Resiliency During COVID-19:
Accepting What Is
Dr. Lydiana Garcia
The pandemic that the whole world is experiencing has certainly been a daily struggle to almost everyone. There’s a lot of fear not only on the physical health but also because of uncertainty, with finances, with not being able to buy the food and other basic supplies we need, or just with not knowing when schools or the normal business structure would resume. Many of us still have our parents or just know an older person, or a pregnant women like me, or those that are immunocompromised that we are concerned for.
When we are confronted with such unforeseen circumstances, most people would initially have that internal struggle and go into denial, one of the most primitive defense mechanism that Mr. Freud mentioned in his whole research. And then comes the complex of being a human and try to control things or have that belief that you can control things. We then go into a survival response and depending on your style or on your mental health and the current circumstance you’re in, then you might go into the classical fight or flight mode. Some people go into that go go go mode of wanting to do everything and trying to figure everything out, getting all the supplies, reading every information on the news, or posing questions like “what can I do? how can I buy things? how can I fix it? how can I prepare for this?” Others might go into the freeze mode which is feeling numb or not being able to move, a normal response of the body to survive when faced with imminent threat. This response is not necessarily something good to be on for a long time as it can in a way “disable” you to act if you need to. There is also the flee response where people are trying to run away or have that idea of leaving in order to survive.
While these are normal responses of our body to survive, it is extremely important to realize that the longer we’re fighting with the idea and the longer we refuse to accept things as they are, the longer we are going to suffer. There may be some theories or other agendas behind this pandemic, there is also the reality that there is this virus that easily spreads and is life threatening for some people. Staying in survival mode can only make it longer for you to be regulated and for your frontal cortex and brain to come back completely and be able to use it’s full potential because your critical thinking and problem solving skills would definitely work best when you are regulated.
Practicing Radical Acceptance
Accepting what is, does not mean that you’re OK with or approve of the current situation. It just means that you accept the reality of what is happening instead of denying it or trying to change it. The more you fight the idea and the more you keep going into all the scenarios of what could happen, the longer you stay in a survival mode keeping you from finding the right solutions and from really doing the things you have to do.
By accepting what is (for example, there is uncertainty about your finances, your kids might be home with you while you try to figure out how to keep working, you cannot find the food you like or even toilet paper), then you can problem solve what you can do about it (for example: checking with your financial institutions about extending the payment period, figuring out other ways to creatively making and saving money, figuring out a schedule or no schedule to manage kiddos at home, being creative while cooking different foods, or using a “tushy” or other water-hose to wash yourself). After fully accepting what is, questions like “what can I do? How can I prepare? What do I need to do?”, now comes from a different perspective. The crazy, out of the edge feeling is gone and you feel less and less panicky, you’re able to think clear about your next steps.
This pandemic, no matter how hard it gets, could also be an opportunity for new experiences and going inwards to reflect about life and about how we’ve been (the majority) under a fake sense of having control about many things. It’s also bringing the perspective of our privilege and the many things we were taking for granted.
I also want to acknowledge that a lot of us are experiencing many other emotions like anger, fear, high anxiety, etc. and that these are very valid emotions. We're all being triggered in a different way. I have experienced many of these emotions myself, and instead of jumping straight to “accepting”, I allow myself to feel them, grieve, and then be able to see this other perspective. This is an ongoing journey, so be gentle with how you feel and with your own experience.
If you want to listen to the full episode, please visit https://www.thebeyondresiliencelife.com/blog/bonus-resiliency-during-covid-19.