From time to time, I focus on an article that in my estimation offers valuable information or reflection on the stresses of the times. These last four years have presented one crisis after another. And now a pandemic that threatens not only my life and health, but those of my loved ones and friends. So it’s a good time to review what enhances our resilience and remind ourselves that we are indeed resourceful. We are not always so, and not all of us are at the same time. Not every piece of advice will seem appropriate to each of us. One of the many benefits of community is that we can remind one another of our strength, we can role model sanity and self-care, and those of us who have hope at any given moment can carry those of us who are mired in despair through the dark hours.
We’ll get through this. Together.
On to the article: This is by Craig Polizzi, a PhD Student in Clinical Psychology, and Steven Jay Lynn, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, both at Binghamton University, State University of New York.
Cognitive reappraisal involves reframing the way one interprets an emotional or stressful event or situation to regulate or neutralize its harmful impact. You can think about working from home, for example, as an opportunity to spend more time with family, engage in hobbies or get caught up on projects, rather than as a threat to job security. This strategy tempers the kind of all-or-nothing thinking – such as “the world is unsafe,” “I cannot do anything to help” and “our leaders know nothing” – that can take people down a road of anxiety, worry and mistrust of others. Instead, reappraisal helps you move toward healthy perspectives on stressful situations, dampens negative emotions and boosts positive emotions and keenness to participate fully in life.
Problem-focused coping can be another helpful strategy. It frames a stressful situation as a problem to be solved and fuels planning and the search for practical solutions. For example, people who know they feel worried or depressed after consuming news can plan to monitor and control the timing (such as not before sleep), nature and amount of news they consume. Effective problem-solving increases positive emotions, self-confidence and motivation. It also lessens the psychological impact of stressors.
As society opens up, you need to weigh the pros and cons of shopping, eating in restaurants, or seeking medical treatment, informed by the best available evidence. Problem-focused coping can help you make decisions about whether an activity is safe and consistent with your personal values and the needs of others.
Lovingkindness meditation can help you get through trying times. It involves contemplating and generating positive feelings and tolerance towards yourself and others. Combining lovingkindness meditation with empathy for those with different political views, for example, can help heal frayed bonds of friendship when social support is most needed. Pausing each day to embrace love and kindness counteracts self-blame, guilt, feelings of alienation and social isolation.