“Most crises have a beginning, a middle, and an end,” says Dr. Han-Chun Liang, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente Northwest. “And the question is, at the end of that crisis, how quickly can we lift back up and be ready for the next set of circumstances ahead of us?”
As our community faces the unprecedented challenge of caring for our friends, families, and each other during the COVID-19 outbreak, many people are struggling to cope. Results from a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found nearly half of the adults surveyed said the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected their mental health.
Practicing self-care can help you sleep better, improve focus, strengthen relationships, and manage daily stressors. Anyone can visit kp.org/selfcare to explore a range of no-cost self-care resources, including audio activities, articles, and more. Kaiser Permanente members can also download the Calm app and the myStrength app at no extra cost at kp.org/selfcareapps/nw. Self-care is effective in helping you build resilience to navigate life’s changes and challenges and bounce back after tough times.
Frequently referred to as the ability to “bounce back,” resilience has less to do with sheltering yourself from life’s stressors or avoiding unpleasant situations, and more with how to take those experiences, adapt, overcome, and—most importantly—move on.
The value of resilience goes beyond maintaining mental health. Negative emotions, like anxiety and stress, can trigger the brain’s release of hormones that raise your blood pressure and increase heart rate, causing a fight-or-flight state that can prompt things like muscle tension, joint pain, headaches, and stomach issues.
“Stress impacts physical health,” Dr. Liang says, citing the importance of mind-body connection. “The better we’re able to manage stress, the better we are going to be in the long run.”
Here, he offers advice for employees, patients, and members who are seeking simple techniques to start building resilience and strengthening their ability to bounce back:
- Seek the Positive: During times of stress, are you the kind of person whose mind spirals into negative future thought or are you someone who remains in the present moment, able to find a bright side? According to Dr. Liang, cultivating a positive mindset is key to building resilience. “It’s this idea that we are empowered to impact our environment—empowered to make changes,” he says. “Taking baby steps toward looking for the positive can be instrumental.” One way to kick-start the process is to create a gratitude practice. By taking a few minutes every day to write down five things you’re grateful for, you can prime your mind to look for the positive in every situation. That way, if you experience a challenge or crisis, you might see it as an opportunity to grow, allowing you to bounce back easier.
- Explore Self-Awareness: Another way to build resilience is to explore mindfulness—the practice of being more self-aware. By remaining mindful, you’re able to notice when your thoughts take a negative turn and if it’s affecting your body. With that awareness, you can then choose to take transformative action, which, according to Dr. Liang, is easier said than done. “Resilience helps people see themselves as fundamentally able to change their life,” Dr. Liang says, “And a positive mindset is something concrete that you can work toward.”
Learn more about how to build resiliency during COVID-19 times at kp.org/selfcare.