Mental health tips for thriving through adversity

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted life as we knew it and has brought with it much more than just a virus without a cure. It has impacted several people in India and around the world.It has brought with it adversity in various aspects of our life. From loss of loved ones, social isolation, employment uncertainty, financial crisis, mental health issuesand an overall feeling of doom, we all, are having trouble adjusting to this new normal. In this age of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA), it is easy to drop into a sense of hopelessness and despair,and highlights the need to address the mechanism of handling grief and adversity, during these times.

Through all of these trying times, one can bounce back by implementing some universal tools that can help anyone facing adversity to move forward in hope and emerge victorious. These tools are very much relevant today especially during this pandemic.

1. Acceptance and Faith: Accepting a situation is the first step to working towards overcoming adversity. And when one can practices complete acceptance with a deep sense of faith whatever it is for one, they begin to take first steps towards a brighter future. Know that what has happened cannot be undone. And the only way to move ahead from that situation, is to accept it and find a solution on how one can build from there.It’s certainly not easy to “accept” your new normal. Acceptance takes time – but increases over time, although one can ever fully accept it. As hard it is, it is the only choice one has. Self-pity and complaining are not options.

2. Resilience: With faith and acceptance, one can start to work towards improving the situation, with determination to overcome the multiple roadblocks. Resilience is an art that not only builds a strength of character but helps to see adversity as a challenge to be overcome instead of a defeating, helpless catastrophe. Resilience is something you don’t fully know you have until you need it. But the amount of resilience one has is not limited. It’s like doing exercises – the more you do them consistently, the better. You are born with some resilience, but more importantly it can be learnt and developed. Be it a job loss, departure of a loved one, financial crisis or a health issue, there is always some way to fix how one feels from this, and work towards creating a better life.

3. Reach out for help: When trying to practice resilience and fighting one’s way through the adversity, it may be difficult to connect to others or to even seek help. Most people find it comfortable to cut off and seek shelter in solitude, due to reasons like shame or guilt of an inability to come to terms with grief. While such a phase is natural, one needs to get out of it at the earliest to avoid being stuck in the past, and enhancing the impact of the adversity. You have no choice but to play the hand you are dealt. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade, as they say. Reaching out to the right people (including professionals), at the right time, can be extremely significant. This can help gain clarity, validate the path/ thought-process, offer insightful feedback and ensure one is on the right track.

4. Humility: An essential part of creating a new life comes from a sense of self-worth, which often is the most impacted during times of adversity. Tapping into a ‘can do’ attitude becomes an automatic antidote when fighting to swim against the tide. However, doing it with humility helps one keep grounded and prepared for setbacks. It also allows one to focus on the task at hand and not be too presumptuous about the outcome, thus helping keep unhealthy expectations at check.

5. Adopt a non-judgmental outlook: Judgments may not always be helpful when one is exploring new territory or learning to adopt a new way of life. Being open and accepting is the way to grow, especially when faced with a challenge. Often an open mind is more capable of feeling, seeing, learning and growing, than the judgmental mindset.

6. Practice gratitude: It may sound ironic or difficult to comprehend ‘practicing gratitude’ in the midst of a crisis, but these are exactly the times when one needs to step back and be mindful of the positive facts, and being grateful for whatever is still intact, and is nourishing/ supporting ones journey forward! Nothing heals and strengthens like gratitude. Expressing gratitude is a choice. Like Resilience, you are born with some of it and can be learnt and developed.

7. Giving back in whatever way possible: Practicing gratitude helps one to realize their privileges and become mindful of other less fortunate. Giving back to society/ community, in whatever way one can , not only helps create a sense of purpose, but also creates a sense of bonding, makes one feel grateful, and provides stronger motivation to come out of a crisis.

8. Finding possibilities: When in doubt,try it. Also, surround yourself with positive people.Being in the midst of people who can support one’s cause, is always a blessing. Being also surrounded by people who always choose to see the best in every situation, can help create a perpetual positive vibe and build gratitude, thus helping one to grow. Like resilience and gratitude, positivity can be learnt and developed.

Inputs by Sameer Bhide, author of the book ‘One Fine Day’.

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