Psychological Resilience in the Pandemic Age

Videoconference Wine Tasting

Overview

Is there a silver lining to the current global pandemic? 

It’s a controversial question. However, COVID-19 has provided resilience researchers an unprecedented opportunity to perform real-time studies on human resilience.

We’ve talked about how you can become physically COVID-19 resilient in a previous article.   However, the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health problems across the world. In fact, COVID-related anxiety and depression remain an ongoing threat to public health (1). 

In addition to the danger of illness, other mental health pressures arise from the continuing societal uncertainty. For example, lockdowns and social isolation, crippling job losses, school closures, and the loss of critical cultural rituals and routines.  COVID has also disrupted how we seek support from one another. Even our natural desire to interact with friends and family has been tainted by underlying fears of COVID infection (2).

These pressures represent an incredible challenge at the individual, community, and national level.  Given this, a natural assumption is that resilient people are adapting well and potentially thriving within this adversity.  Is that happening? 

What the Research Says.

Studies generated during the pandemic show that resilient people have experienced significantly less mental and physical health problems (3).  Specifically, individuals with higher resilience experience lower anxiety levels and fewer negative psychological consequences due to the COVID-19 pandemic (4).

But what particular resilience-building practices appear to work well in the face of COVID-19? Emerging data identify both psychological and spiritual-based practices as the most effective resilience strategies during the pandemic. 

By focusing on the most recent research, we’ve identified three approaches to optimise your pandemic resilience.  These are:

– applying positive framing

– becoming psychologically flexible

– having a defined sense of purpose and spirituality

1. Apply positive framing.

During the most intensive phases of Europe’s extensive pandemic lockdowns, Veer and colleagues analysed how behavior influenced personal resilience.  Strikingly, they found that the most resilient people use a positive appraisal style to (i) evaluate their experience; and (ii) guide their decision-making (5).

We touched on this mindset in our previous discussions of the Everyday Resilience Framework.  This approach involves challenging your default negativity bias by evaluating the challenges of COVID in a balanced and realistic way. Using this framework helps you avoid catastrophe-thinking or unyielding pessimism. 

Importantly, it’s not about engaging in blind optimism or trivialising what is happening around the world. Instead:

– you intentionally cultivate and recall positive emotions (e.g., joy, love, gratitude) alongside negative emotions (fear, concern) (6)

– you engage in cognitive reappraisal to intentionally look for positive opportunities. For example, engage in self-development, improve a hobby or interest, or purposefully reconnect with others  (7)

– you remain aware that you are hardwired to react towards negative news far more powerfully than positive news (8). Simply noting this inclination greatly improves your ability to perceive the world and its opportunities in a more balanced way

2. Become psychologically flexible.

Researchers also found that people practicing psychological flexibility reduced their COVID-19 related stress and associated mental health problems (9).  In this sense, resilient people are more ‘emotionally flexible’ in how they react to COVID-related stressors.

Altering your emotional perspectives when necessary can help balance your emotional needs (10). This involves consciously changing your emotions in a context-appropriate manner. In essence, practicing emotional regulation helps you create an optimal emotional state for your current situation.

In a practical sense, psychological flexibility is about being able to contextualise your COVID experience within your life. This prevents COVID from becoming the entirety of your psychological experience. 

For example, you should practice both interpreting and responding positively to incoming good news. In addition, strongly suppress the urge to negatively re-interpret good news just because you are in lockdown.  Finally, avoid dwelling on grim COVID news from a distant part of the world. Instead, engage fully with your friends and family, and warmly congratulate them on their successes and wins.

Psychological flexibility allows you to adapt and thrive in an increasingly complex world that includes COVID. Moreover, being psychologically flexible will improve your everyday resilience in general.

3. Have a defined sense of purpose and spirituality.

We previously discussed the importance of having a sense of purpose. New research confirms that having a clear life purpose greatly reduces pandemic-related stress (11).  During times of uncertainty, having a self-defined purpose provides the essential motivation for moving forward and engaging in goal-orientated behavior. A sense of purpose is a powerful antidote against drifting aimlessly in the COVID sea of anxiety and uncertainty. 

In addition to a sense of purpose, the importance of spirituality during COVID-19 is becoming increasingly clear (12).  In this context, spirituality refers to religious and non-religious spiritual forms (such as nature or music). To be crystal clear, spirituality is not limited to engaging with orthodox religious institutions and rituals. 

We’ve previously explored the tight connection between your spirituality with both your physical and psychological health.  Briefly, improving your spiritual domain decreases your mortality risk, enhances your cardiovascular health, and improves your immune function. Obviously, these three benefits that are acutely relevant in responding to the threat represented by the COVID virus!

However, within the context of mental distress, spirituality has additional benefits. Spirituality provides you with a powerful aid in cognitive reappraisal (13). In this context, spirituality facilitates your ability to positively reframe challenging situations. Spirituality also improves your psychological flexibility. Thus, genuine spiritual practice reinforces your other resilience strategies, making you much stronger when facing adversity.

The Take Home Message

While maintaining your physical health is obviously critical during COVID-19, emerging research highlights just how important mental and spiritual practice is for maximizing your pandemic resilience. We recommend that you adopt a positive appraisal style, increase your psychological flexibility, and deepen your sense of purpose and spirituality. 

The bottom line is that human flourishing requires the combination of physical, psychological and spiritual practice. This is especially true during the pandemic age.

Please click on the link below to download you free PDF.

FREE PDF

Resilience Age Of Pandemic

References and Further Reading

1        Ferreira, R.J., Buttell, F., & Cannon, C. COVID-19: Immediate Predictors of Individual ResilienceSustainability. 2020; 12(16). https://doi.org/10.3390/su12166495

2        Ibid.

3        Paredes, M.R., Apaolaza, V., Fernandez-Robin, C., et alThe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on subjective mental well-being: The interplay of perceived threat, future anxiety and resilience, Personality and Individual Differences. 2021; 170. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.110455.

4        Ibid.

5        Veer, I.M., Riepenhausen, A., Zerban, M. et al. Psycho-social factors associated with mental resilience in the Corona lockdown. Translational Psychiatry. 2021;11(67). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41398-020-01150-4

6        Kaye-Kauderer, H., Feingold, J., Feder, A., Southwick, S., & Charney, D. Resilience in the age of COVID-19. BJPsych Advances. 2021; 1(13). doi:10.1192/bja.2021.5

7        Ibid.

8        Keely, B., MacLeod, C., Ellison, T., & Fay, N. The sky is falling: evidence of a negativity bias in the social transmission of informationEvolution and Human Behavior. 2017;38(1). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2016.07.004

9        Arslan G., & Allen, K. Exploring the association between coronavirus stress, meaning in life, psychological flexibility, and subjective well-being. Psychology, Health & Medicine. 2021. https://doi.org/10.1080/13548506.2021.1876892

10      Meesters, A., Vancleef, L., & Peters, M. Emotional flexibility and recovery from painMotivation and Emotion. 2019;43(3): 493-504. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-018-9748-5

11      Arslan G., & Allen, K. Exploring the association between coronavirus stress, meaning in life, psychological flexibility, and subjective well-being. Psychology, Health & Medicine. 2021. https://doi.org/10.1080/13548506.2021.1876892

12      Kaye-Kauderer, H., Feingold, J., Feder, A., Southwick, S., & Charney, D. Resilience in the age of COVID-19. BJPsych Advances. 2021; 1(13). doi:10.1192/bja.2021.5

13      Ibid.

Disclaimer

The material displayed on this website is provided without any guarantees, conditions or warranties as to its accuracy.
Information written and expressed on this website is for education purposes and interest only. It is not intended to replace advice from your medical or healthcare professional.

You are encouraged to make your own health care choices based on your own research and in conjunction with your qualified practitioner.

The information provided on this website is not intended to provide a diagnosis, treatment or cure for any diseases. You should seek medical attention before undertaking any diet, exercise, other health program or other procedure described on this website.

To the fullest extent permitted by law we hereby expressly exclude all warranties and other terms which might otherwise be implied by statute, common law or the law of equity and must not be liable for any damages whatsoever, including but without limitation to any direct, indirect, special, consequential, punitive or incidental damages, or damages for loss of use, profits, data or other intangibles, damage to goodwill or reputation, injury or death, or the cost of procurement of substitute goods and services, arising out of or related to the use, inability to use, performance or failures of this website or any linked sites and any materials or information posted on those sites, irrespective of whether such damages were foreseeable or arise in contract, tort, equity, restitution, by statute, at common law or otherwise.

Author

Posted in , ,
David

David

Dave has a highly successful background in the government, corporate, entrepreneurial, and not for profit sectors. All that aside, Dave is best known as a quiet guy with an unembarrassed love of the mountains, a passion for protecting animals, and as being a great support crew for his wife during her marathon running.

Woman Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra for Better Sleep

Disrupted sleep increases anxiety and depression. Yoga Nidra is an effective method that has helped many people overcome insomnia.

Beautiful Woman Running On Treadmill

Low-Intensity Cardio for Metabolic Health

Emerging research shows that low-intensity cardio is the best way to improve your metabolic and cardiovascular health.

Strong bones, strong brain.

Strong Bones, Strong Mind

Regular exercise releases osteocalcin from your bones. Once in circulation, osteocalcin enters your brain to support learning and memory.

Leave a Comment





Woman Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra for Better Sleep

Disrupted sleep increases anxiety and depression. Yoga Nidra is an effective method that has helped many people overcome insomnia.

Beautiful Woman Running On Treadmill

Low-Intensity Cardio for Metabolic Health

Emerging research shows that low-intensity cardio is the best way to improve your metabolic and cardiovascular health.

Strong bones, strong brain.

Strong Bones, Strong Mind

Regular exercise releases osteocalcin from your bones. Once in circulation, osteocalcin enters your brain to support learning and memory.