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Building Resilience During COVID-19

Philip Wilkerson | April 30, 2020 | 6 minute read

Building Resilience During COVID-19

Philip Wilkerson | April 30, 2020 | 6 minute read

These are crazy times we are living in. COVID-19 is an unprecedented pandemic wreaking havoc on the entire globe. I pride myself in being an optimistic and positive person. However, these times are testing my resolve and making me question my resilience and sanity. I recently read an article by Shanna A. Hocking entitled, “Here’s How You Can Be More Resilient” and it really resonated with me.

Hocking describes four ways to build resilience: practicing gratitude, engaging in a growth mindset, broadcasting happiness, and building your network. I wanted to add to these topics by presenting ideas I have found useful. If you have any ideas to add, please reach out or comment below. I will continue to experiment with well-being techniques like a mad scientist to see if they tangibly improve my mood and help me feel better as a person.

1. Practice Gratitude
Research shows that gratitude increases resilience. A few years ago, my cousin brought me a Five-Minute Journal. It is a structured journal that asks you to list three things you are grateful for each morning. The journal encourages you to stick with the exercise for a minimum of 30 days. I gave it a shot three years ago and am now three years into the daily practice.

A valuable side effect of practicing gratitude is that I found myself naturally looking for the silver lining each day. Sometimes the thing I am grateful for is just getting out of bed and other days it’s winning an award or getting a promotion. Actively looking for something to be grateful for changes my perception of the day.

I have horrible days just like anyone else: days with trauma, loss, or sadness. Even during those days, I find something to be grateful for. Maybe it’s a friend who reached out and checked in. Maybe it’s the fact that the trauma or sad incident I experienced will teach me a lesson that will allow me to help others.

I encourage you to make a practice of showing gratitude in one way or another and commit to it for a few days until it is a habit. I assure you your mindset will change.

Exercise to practice: Write down three things you are grateful for each day. Do this for 30 days to create a habit.

2. Engage a Growth Mindset
Life is not fair and sometimes we get the short end of the stick. There are times when things happen to us without reason, logic, or warning. I hate to say it, but that is just the way it is. I have learned over time that there are two real approaches we can take: a growth mindset or a victim mindset.

A growth mindset does not minimize the impact of negative things that happen to you; I am not saying, “suck it up and deal with it.” Instead, taking on a growth mindset means focusing on how adversity can strengthen our resolve. I like to ask myself, “What am I supposed to learn from this experience?” Sometimes the answer comes to me right away. Other times, a significant amount of time needs to pass before I can look back and see how I have grown.

All human beings have the capacity for growth. The only question is whether you are open to that growth or not. It takes agency to reframe your thinking and identify which things are in your control and which things are not. During COVID-19, I try to focus my attention on the day to day steps I have influence over and work from there.

Exercise to practice: Picture the best version of yourself. Write out adjectives of that best self. Think about the activities that contribute to that best self and write down ideas for how you can prioritize them.

3. Broadcast Happiness
We all have a platform. We all have a voice. I choose to use my voice and platform to share positivity and well-being. Does this mean I am unrealistically optimistic? I hope not. Our brains are sponges for the content we decide to take in and put out.

I try to emit positive messaging because I never know who out there in the digital space could benefit from words of encouragement or support. I know when the people I look up to and follow broadcast happiness, it influences me. Why wouldn’t I want to have that same effect on others?

Exercise to practice: Use your social media as your broadcast station. Set a routine for sharing a positive article once a week on a platform like LinkedIn. One thing I like to do is promote my friends on twitter; I post #FollowFriday every Friday with an inspirational quote. This has become a habit and the way I broadcast on Twitter.

4. Build Your Network
One thing social distancing has taught me is that we are not in this experience alone. We need each other now more than ever. I refuse to let physical space determine how my friends and family support me. I have made it a top priority to not withdraw but to jump in and engage!

For those who have a hard time making friends, there are practices you can implement to build your support network. One of the first steps is taking initiative to communicate. Find a mode of communication you are comfortable with (text, phone call, email, Instagram, Messenger, etc.) and reach out to your friends and family. This is not a time to be isolated or alone. I also believe the fear of being awkward is lower because we all desire a sense of connectedness.

Exercise to practice: Text or call four people. I practice a technique called “Connect Four” by scrolling to the bottom of my text messages and reaching out to people I haven’t heard from in a while.

During this time of COVID-19, the one technique that felt most inspiring for me personally was reaching out to four people each day. People are looking for ways to connect and feel a sense of community. It has been refreshing to hear from people I have not heard from in awhile. Speaking to others has helped me to see that I am not alone in my struggles and feelings. It has also been helpful to know that time and distance does not have to diminish close relationships.

We are living in uncertain and unpredictable times. Sometimes it may feel like things are spiraling out of control. When you feel anxious, try to center yourself and focus on the things that you have control over. One of those things is your own mindset.

Know that you can take action. Once your mindset is reset, try to find tangible action items to complete throughout the day. You are purposeful, accomplished, and strong. Over time, your belief in yourself will build up your resiliency and resolve. You got this!

About the Author

Philip Wilkerson works at George Mason University as an Industry Advisor for Media, Arts, and Design. He resides in Burke, Virginia. He is married to his high school sweetheart and father to two boys. He also hosts a podcast called Positive Philter which focuses on positivity and well-being in everyday life.

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