In a recent “5 Things You Need to Know” episode, Chip Benight, professor of psychology and director of the new National Institute for Human Resilience, shared why the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global stress response.
“It’s not clear where the threat is,” Benight said. “It creates a lot of anxiety. That, combined with the economic impact, has created a coping challenge that is beyond what is normal for people.”
“People are calling this the ‘new normal,’ but the new normal is changing every day. It becomes very difficult to have anchors.”
In response, Benight also shared seven ways that individuals can create resilience in their own lives – even in the midst of a pandemic – and take action against stress responses.
Seven steps to creating resilience during a pandemic
1. Take a break from the news.
Rather than consuming news all day long, Benight recommends avoiding information overload by checking in twice a day.
2. Create a self-care plan.
Those feeling stress due to circumstances out of their control – such as a pandemic – should create a self-care plan that reminds them they are in control.
“It’s critical that we have a grounding self-care strategy that makes us feel like ‘Things are okay, I’m going to be okay, the family is going to be okay’ – and knowing what we can do to feel like we have some control,” Benight said.
Individuals can check the National Institute for Human Resilience website for self-care activities, which include taking a walk, listening to a guided meditation or music and doing deep breathing exercises. A self-care plan can also include reminding oneself of concrete actions that can generate a feeling of safety, such as wearing a face covering when in public and maintaining social distancing.
3. Spend time in nature.
“We’re all looking for things that are grounding for us,” Benight said. “I do a lot of self-care by getting out into nature. And there’s actually good evidence that being out in nature can be healing for people. Nature is somewhat static, and it creates a feeling of grounding.”
4. Spend time with loved ones.
“It’s really important that we don’t think of ourselves as isolated entities,” Benight said. “We need to really think about how to come together and how to think about how we’re all in the same soup. We need to reach out to each other and create a sense of positivity and strength about getting through this.”
5. Follow consistent, normal routines.
Benight recommends creating a sense of safety and calm by following consistent, normal routines – especially if individuals have children who are also struggling in the face of the pandemic.
“For kids, stability, consistency and normal routines are critically important for them to feel a sense of safety and calmness in their lives,” Benight said. “ What we know is that the parents’ reaction to the experience is important in terms of driving how the kids are responding. If parents feel a sense of stability, direction and routine, the kids will respond accordingly.”
6. Generate a sense of hope.
Benight shared that individuals should find ways to generate a sense of hope. “Hope comes from a sense that the future can be better than it is right now,” he said. “We need to reach out to each other and create a sense of positivity and strength about getting through this.”
7. Get training.
Finally, Benight recommends that individuals seek resources on the Greater Resilience Information Toolkit website. Those interested in learning how to promote resilience in their own lives or those of others should consider taking the five-hour GRIT resilience support coach training. The training, which is offered online in a fully automized format, can help to both shore up support for one’s community and help individuals apply the lessons they learn to their own lives.
“If you want to be a powerful force for your community, it’s a very simple thing to do,” Benight said.
And if he could offer one piece of advice for all of us navigating a pandemic?
“Communication, consistency, stability and investing in your own self-care – so that you can be a stable force – are the best things you can do.”
The mission of the National Institute for Human Resilience is to advance knowledge of human resilience by pursuing basic science on adaptation and discovery of strength-based solutions through innovative and interdisciplinary research, education, and community engagement. Learn more about the National Institute for Human Resilience and GRIT training online.