Adapting to change
At this point in time with the coronavirus pandemic in full swing across the world, we are faced with challenges to our ability to remain positive. When we are faced with changes from our normal or expected situation, some people will be able to adapt to the change and continue to function positively, whereas others will struggle. In the past, it was thought that there were several factors such as prior history of trauma or childhood adversity that put you at risk in a pre-determined way. If this had happened to you, that would be the outcome. However, we know that not everyone will respond in the same way – some children with significant adversity will nevertheless thrive and go on to do great things in life. They have an ability to adapt.
So, what are some of the factors that we might pay attention to in order for us and our children to cope positively in the current situation?
- Having close, supportive relationships with the family and community. It has been wonderful to see the reaching out to others happening despite being socially isolated, in gestures such as the clapping for front-line workers that happened in many countries.
- Connect with positive people. Stay away from gossipers or doomsday predictors (I have found an old Australian poem ‘Said Hanrahan’ which will raise a smile if you haven’t come across it before. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R96gN2mZ7ZI).
- Our ability to regulate our emotions and thinking. We have covered this the final chapters of The Focused Child, and we urge you to take up a meditative practice such as Listening to Sound, or any other form of meditation, as it will pay dividends in this area.
- Self-esteem - having a positive view of oneself. Turn off self-criticism. If this is hard to do, consider using a self-esteem journal where you write down three positive things you did each day. Consistently paying attention to the constructive, contributive or creative things you have done in the day will gradually improve your sense of self-worth.
- Being motivated to do such things each day requires a definite decision to be active rather than passive, to keep busy (I don’t mean busyness, but to be consciously choosing what you’re involved in as the best or most appropriate thing for the moment – that might be sitting in the sun just soaking it up!)
- Reduce your exposure to the News if it gets you down – although I note that the Australian TV news broadcasters made an effort to put some positive stories on the news e.g. videos of what people are doing in self-isolation which can be uplifting or hilarious or both!!
- Use your brain – perhaps your greatest asset is planning. If the day is too unstructured and you get the sense of having achieved little, this cuts off an important source of self-esteem and positive mood. So make sure you’re up and about, showered and ready to meet the day Problem-solve around boredom. Your usual coffee date is not happening, but you can still catch up by zoom, skype or facetime. Keep learning – a skill, a craft, knowledge of the world – whatever interests you, dive deep – become competent or knowledgeable.
- Face any fears you have about the present or future directly – don’t go into denial or avoidance. Optimism is a great contributor to well-being. You can reframe some aspects of our current situation in positive ways e.g. what does social isolation allow you to do that you haven’t been doing? Spirituality and finding a meaning in life have been sources of positive acceptance and adjustment for millennia. See if you can read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
- Seek pleasure in the small things. Create a chart of simple sensory pleasures (things you enjoy in each sense – sight, hearing, taste, smell) and refer to it often. Involve the children in adding to it. Remember Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music? “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” etc!! Keep a Gratitude journal. Pleasant experiences release endorphins and other neurotransmitters that can help us to feel good.
If we can remain upbeat despite the challenges life brings, we’re likely to pass on our coping skills to our children. A little reminder you might like to print out or download: