2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, especially those who are prone to anxiety and depression. The social isolation, uncertainty about employment, income, health and the health of Covid vulnerable people you love has posed a unique challenge for us all. It is completely understandable for you to have some apprehension about the upcoming holidays.
So, instead of talking about the typical mental health messages to use self-care and recalibrate expectations, I recommend that you take a different approach. You need to assume that things will be difficult and that there will be some casualties, kind of like a battle between the Holidays as we used to know them and the Pandemic version of the holidays. You need to learn from the approach the Navy Seals and successful survivors of difficult, painful and dangerous events employ. In short, you need to be prepared to deal with difficult things, knowing that it will be difficult, and make the measure of success your ability to get through with your mental health and physical health intact.
Research on people who are able to survive and even thrive under great difficulties and duress shows several characteristics that you can emulate. These skills can be used by anyone, including you. People who are resilient and who thrive during great challenges do the following:
1. View the current pandemic as a challenge and treat it as though it is an ordinary part of your life instead of repetitive traumas and disappointments. People who recover well from difficult situations view the stress view stress as a challenge to be mastered and an opportunity for something to be gained. They make it their job to manage difficult things instead of believing that there must be some better version of their life.
2. Reframe stress as being something inevitable, that occurs every day and is desirable. Plants that do not have the stress of air movement and wind will flop over and never be upright. Humans who lack challenges whither in spirit and body. Stress is a sign of being alive and being human. Over the past 30 years, people have come to accidentally believe that stress is something bad that should be avoided. Stress, as scientists understand, is just something that requires adaptation, whether it feels positive or negative. Stress is everywhere, all the time. Research on attitudes about stress shows us that when people believe that stress is an opportunity for personal growth achievement, then they end up thriving physically and mentally. The opposite is true. When you accidentally believe that stress is bad and to be avoided you decrease both mental and physical health.
3. Set your goal on living your life with moral integrity and assume that it will take effort. Researchers on resilience show that people who measure success by attaining integrity with their own moral values for being a good person, maintain self-worth during difficult times. Conversely, people who focus upon getting approval and recognition for their efforts end up fragile and often disappointed because they cannot keep generating a constant stream of external successes. Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself based upon your successes. It is shallow and brittle because it is impossible to constantly generate the next big success, whether it is someone being perfectly delighted with the gifts you gave, the party you threw or how amazing you looked at the holiday party. This means that you need to focus upon the ways that you can be a good person, be compassionate and give to others if you want to feel good. It means that you will need to decide what kind of human being you want to be during the holidays and then work to achieve it.
4. Analyze what went well and why at the end of the day instead of focusing upon what was disappointing or upsetting. Research shows that this will improve your ability to meet important goals and to improve your character and ability to cope. Depression and anxiety are insidious in their power to make you focus solely upon negative things and failures. This is mental health poison. The military, top performing businesses and elite athletes use this strategy for debriefing a situation because it increases the odds of winning the battle, winning the race or solving the problem. Be willing to journal about what is going well and what you thought and did that led to your success.
5 Focus upon service to others. Research shows that when you do something out of compassion for the sake of others without expectation of recognition or reward, you reap huge mental health and physical health benefits. There is a multitude of needy people and animals around the world that need your help. The Pandemic has made things worse for most people and they need your compassion and help.
This blog post was posted on November 16, 2020.
About the Author
Dr Karen Cassiday, PhD, ACT is past president of ADAA, the owner of the Anxiety Treatment Center of Greater Chicago and the host of Moms Without Worry, a radio show on boldbravemedia.com, Fridays, 5pm EST that helps mothers push back against the pressure to be perfect and to raise perfect kids.