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Getting through these troubles | Guest column

Dwight T. Colley, PsyD

Chair, SJI Human Services Advisory Board

Everything about COVID crisis has been uncertain and ever-changing.

Partly because of that, we’re all left scratching our heads wondering why some things are allowed and others prohibited. It is difficult to know what is safe vs. high risk, and many of us feel like the regulations and guidelines have lost touch with the reality of our collective needs and behaviors.”

Hence, the following thoughts:

Resilience

Merriam-Webster defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change, in essence, the ability to rebound, bounce back and overcome.” Resilience is multifaceted- influenced by genetics, yes, but it can be built and enhanced over time. However, it is not something that is earned or received without effort.

The notion of resilience captures the balance between acceptance of the negative and acknowledgment that we can develop skills necessary to deal with adversities. Building resilience empowers us to take more control of our lives, take responsibility for what we can control, and develop a greater sense of confidence in overcoming challenges. People with high levels of resilience accept what has happened and ask, “So, what’s next?”

Connectedness

Being connected to others is essential in building and maintaining well-being, a major component of resilience. Connectedness is vital because we are social beings and need meaningful relationships. Isolation and loneliness breed depression. A life phase change is one common cause of social disconnectedness. Relocating for a new job or graduating from high school may be an exciting life change, but they often result in the dissolution of previously established social circles. Added to this list is the now COVID enforced separation from off-island relatives. We must learn how to connect with new people.

Do what you love and you are likely to encounter others who are like-minded. Religious or spiritual connections and volunteer work can likewise lead to rewarding social contact. Social support provides a source of relief by not feeling alone.

Expressing and hearing your thoughts aloud verifies that you, indeed, have control of your life.

Leisure

Your overall well-being is enhanced by engaging in “casual” leisure. Examples include reading, engaging in social conversations, resting in a hammock, or enjoying our great accessible outdoors. Leisure can relieve stress, provide healthy coping methods, and offer protection from the negative health effects of extreme and prolonged tension in our ever-changing world.

Leisure minimizes the impact of stress through enjoyable distractions that create “breathers”. Leisure activities allow a person to feel that they have some control over their lives.

Leisure creates and restores a sense of optimism through pleasant experiences in the face of profound stress.

All of this is easier said than done but well worth the effort.