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Resilience

If You Think the Impact of the Pandemic Is Over, Think Again

Cultivating resilience can provide an antidote to cumulative pandemic stress.

Key points

  • Escalating life stressors fueled by pandemic-related realities include various economic, global, and societal factors.
  • Approximately 51 percent of non-retired adults believe the pandemic’s economic realities will negatively impact their long-term financial goals.
  • Cultivating the essential life skill of resilience can provide a much-needed antidote to extreme cumulative stress.
 Elisa Ventur/Unsplash
Source: Elisa Ventur/Unsplash

Passing the global pandemic’s two-year mark finds many of our former life comforts and customs indefinitely altered. Escalating life stressors fueled by pandemic-related realities include various economic, global unrest, and societal factors.

Despite our collective desire to move beyond the pandemic, the psychological effects continue to heighten and are likely to be felt over the next decade.

According to a 2021 Pew Research Report, approximately 51 percent of non-retired adults believe the pandemic’s economic realities will negatively impact their long-term financial goals. Increasing economic stress factors include the economic realities of supply chain deficiencies, inflation, the widespread restructuring of the world of work, and the long-term impact of the Great Resignation phenomenon. Many doubt returning to their former lifestyle is possible or that their finances will ever fully recover.

A 2022 American Psychological Association-Harris Poll Survey identified that the cumulative effect of pandemic-related economic, societal, and mental factors was fostering an escalating decline in psychological health and the rise in unhealthy behaviors. A pandemic anniversary survey detailed deteriorating mental health, lower physical activity, disturbed sleep, unwanted weight gain, and an increase in unhealthy habits and addictions to cope with pandemic-related stress, fear, loss, uncertainty, burnout, disengagement, grieving, and feelings of helplessness.

Cultivating the critical life skill of resilience can provide a much-needed antidote to the cumulative impact of pandemic-related stress. Resiliency helps us bounce back and move beyond heightened stress. It is not an ability we’re born with.

Resilience is a skill that can be learned and strengthened over time. Like building a muscle, fostering resilience requires awareness, focus, commitment, and practice. It involves developing thoughts and actions that facilitate bouncing back from and moving beyond adversity, trauma, significant stress, and unanticipated life challenges, setbacks, and failures. Resilient individuals tend to demonstrate proficiency in cognitive, behavioral, meaning, and relational. Each domain provides opportunities for embodying the requisite mindsets and behaviors for building and strengthening resilience.

Cognitive Domain

In this domain, resilient individuals learn to view challenges and setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning. They are curious, able to sustain their focus in service of attaining a goal, and skilled at adapting to changing circumstances. Develop the habit of noticing, questioning, and shifting negative thoughts and beliefs to more positive ones. Practice asking the questions “What could I learn from this experience?” and “What skill have I used in the past to successfully move beyond a similar experience?”

Behavioral Domain

Resilient individuals are skilled in the art of self-regulation. They can calm themselves down when upset, cheer themselves up when feeling down, and know when to seek support from others. They’re also committed to building healthy habits that include getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and building a regular mindfulness practice. Ask yourself, “What one healthy habit will I commit to developing?” and then, “What one small step can I take each day to build this habit?” What might seem like a small step, when taken each day, will lead to a positive cumulative impact on building resilience.

Meaning Domain

Resilient individuals have a clear sense of life purpose and meaning. They practice the art of gratitude when things go well, intentionally focusing on a more positive life aspect when things go poorly, and understand that all pleasurable and challenging situations are impermanent. Practice the skill of looking for and noticing something, however small it might be, to appreciate at the moment.

Relational Domain

Resilient individuals value social engagement and connectedness, critical factors in building relationships with others. Resilience in this domain is characterized by intentional acts of kindness in thoughts and actions to self and others. Aligning your deepest values with your actions and consistently doing the right thing, even when no one is looking, strengthens resilience. Ask yourself, “What is the kindest action that I can take in this situation?” and “What’s the right thing to do at this moment?”

Building resilience will increase your ability to successfully cope with extraordinarily stressful life challenges, difficulties, and setbacks. Although resilience won’t make your challenges and stressors disappear, resilience can significantly lessen the cumulative impact of pandemic-related stressors, foster cultivating inner strengths, and create new customs and comforts.

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