What I’ll remember about this time isn’t necessarily the big things. It’s the million little inconveniences. Remembering to bring the masks. Walking across the street to not walk too close to strangers. The extra time needed to wait in line at the grocery store. Thinking every outing through in terms of safety. The extra work in communication required to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to gatherings.
A few days ago, it all got to me. It wasn’t because of any one thing in particular. First, I had a face full of breakouts from days working as an essential worker at a hospital. Then my mask pulled my favorite earring off, and I couldn’t find it in the car. Then California headed into our second shut down. I couldn’t help but feel frustrated that it’s almost 9 months later and we’re still doing this.
I have started thinking of these occurrences as micro stressors, little events that put cognitive and emotional strain on us as they build. To combat this multitude of micro stressors during life in a pandemic, I have started thinking of ways to bolster my “emotional armor.” If the world has been wearing on us in a million little extra ways, how can we bolster our resilience to face it?
Short-term Positive Experiences
Accumulate short term positive experiences and enhance them with mindfulness. These can be really small, and we often have to get creative to find our joy when we’re stuck in the house or essential workers during the pandemic. It can be listening to a favorite soundtrack while driving. Or finding ways to engage in mindful movement. Lighting a holiday candle. Find places and spaces where you are able to be in the present moment and ground yourself with your senses.
Long-term Positive Experiences
Build long term positive experiences that are in line with your values. When we feel stuck or disengaged, it can sometimes be hard to find the way forward. By connecting to things that are important to us and making decisions that are in line with the values that are important to us, we build a sense of purpose in our lives. For example, if a value that is important to you is adventure and travel is something that you normally engage in, what are some creative ways you can engage with this value?
Build mastery to feel competent. When we engage in activities where we feel competent, we can help build our sense of self-efficacy.
Cope ahead whenever possible. If we know a week or a day is going to be particularly stressful or isolating, thinking ahead to specific ways we can take care of ourselves.
Never underestimate the power of taking care of our needs physically. Get enough sleep. Be proactive about medical care. Eat in a way that nourishes and cares for your body.
In this intense time of isolation, seek connection. Connection may look different these days, but we as humans have no shortage of creativity and resilience. Taking the time to build and create connection at a time when we’re facing increased loneliness is incredibly important.