Practicing Resilience and Wellness During COVID-19

Aug. 14, 2020

Many of us who are in or near periods of transition had a well thought-out plan for what to do next and how to get there. A global pandemic was not part of those plans, not to mention the equally potent civil rights movement that evolved shortly thereafter. Either of these alone could easily flip someone’s life upside down, but together, it’s like the whole world is getting flipped and spun and jostled. I say this not to make us feel more helpless, but rather to illustrate the extent to which our lives have been shaken up. Despite the nearly universal feeling of instability, we are all largely stuck in different houses, with or without other people, weighing any number of factors and just trying to make the best decisions moving forward.

The shift to working from home due to the global pandemic brought along challenges, but this unexpected adjustment provided a new lens for looking at my life. When we first started working from home, it was overwhelming to choose how to spend every minute of the day. There were days when I felt like I did nothing useful and other days when I was engrossed in my work. Over the past 3 months, I started to think of my time more in terms of boundaries. Instead of sacrificing one aspect of my life for another, I made time for them all. I tried various schedules and found that cycling through different tasks throughout the day allowed me to actually get more done.

Throughout this journey of adjusting to the new normal, I learned a great deal about resilience and wellness.  Wellness is not a state to be reached, but rather a continuous journey with ups and downs. Wellness is like a personal longitudinal study where, as cheesy as it may sound, the data are always there. Instead of discounting our own data, we can be mindful of our own thoughts, emotions, health and needs in relation to our own experiences. There are no rules, no standard nomenclature and no formal critique when thinking about ourselves. We can actively choose how we talk to and think about ourselves. By being aware of this choice, we are able to practice self-compassion. Try to write out a stream of consciousness in the morning, jot down what you are grateful for before bed, paint, talk it out or type it up to collect your own data. Examine your thoughts, emotions and behaviors – and find ways to be kind to yourself and others.

Sometimes we may identify ourselves by our successes, but really our happiness and our worth are better defined by who we are, what we value, what we overcome and, most importantly, how we show kindness in the world. Right now, we can choose to be kind to ourselves and we can think about what being well means to us personally and for the world. What works for you? Perhaps it is a schedule or routine, more rest or talking with friends. Whatever it is, take the time to find what gives you balance, and by doing so, watch your resilience and wellness flourish. Also, consider what you need to do your best and learn how to effectively communicate your needs to yourself and others. 

Building resilience is not a weakness, it is a skill and strength that helps everyone.

Author: Charlesice Hawkins, M.S.

Charlesice Hawkins, M.S.
Charlesice Hawkins works at NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE).