How to navigate the challenges of 
Covid pandemic in the New Year

This has been a year of extraordinary challenge, stress, adversity, and for many even trauma.

By Beth Kurland

Published: Tue 12 Jan 2021, 11:13 PM

If I had to sum up in one sentence what I have learned from sitting with so many patients in my office over the course of 25 years it would be this: that — more than anything, the human spirit is remarkably resilient. This year has only reinforced that realisation for me.

This has been a year of extraordinary challenge, stress, adversity, and for many even trauma — from losing loved ones, to separation and not being able to see those we love, to loss of our “normal” life as we knew it, to loss of jobs and financial hardships that so many have endured. We have had to adjust — have been thrown into coping with circumstances that would have, prior to this, seemed unfathomable.

While there is hope on the horizon with vaccines starting to be administered, I realise some of the most challenging months still lie ahead. Here are four things to reflect on that might help you strengthen a resilient mindset in the midst of challenges in this New Year.

1. Focus on what you can nurture, not what you need to change: While the New Year is typically a time for resolutions, goal setting and considering changes we want to make, this year feels markedly different to me. Many people are exhausted, overwhelmed, and anxious with the ongoing uncertainty of things, and the idea of focusing on change feels for many like one more thing that there isn’t energy for. Instead, a more helpful approach at this time might be to focus on what you want to nurture, that is already here. How might you nurture yourself, connections with those you care about, and/or engagement in meaningful activities?

Questions to Consider: What is it that you are already doing to take care of yourself? Make a point to take notice — do you feel best on days when you go to sleep earlier, go for a walk, call a friend, etc.? How might you invite more of that into your life?

What helps bring you into connection with others that feels most nourishing for you (e.g., zoom calls, phone calls, outdoor walks, online groups), and how might you make a point to check in with yourself on a regular basis to make sure you are getting enough of this?

What activities do you already engage in that give you a sense of meaning, and how might you continue bringing this into your life?

2. Increased clarity of values: I have heard from many people that this pandemic has been an opportunity to consider, re-evaluate, and clarify values and what is most important to them. For some people, having to be at home for extended periods of time has been a chance to reflect on ways they might want to slow down more (commute less, run around less frenetically), or spend more family time together (such as making it a point to eat together more often), even after the pandemic. One of the things I have found so comforting during these difficult months has been spending more time in nature — realising how deeply restorative it is for me.

Questions to consider: How has this pandemic helped you to recognise some of the things that are most important to you and some of the things that maybe you thought were important but that you can live without?

What is one thing that you may NOT want to change – even after this pandemic is over?

3. Discovering inner resources: If anyone had ever told me on March 1st of 2020 how the next ten plus months would look, I would have surely thought to myself “I don’t know how I would ever possibly handle that. That sounds unbearable.” But having endured this, I have learned a thing or two about what helps me cope. I have, more than ever, put my own tools into practice that I teach others, to help me find calm when I am gripped by strong fear, and to find my way back to the present moment when my mind is running away with ruminative thoughts.

Questions to consider: What is one thing you have done that has helped you cope through these challenges, that has supported your well-being? What is something that you learned about yourself, about your own strength or courage, that you may not have realised?

4. Greater compassion: Despite everything our world has been through and the tremendous losses and adversities people have faced, the desire to help others and the outpouring of compassion has been enormous. From making signs to cheer on essential healthcare workers, to helping neighbours in need, to organising support on community and global levels – for many it has brought out the best in us. This time of challenge has activated our innate caring system, and with it — kindness, compassion and a strong sense of common humanity (that we are all in this together).

Questions to consider: In what way has your heart opened up during this past year? Touching into your own capacity for kindness, compassion and caring, what has this, or does this current situation, inspire in you? (It could be something simple like making an extra effort to express appreciation to the grocery clerk, or taking a moment before eating to appreciate all the people who made your food on your table possible, or checking in on your neighbor who lives alone). 
— Psychology Today

Beth Kurland is a clinical psychologist, author and public speaker

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