3 Steps To Strengthening Resilience So You Can Bounce Back From Pain Faster

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3 Steps To Developing Resilience

If you’re like most people on the planet, you’ve been feeling emotions in a way you haven’t before. Especially feelings such as fear, sadness, and shock.

The intensity of your feelings during the global pandemic due to COVID-19 may be more than you are used to. Or harder to squelch.

You’re not alone. Everyone around you is also feeling super-intense emotions.

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Feelings can become overwhelming. 

Your strong emotions, plus others' strong emotions, can create a huge cluster of overwhelm. Add to this the fact that feelings — especially "negative" ones — can be contagious.

If you're quarantined, out of work or school, and socially isolating, the intensity is even more gigantic. It’s a lot to manage, along with feeling the sheer vulnerability on top.

The global pandemic of the last couple of months is an extreme example of adversity. COVID-19 has brought challenges, setbacks, crises, and difficult circumstances.

What if this pandemic is truly an opportunity for resilience and strengthening ourselves? The COVID-19 impact will vary, depending on your circumstances and your perspective.

Human beings have a tendency to make life harder than it needs to be.

Let’s face it. The COVID-19 virus has created unprecedented hardships — financially, personally, socially, economically, occupationally, educationally, relationally.

There is no area of life around the globe unaffected. Few people would argue that the COVID-19 pandemic is not a crisis.

The "Three P's."

Three things make getting through a crisis more difficult. Psychologists call these “The Three P’s”: Personalization, Permanence, and Pervasiveness.

Each of these “P’s” is a perspective over which you have control.

And finding the places you have a sense of control is extra-important when so much of life right now is about following rules in order to flatten the curve and not infect others.

Let’s start by talking about the Three P’s, so you get a better idea of what to do and what not to do to help yourself and those around you.

Being aware of the Three P’s will help you to identify personalization, permanence, and pervasiveness in your own thinking. You will be better able to resist any of the Three P’s and have the opportunity to build your resiliency muscles.

The COVID-19 pandemic is so all-consuming; the muscles you strengthen could create the equivalent of resiliency on steroids (metaphorically speaking)!

Here are those 3 steps to developing resilience so you can come out of any crisis stronger.

1. Personalization.

This refers to believing that things are your fault, even though they are not. Personalization in action looks like blaming yourself, feeling guilty, or beating yourself up.

During COVID-19, examples of personalization are feeling responsible if a family member gets the virus, or feeling guilty for not wearing a face mask one time in the grocery store.

You beat yourself up because you are obsessing about the possibility that you infected others around you (even though you have no reason to believe you are a carrier or came in close contact with anyone).

Iinstead of self-blame, shame, and guilt, try talking about the ways you have been affected by COVID-19. Voicing the personal impact it has had on you will help strengthen your resilience.

Maybe you talk with your partner, family, friends, community, or a professional. Whether the impact has been overwhelmingly negative or positive, talking about your experiences will help you feel less alone and guilty.

2. Permanence.

Permanence is believing that things are never going to get better, as if whatever hardships are going on will last forever.

This can certainly feel true when you are in the thick of it. But just because it feels a certain way doesn’t mean it is true.

A COVID-19 version of this "P" is believing this crisis will never, ever end.

None of us knows when it will end, but we know it will end. It is not going to last forever.

Instead of convincing yourself that you life will never get better, build resilience by helping other people. Put forth your best self and brighten the day of friends, family, or your community.

Helping others will help you feel better. A kind gesture, like calling to check in on an elderly neighbor, can go a long way in your neighbor’s and your own life.

Acts of kindness are often paid forward. And the ripple effect is a beautiful thing. Right before your eyes, life just feels better.

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3. Pervasiveness.

The third "P" refers to the tendency of believing that everything in life is miserable.

The reality is not everything is horrible. At the risk of sounding like Pollyanna, I bet you can identify some pretty good things even in the midst of the not-so-good.

Maybe internet access and a computer are on the "pretty good" list. Or your refrigerator and the food in it. And let’s be honest — you may be getting extra sleep because the kids don’t need to catch a bus for school.

Instead of telling yourself that "everything sucks," build resilience to the hardships of life by deliberately noticing what you're grateful for in the here and now.

There is so much to have gratitude for, including many things that would not necessarily even be on your radar before the COVID-19 quarantine.

For example, maybe you are grateful you were able to have a virtual visit with your loved ones, rather than continuing to wait until the stay-at-home orders are lifted. Or, perhaps you're grateful for your neighbor dropping off a mask she made for you so you can grocery shop.

How about when you went to the supermarket and only had to wait in line for five minutes before you were let in? Or the sight of shelves filled with rolls of toilet paper, no less!

When adversity occurs, resilience is especially important.

The good news is that resilience is a skill that can be strengthened. It is not static, as if you have it or you don’t.

You can deliberately respond to life’s harshness in a way that is resilient, which will then make it easier to naturally apply resilience to subsequent difficulties.

Resilience really is like a muscle. It strengthens the more you use it.

Use the Three P’s as a way to identify what to do to strengthen resilience.

Resilience is a life skill to help you to bounce back from the inevitable pain life has in store for all of us.

The road to resilience can strengthen throughout your life. You can influence the extent to which your resilience changes for the better.

If ever there were a global opportunity for individual, family, community, country-wide, and universal resilience, it is now.

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Dr. Elayne Daniels has a private practice in the Boston area. She loves to inspire women to access their authentic selves and live their best life, at every age.