Reggie J. Ferreira Ph.D.

Resilience in the Shadow of Catastrophe

How to Cope with COVID-19

Self-care as a tool for increasing our resilience.

Posted Mar 23, 2020

We are faced with daily challenges; some are easy to navigate, and some tend to be more challenging. What is currently happening around the world with the COVID-19 pandemic could probably be described as a fairly big challenge, if not one of the biggest we will be faced with, as several unknowns still lie ahead. Given this unprecedented event we are currently grappling with, several questions arise: How long will this pandemic last? Will I still have a job when this is over? Will I get sick? Will a loved one?

A traumatic experience such as the COVID-19 pandemic can impact our daily functioning, with us experiencing increased levels of stress, traumatic exposure, distressing emotional and physical reactions, and disruption to our daily social and support networks and routines. We might experience a roller coaster of feelings that can include:

  • anxiety or fear – often brought on by thinking about what will the future hold
  • guilt – stemming from the idea that you might have infected someone
  • anger and rage – towards those who might have caused this pandemic
  • survivor guilt – a sense that more should have been done to prevent this disaster
  • sadness – which can lead to a depressed state

Given all of the associated unknowns we are faced with, we can tap into our inner strengths and coping strategies to increase our resilience. All of us have unique characteristics that make us resilient. We can broadly define resilience as our thoughts, our current behaviors, and actions that promote our personal wellbeing and mental health. We each have the ability to adapt and recover from stress and adversity. This can be achieved by implementing effective coping strategies.

One coping strategy we can use to address some of the stress we are experiencing is the practice of self-care. “Self-care is attending to your own challenges, be it medical or mental,” according to Dr. Charles Figley, a Professor of Disaster Mental Health and Professor of Social Work at Tulane School of Social Work.

“Self-care measures we can complete have us first attend to your own fears and needs. It starts with caring about yourself, in addition to others, your job, your family,” Figley said. “We must be clear and satisfied with how we are helping others. But self-care comes first.”

Some self-care measures Figley mentioned that are easy to practice during this time of uncertainty include:

  • reading for pleasure
  • reading to secure help from online forums
  • spending some time with a family pet
  • keeping a diary
  • talking to a friend or loved one
  • practicing meditation, prayer and mindfulness
  • engaging in a hobby
  • engaging in physical exercise

For now, most of us find ourselves either in isolation or adhering to the “stay at home” orders. We can manage our stress by taking it day-by-day. In doing so we must create our own self-care plans and routines and find ways to be grateful. We must reach out to others about our shared experiences. This positive outlook on life will allow us to be more resilient and instill hope for our own loved ones, our neighbors and beyond.

Resources:

For more information on how to protect yourself and loved ones from COVID-19, please visit and review the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control.

The Disaster Distress Helpline is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the United States and its territories. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.