Positive Consequence of the Pandemic: Building Resilience By: Sonia J. Magat, D.O., Ph.D
Last updated 8/30/2021 at 8:32pm
Positive Consequence of the Pandemic: Building Resilience
By: Sonia J. Magat, D.O., Ph.D
The year 2020 will be remembered as the COVID-19 pandemic year due mainly to the immense and unprecedented loss of lives globally. During the pandemic in the United States, the mandated lockdown for families started an "epidemic of loneliness" and many people experienced anxiety and depression. However, there were less publicized effects of the pandemic which had positive outcomes for individuals and society as noted by psychology experts. (Paula Felps,"Positive Lessons from the Pandemic", International Positive Psychology Association 7th World Congress, July, 2021, Livehappy.com).
During the pandemic, many people were able to thrive and even flourish in spite of the adverse conditions. These groups of people spent time to find ways to cope with stressful situations presented to them. During the lockdown, they became more self- aware, finding more meaning in their lives, practiced kindness and compassion, increased interactions with friends and family and practiced gratitude to those who helped them and others around them. How these people managed to maintain their well-being during the pandemic was due to their development of resilience.
What is resilience? It is a set of skills which enables people to bounce back from setbacks and hard times while learning to thrive through the period and afterwards. The study on the science of resilience during the past two decades, with the help of modern imaging techniques, showed that there were increased activities in the subcortical circuits in the brain during conditions of stress which quickly returned to baseline following resilience responses. The development of resilience is not the same for everybody. Genetics and environment affect our make-up and how resilient we can be, according to Dr. Dennis Charney, Dean of Icahn School of Medicine, Mt Sinai, NYC. Resilient individuals can regulate their brain's stress responses and return to baseline quickly.
Coping with stress in building resilience depends on certain factors (Mandy Oaklander, "Bounce Back", TIME, June 1, 2015):
• Having a strong network of social support. Be quick to reach out for support.
• A good first step is facing the stress that scares you. Try to find meaning in each traumatic experience. In children, being hypervigilant is self-protective. This enables them to avoid and evade the situation better.
• Trying to maintain a positive outlook. Be optimistic.
• Practicing mindfulness helps to return a person's heart rate to baseline level faster after a stress experience.
• Finding resilience building skills that you can live with. Take cues from people who are resilient.
The lessons learned during the pandemic are: positive interactions (kindness and gratitude), plus strengthened relationships with family and friends and a good social support network are necessary factors in building resilience and increasing levels of well-being.
Learning to build resilience will hopefully continue post pandemic leading to sustained positive outcomes in people's mental health and creating lasting change in their lives.