It’s still O.K. to laugh.’ It’s important.”—Preet Bharara, podcast host and former U.S. Attorney. Take one day at a time, laugh, make art, call your friends, say more of “Thank you” and “I am grateful for you” and trust the process of life.
Written and Designed by
Samreet Kaur Athwal,
BA (Honors in Psychology)
Postgraduate Diploma in Counseling