We are living in an era of uncertainty, sudden emergency situations, lockdown, mandatory physical distancing, online schooling, travel restrictions and constantly taking safety measures against COVID-19. This has been taxing and draining for most of us, bringing forth both physical and psychological alterations and disturbances. This calls for adaptive coping strategies to help us survive these trying times. Talking of coping, it is basically our strengths that help us thrive. This is exactly what Positive psychology talks about. It helps us to understand our characteristics and qualities that can make our lives more meaningful and enriching. So, how to make it work in the pandemic?
Finding the meaning in life can help us to strive. Physical distancing, isolation (while living with the virus), sudden loss and ensuing grief can be devastating, but one can keep swimming in these uncertain waters while looking for the meaning in life and finding meaning in loss, whether personal or vicarious. Waters et al. (2021) have talked about the three elements of meaning - coherence, significance and purpose. All of these have been thwarted in some way or the other due to the pandemic. COVID-19 has created chaos, disturbed our routine, forced us to be alert about safety protocols and grim news. This has in turn adversely affected our sense of predictability and sense of identity, thus, lessening coherence. To make things better, we can try to focus on an optimistic set of beliefs, establish the ‘new normal’ routine and take breaks when needed. This can increase coherence. COVID-19 has reduced our significance by making us feel helpless and powerless in front of its spread and fury, taken away our control over ‘outdoor’ relationships and activities that made our lives pleasurable and feel threatened about the prolonged after-effects of COVID-19. We can gain back control and increase significance by believing that having the safety measures in place can curb the spread, vaccines are doing their job and newer scientific developments in this field can make our lives more liveable and healthier. We can tend to our self-care by banking on our creative outlets, spending time with nature and eating, sleeping and working right. COVID-19 further threatens our purpose by creating uncertainties about future, draining our motivation and inviting sudden changes in our usual track of goals and aims in life.So, we need to focus more on what motivates us, our strengths and skills that pushes us forward in the face of crisis and seek guidance from our inner voice that says, “Hold onto the gear, yes, you can do it!”. We can also emphasize on being of service to the community as it fights the trauma of the pandemic.
Self-compassion can keep us going during the pandemic. One has to look beyond the popular idea of ‘love yourself’. It is about supporting oneself, fighting against the daily hassles and related anxiety that COVID-19 showers on us and maintaining the state of well-being. This can create a space for a sense of emotional safety that can help ward off the fear of being grappled by the curbs put forth by COVID-19. Research already demonstrated that people with more self-compassion reports to be less traumatized by COVID-19 (Jiménez et al., 2020 and Mohammadpour et al., 2020). Here’s an acronym to understand the art of self-compassion in a simple manner:
• B – Be kind to yourself
• R – Respect your body and mind
• E – Engage with the daily routine
• A – Allow your emotions to ebb and flow
• T – Take life one minute, hour, and day at a time
• H – Honor and connect with the memories and continued impact on the world
• E - No expectations about what grief ‘should be’ like and how to cope
We all know what is gratitude - being thankful to self and others, showing appreciation for good things in life and being in the state of being grateful. As per Waters et al. (2021), it can aid in recovery from loss and trauma related to COVID-19. We can reap the benefits of a grateful mindset and grateful orientation toward life in the face of the chaos of the current times. Gratitude can lead us to positive emotions (happiness, hopeful, joyful), this can help us to have a greater understanding of each day that we are alive, be thankful for the food, water, medical support and other basic needs. One can have a better sense of this by writing down in a journal regarding things that one feels gratitude for, whether to self or to others. This state of mind can help us notice positive life changes and personal growth even in the chaos of this crisis. It will definitely go a long way in the post-COVID world.
Further, banking on hope, our strengths, positive interpersonal relationships, practicing forgiveness, focusing on personal growth after facing any loss or trauma and focusing on the positive effects of the pandemic(like, enhancing medical and technological infrastructure of the nations, enabling us to stay mentally connected inspite of being physically distanced, learning new skills, honouring Mother Nature), can provide us with power to move ahead and look forward to life.
In a nutshell, imbibing the Positive Psychology approach might not provide us with all the answers we are seeking during the pandemic but it is a fruitful and enriching approach to live life as we pass through the pandemic.
Jiménez, Ó., Sánchez-Sánchez, L. C., & García-Montes, J. M. (2020). Psychological impact of COVID-19 confinement and its relationship with meditation. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(18), 6642. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17186642
Lea Waters , Sara B. Algoe , Jane Dutton , Robert Emmons , Barbara L. Fredrickson , Emily Heaphy , Judith T. Moskowitz , Kristin Neff , Ryan Niemiec , Cynthia Pury& Michael Steger (2021). Positive psychology in a pandemic: buffering, bolstering, and building mental health, The Journal of Positive Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2021.1871945
Mohammadpour, M., Ghorbani, V., Khoramnia, S., Ahmadi, S. M., Ghvami, M., &Maleki, M. (2020). Anxiety, self-compassion, gender differences and COVID-19: Predicting self-care behaviorsandfear of COVID-19 based on anxiety and self-compassion with an emphasis on gender differences. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry, 15(3), 213–219. https://doi.org/10.18502/ijps.v15i3.3813