Everyday Mercies: 7 Ways to Build Resilience during COVID-19

COVID-19 has many of us wondering what the future will look like.

Will we be able to hang onto our jobs and businesses?
Will our relationships survive?
Will our loved ones be okay?

Adversity means an opportunity to grow.  At the heart of growth is the ability to be resilient. Resilience is all about the ability to cope and bounce back. How can we develop resilience, in these times?

Adversity means an opportunity to grow.

Invest deeply in God’s identity when ours feels like it is falling apart. It may feel like we are losing parts of who we are, what we do and who we love.  One thing that we can rest on is the unfailing character of God. His steadfast love never ceases.  Embrace the opportunities you have to soak in his Word that points to his unchanging nature. Take time to recall the message of the Bible – that our hope is not based on things seen, but on the unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18).  That we are eternity bound. That not one of our hairs goes uncounted (Luke 12:7).  That not one tear goes unseen (Psalm 56:8).  He is the God of your today and your tomorrow. His mercies are new every day. And some of those mercies are in the form of healthy psychological habits. In God’s goodness, he has given us many practical ways to protect our mental health and build resilience. 

1. Manage Isolation

It is not natural for us to be away from people. Interaction with others outside your home is no longer an option. This is especially difficult if you live on your own—but we are all impacted. We cannot visit family. We cannot attend celebrations. Our children long for playdates and playmates. Understanding your needs and creating new ways of connecting helps build resilience. Coffee dates over an online call. Sharing a screen and watching a movie together. Reading aloud to one another over the telephone. Even a text that says “I am thinking of you”.  These are ways to meet our connection needs.  If you live alone, let your friends and family know that you need them to reach out. It’s difficult if you are always the one making contact. Surround yourself with opportunities and outlets for caring – the garden, pets, writing letters and cards.

2. Quieten Anxiety

At the core of anxiety is the fear of uncertainty. When we don’t know what the future holds, we look to fill in the blanks, trying to predict the future and seeking reassurance that we will be alright. Uncertainty, however, is the norm. Certainty is the myth. Even before COVID-19, we were never in control. Focus on the things you have influence over, instead of focussing on certainty.  Cooking a meal from a tried and true recipe.  Working on a small home project.  Learning a musical piece or a new language. This helps us to feel that we are achieving and moving in positive direction.

3. Reduce the Noise

Our emotional distress levels rise when we are surrounded by alarming news.  It is like our brain is constantly bombarded by danger. The constant stream of COVID-19 news and statistics sets off fear mechanisms in our brain. Reducing our exposure to this helps us to maintain perspective that while COVID-19 is real–so are the birds that still sing, the flowers that still bloom and sun that rises and sets. Keep the balance of staying informed without being over-informed. Things are unlikely change by the minute, and so there is no need to keep yourself constantly tuned in to information sources. Schedule a designated time to check a trusted source and then let go of the need to keep checking.

while COVID-19 is real–so are the birds that still sing, the flowers that still bloom and sun that rises and sets.

4. Let Yourself Grieve

Change brings loss, and loss brings grief. We cannot underestimate how much we are grieving the loss of face-to-face time with our church communities—a source of spiritual encouragement.  We are human beings—made for touch. Our spirits soar when we hear each other sing, our pain is soothed by a kind hug or a room filled with prayer. Take time to reflect on this. Journaling, talking about it with others will help you to acknowledge, observe and articulate the grief. 

5. Don’t Forget to Move

Exercise and movement are important to our mental wellbeing. Exercise provides us with vital neurochemistry that helps our mood regulation. Take breaks during your day to move.When we are working from home there is very little movement that is required. YouTube videos provide an amazing array of exercise videos. Going for a walk provides a good dose of sunlight.

6. Rest Well

This sounds strange to say.  We have more time on our hands . . . don’t we? Constant change and adjustment is exhausting. Parenting and working in the same space. Feeling sad for our friends and family. These are all taxing on our resources. Sleep is God’s wonderful way of helping us to process our day, regenerate our bodies and mind—waking refreshed for the challenges of a new day.  Protect your sleep by taking measures to wind down and relax before bed, take joy in making your bed comfortable and reduce caffeinated drinks (it’s so much easier to get to the kettle and machine at home!).

7. Recover Milestones and Celebrations

Our natural rhythms are being disrupted. School holidays are like any other day, without the punctuation of carefree beach time, playdates or sleepovers. Birthdays, anniversaries, and celebrations all blur into a normal week. Milestone events like weddings, graduations, and the like – have all come to a halt. Days where we pause to remember, like ANZAC day, will not have their normal reflective place. It is important to meet the fundamental needs these events serve. Grieve what it would have been. And, attend the events in new ways. We may have to do them online, or simply with our household. Or, perhaps we look forward with excitement to a time when we can gather together again.

In God’s goodness, he has given us many practical ways to protect our mental health and build resilience.

God cares for his children. He has given us tools to cope with adversity and uncertainty. Our hope is in Christ, and so we can move forward, armed with good psychological habits to keep us healthy during this difficult time.