How Can We Be Resilient in the Face of a Traumatic Experience Like Covid-19?
PTSD is caused by feeling your safety is compromised and you are helpless to do anything about it. It makes sense then, that resiliency begins by recognizing that you have some control over how you manage this experience. How do you make your home feel like a safe haven rather than a prison cell?
For some of us, that may mean surrounding ourselves by the things and people who make us feel at peace, loved and secure. For some of us, that means knowing we can reach out to others via text, phone, Facebook or video chat to stay connected. And yet for others of us, this may mean taking the time to get things accomplished that we have wanted to do, but never found the time. For those of us who find ourselves at home right now, we can make sure we are organized and reduce the amount of potential exposure to Covid-19 that we face. For those of us who are still working, we can follow the recommended safety procedures that have been put in place, as well as follow our own instincts regarding what feels safe to us in all situations.
Because PTSD is based on our perspective of our situation, we can become more resilient by thinking positively and expressing gratitude. It is important to pay attention to what we tell ourselves about this experience. If we tell ourselves that it is the worst thing ever and that we cannot cope, we can negatively impact our ability to manage our situation. If, however, we tell ourselves that we are safe and will survive this situation whatever it looks like, we positively impact our ability to do so. There is now scientific proof that our thoughts control which neurochemicals are excreted in our brains. Our thoughts impact our emotions.
While it is human nature to avoid unpleasant and uncomfortable emotions, our avoidance of what we feel creates suffering, and not the emotions themselves. It is the avoidance that is the problem. Often when people come to therapy, they are surprised to learn the simple act of acknowledging how they are feeling helps them to begin to heal and feel better.
What you can do to help yourself feel better:
- Share how you are feeling with your loved ones
- Ask your loved ones how they are feeling
- Be curious about the feelings, not fearful
- Consider what is happening in the situation to create that feeling
- Ask yourself what you are thinking that is creating that feeling within you
- Consider where to you feel that emotion in your body
A traumatic event can cause PTSD when the nervous system is so significantly overwhelmed that the way it functions is altered. To build our resilience and to protect ourselves from experiencing PTSD we can develop a practice of working to calm our nervous system. Some activities that have been proven to help are meditation, yoga, listening to relaxation music, EFT or tapping, or any activity that helps ground your energy like gardening, art, humming, a warm bath, and walking in nature to name a few.
We can also enhance our resilience with the practice of compassion for ourselves and others. Compassion creates the opportunity to change how we perceive events. It moves us from a place of judgement, which comes from defensiveness, to a place of openness, curiosity and flexibility.