Resilience and self care

By Molly O’Dell, M.D., MFA, is director, Communicable Disease, Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts  and Debbie Bonniwell, MBA, LCSW, is chief executive officer, Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare

During this time of the COVID Pandemic, many of us may be struggling to find our way. Dealing with change or loss is an inevitable part of life and we are all experiencing that to a large degree. Having the ability to bounce back during and after difficult times is called being resilient. Resilience can be taught, learned, and expanded for everyone. It is the mental reservoir of strength that people can call on in times of need to carry them through without falling apart. How we respond to and deal with the pandemic plays a role in short and long term psychological health.

Here are some ways to build resilience:

Self– It is important to value yourself so that you can value others. Being able to have self-control and recognize your own emotions makes it easier to express your feelings to others and ask for help when you need it. Self-care is the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own mental or physical health. Self-care can look like bubble baths, exercise, or eating healthy. Exercise and healthy eating can also be important building blocks in preventing depression and anxiety.

Family/Friends– It is important to have a network of people, whether it is family and/or friends you trust and feel safe enough around to ask for support and who will celebrate you and your accomplishments. This is a great time to reach out to old friends, distant family members, or others that you may have lost touch with and reconnect.

School– It is important that school staff (teachers, coaches, administrators) as well as parents/guardians make sure that kids feel school is a safe place with extra support. Encourage your child to excel and be involved with school no matter what school may look like in the fall.

Work– We spend a lot of our time with our coworkers and supervisors and that is why it can be important to use work relationships to also build our resilience if your work environment supports it. Having supportive co-workers and being a supportive co-worker can be important aspects of resilience building. Making sure you and your coworkers have a sense of belonging goes a long way in building resilience at work.

Community– Another place we devote a lot of our time is in our communities. We should feel safe and trust those we surround ourselves with, whether it is your neighborhood, a club, or a faith-based group you are a part of. Communities give us a sense of purpose and belonging and another place to gain support.

There are many things to consider while building our resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because many self-care strategies involve a community of other people, remember to continue following the public health guidance if you go out in public: wear a face covering, practice physical distancing, and wash your hands often. Physical distancing does not mean that we cannot stay connected. To gather with your community, find ways to do so safely during COVID-19: meet outdoors, consider virtual hangouts or FaceTime, text or call, or revert to snail mail – everyone loves receiving mail! Whenever you feel overly stressed, it may be a good time to focus on self-care, reflect on times in the past that you have shown resiliency and grown stronger as a result, and recognize that you are building your resilience for the long term.