To call this last year and a half “challenging” is a gross understatement. We’ve faced fear of the unknown, isolation, restriction, and disruptions of routine – to name but a few challenges – and yet, we have made it through to this point. There is no doubt that we have been tried and stretched, and with that, it is because of our strength and our ability to cope and adapt that we’ve been able to get through some of the darkest times of our lifetime. In the midst of the chaos and massive loss, we have been able to stay strong, hold onto hope, and continue to take the necessary steps that help us in the moment and pave a path towards a better future.
No matter how well prepared we felt we were, COVID and its long-reaching effects caught us all off-guard. The newly instated health and safety measures meant to limit COVID-spread had the inadvertent effect of limiting our usual means of self-care and stress-relief – entertainment venues such as sporting and music events were temporarily forbidden, places of socialization and congregation were closed indefinitely, and all but the bare essentials were allowed, however even those carried burdens of stress and risk. Those less fortunate and or privileged – be it due to life circumstances such as physical or mental illness, or bias and societal inequities – who were already spread thin pre-COVID, were hit the hardest.
In hindsight, the upsurge in depression, anxiety, substance use, and other behavioral health concerns that mental health professionals were noting shouldn’t have come as a surprise. People were reporting increased levels of distress, and difficulties at home and at work, on top of the health-worries and financial hardships the pandemic caused. The prolonged state of uncertainty has taken its toll on our reserves, and with no end in sight, motivation became hard to leverage towards healthy coping skills and strategies.
While the task can be daunting, we have all the capacity to bounce back. Resilience is a skill, and the more we practice it, the better we get at it. Not only can we get back to the way things were, but with determination and commitment, we can become even stronger and better than before. Working our resilience muscles will help us not only get through this current crisis, but shield from future adversities.
Building resilience means gradually working areas of relative weakness in our lives through deliberate practice. Since some of the most common areas of life that people let go of when experiencing stress include care for our physical body, connection and our emotional and psychological wellbeing, it only makes sense that these are likely to be areas that would benefit from attention and care.
Start with what has already worked for you and capitalize on it – perhaps it is the view of a sunset on a hike with loved ones, a warm dog kiss, a child’s sleepy “I love you”, for others, it’s the sense of mastery and competence that comes from completing a home-maintenance project, or a particularly challenging workout. Expanding those things that have given you joy, a sense of control and power, can jumpstart the momentum needed to take the next step, and the next step after that.
Reminding ourselves that set-backs are part of the process of change can take the sting and frustration out of lapses, and help us get back on course quicker.
For those who struggle with mental health symptoms who do not improve despite their best efforts at self-help, expert help is both available and accessible. The Behavioral Health and Wellness Center offers comprehensive adult and adolescent programs to support the Aurora, Ken Caryl, and Centennial communities. You and your loved ones do not have to suffer alone.
It’s never too early or too late to take the kind of action that is going to bring us a sense of empowerment, control and satisfaction – one that will long term enhance our wellbeing. From wherever you start and wherever you find yourself, it’s always only one more step. Go ahead and take it. We’re rooting for you.