It is ubiquitously known that isolation for extended periods of time can have negative effects on the mind and body. With that being said, however, the switch to remote living as a result of the pandemic has also provided an amount of personal space and time that may have been otherwise unheard of. Most individuals have increasingly flexible schedules that allow them to unwind when they would have been running around campus or in their workplace. Some people are awakening to the problems they thought they had solved but were simply distracted from, or problems that they did not even know they had. Others are reframing their thinking, learning to appreciate the little things. Others still are proving their self-defeating thoughts wrong by withstanding such difficult circumstances. These opportunities can be harnessed in one’s life to promote resilience. If one can tolerate the immense negativity emerging from this isolation and work through it, growth can occur in many ways.
Although most individuals would like to think that they are impervious to mental illness, problems with mental health are surprisingly common. According to the NIMH, approximately one in five adults in the United States suffers from a mental disorder of some kind. Even more suffer from transient bouts of depression, anxiety, stress and grief. The coronavirus pandemic has significantly reduced opportunities to run, or distract oneself, from those problems. As such, the sufferer may finally process and deal with those problems for good. The additional time and flexibility in schedule may also supplement this opportunity. While defense mechanisms such as avoidance and denial may have served a valuable protective function as a child or when surviving extreme circumstances, they can be detrimental to one’s growth later on. The more one faces his or her problems head-on, the stronger he or she will become. That will increase resilience and the likelihood of success, and that is something to celebrate.
Another opportunity that has arisen as a result of the pandemic is the reframing of cognition. Some individuals claim that the pandemic has “put things into perspective” for them by allowing them to see what truly matters during a global crisis. Small worries may seem laughably insignificant when they used to be of much greater magnitude in the mind. Adversity can catalyze an overarching sense of gratitude for the things that make it worth dealing with, such as family and friends. Hardship can also allow the sufferer to challenge self-defeating thoughts or learned helplessness by exemplifying the fact that they are getting through such a difficult time. Not everyone is aware of what he or she is capable of overcoming, in this sense, until it has actually been accomplished. This proves one’s mental strength and fortitude, which may help someone gain skills and confidence in facing the problems to come.
Similar to the concept of resilience that may affect those who have endured the coronavirus pandemic is that of post-traumatic growth. According to Hartford HealthCare, people who have survived COVID-19 (or know someone who has) can be susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. With PTSD comes the opportunity for post-traumatic growth, or a positive “transformation after trauma,” as described by the American Psychological Association. This transformation can include increased gratitude in one’s life, stronger social bonds and quality of relationships, increased life opportunities, a better ability to withstand future hardships, and spirituality. While it may be difficult to grow after a challenging experience, it is certainly possible.
The unfavorable aspects of the coronavirus pandemic are numerous and self-evident. While less obvious, the benefits of living through it can last a lifetime. Learning opportunities, a designated space to deal with unresolved problems, gratitude, adopting a better perspective and post-traumatic growth are some of the valuable outcomes that are available. For mental health resources or to schedule an appointment with the Counseling Center, click this link, email [email protected], or call (217) 206-7122.