How Resilient Are You?

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Working from home, taking care of children who are doing online schooling, missing social contact and get-a-ways all are creating heightened stress.  Some days it may feel like you want to cave in from all the stress. Other days you may feel you are able to handle everything.

Being able to handle stress is known as being resilient.  To find out how resilient you are, take the following short quiz from Davidson and Begley’s book The Emotional Life of the Brain.

Answer each question True or False.  If you are tempted to think long and hard about a question, or if you feel that there are too many nuances and exceptions, resist.  The most accurate results come from making a snap judgment about whether a question is true or false about you.

  1.  If I have a minor disagreement with a close friend or spouse—closer to “No, it’s your turn to do the dishes” than “You cheated on me!”—it typically leaves me out of sorts for hours or longer.
  2. If another driver uses the shoulder to zoom up to the front of a long line of traffic waiting to merge, I am likely to shake it off easily rather than fume about it for a long time.
  3. When I have experienced profound grief, such as the death of someone close to me, it has interfered with my ability to function for many months.
  4. If I make a mistake at work and get reprimanded for it, I can shrug it off and take it as a learning experience.
  5. If I try a new restaurant and find that the food is awful and the service snooty, it ruins my whole evening.
  6. If I’m stuck in traffic because of an accident up ahead, when I pass the bottleneck I typically floor it to vent my frustration but still see the inside.
  7. If my home water heater breaks, it does not affect my mood very much because I know I can just call a plumber and get it fixed.
  8. If I meet a wonderful man/woman and ask if he/she would like to get together again, being told no typically puts me in a bad mood for hours or even days.
  9. If I am being considered for an important professional award or promotion and it goes to someone I consider less qualified, I can usually move on quickly.
  10. At a party, if I’m having a conversation with an interesting stranger and get completely – when he/she asks me about myself, I tend to replay the conversation—this time including what I should have said—for hours or even days afterward.

Give yourself one point for each True answer to questions 1,3,5,6,8, and 10.  Give yourself zero points for each False answer.  Give yourself one point for each False answer to questions 2,4,7, and 9; score zero points for each True answer.  Anything above seven suggests you are Slow to Recover.  If you scored below three, you are Fast to Recover and thus quite Resilient.

If you want to be more resilient, change what you are saying to yourself.  Instead of replaying self-recrimination or angry thoughts, notice what you are saying to yourself and change the message.  For example, you might be thinking, “If I just had not been so critical, my ex would still be with me.” Change this message to, “It was a hard lesson to learn, but I am grateful that I now know how to be less critical.” You are then less hard on yourself and it is compassion, not criticism, that facilitates greater resiliency.

Another thought that needs to be dispelled in order to become more resilient is “Everyday is the same and it will never end.” Realize that there will be an end to this crisis, even though it is difficult to do so during the crisis.  Knowing that some of your present stressors will not be present in the future helps you to have a more positive mindset.  Then you can meet each day with renewed vigor rather than a feeling of depletion.

Davidson, Richard J. and Begley, Sharon (2012) The Emotional Life of Your Brain. New York: Hudson Street Press.

WHAT WE NEED NOW IS A LITTLE HUMOR

A medical face mask with smiley face against a blue background

Lexicon for a Pandemic

The New Yorker July 20, 2020 Issue By Jay Martel

Maskhole: An individual who wears a mask in a way that makes it completely ineffective—e.g., below the nose, under the chin, on the back of the head.

Face naked: The state of facial exposure that occurs when an individual declines to wear a mask in public. For example, “Pence went all face naked to the Mayo Clinic.”

Body mullet: What most people wear on Zoom calls: a nice top and, below the waist, underwear or less. (“Business up top, party down below.”)

The novid-19: The nineteen minutes after a too-close interaction with a maskless stranger during which you experience a thickness in your throat and a certainty that you’re dying. This sometimes lasts longer if frantic hand washing, antiseptic gargling, and estate planning are not readily available.

Overdistancing: When the guy in front of you in line has a metric understanding of the six in six feet, allowing twenty feet to open up between him and the next person in line, which then allows others to interpret that next person as the end of the line and to cut in front of you.

Domino distancing: When the person behind you in line stands too close, causing you to crowd the person in front of you, and on and on until everyone dies.

Emotional distancing: Deciding that now really isn’t the time to make big decisions about a relationship or, for that matter, to have a conversation about it.

Covideo: A short video featuring a quarantined individual’s child doing something adorable and/or profane, the public sharing of which falls somewhere between cute and a cry for help.

Stockholm syndrome: The assumption that everyone would be just fine without any government restrictions.

Someday, Noneday, Whoseday?, Whensday?, Blursday, Whyday?, Doesn’tmatterday: Days of the week.

Parenting: The ability to figure out why the PlayStation isn’t working with the Wi-Fi.

Body Zoom-morphia: Finding your own image on a group video call so unappealing that you are unable to focus on anything else.

Quorumtine: The minimum number of family members necessary to decide what to watch on TV.

Pan-demic: A potentially dangerous increase in the baking of bread in a quarantined home.

covid-30: Formerly covid-15; the amount of weight gained by an average adult during quarantine. Sometimes related to a pan-demic.

Helter shelter: That moment in the quarantine day when everything seems dirty and chaotic and you feel like saying, “Fuck it, let’s go outside. I don’t care if we die and a bunch of other people do, too.”

Flattening the curve: Trying to fit into your jeans after three months of sweatpants. (See covid-30.)

Germophobe: Formerly, crazy people (e.g., Howard Hughes); now everyone except crazy people.

Going viral: No longer used. ♦

Recovering from Loneliness in the Age of Covid-19

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Feeling Lonely? So many people feel like you do.

Before the social distancing and isolation brought on by Covid-19, there was an epidemic of loneliness in the United States. A recent poll identified three out of every five Americans as suffering from chronic loneliness. Among millennials the percentage is even higher. 

With Covid-19 even more Americans feel lonely. It’s not just about being physically alone. It’s a feeling that no one really cares about you. Yes, there is social contact online and by telephone. There is maybe even talking with someone six feet away. But none of this contact is the same as interacting with co-workers or others on site. The deep connection is missing.

Several of the patients in my practice as a clinical psychologist tell me they feel the pain of not being touched physically nor emotionally day after day.  They begin to think of themselves as not really mattering to anyone. 

Because I am also a psychology professor, I try to give my patients some ways of thinking about being alone that psychologists have found are helpful.

Realize Loneliness Is a Label about Yourself Put on a Feeling

Being alone can create a feeling of emptiness, anxiety, dis-ease.  Humans are social animals with a need to bond with others.  When this need is not satisfied, there is a feeling of lack.  Yet, it is not the lack itself, but the label attached to this lack that creates the pain of loneliness. 

In trying to figure out why there is not someone there for you, you might label yourself as not loveable.  Or you think that something is wrong with you, which whomever you are with will quickly notice. That lonely feeling, then, comes from thinking of oneself as a loser.  And when you label yourself as a loser you lose the motivation to begin or renew a relationship with others.  You then isolate even more, creating the very conditions that are distressing you.

Notice and Then Change What You Are Saying to Yourself

If you thought of yourself as loveable you might be more comfortable being alone. And you might also be more willing to seek out opportunities to be with others. 

But how do you see yourself as more loveable? First, notice what you are saying to yourself that is not helpful. Are you labeling yourself as flawed and that everyone eventually will see those flaws? That is a sure way to not venture out of your shell. Now change the flawed message to one that is more helpful.  Identify some of your attractive qualities and remember these each time you see yourself negatively.  In this way, the flaws are balanced out with the attractive qualities. 

Reach Out to Others

Now you are ready to connect with others. Yes, you will have to initiate the connection. That can be uncomfortable but, if you are now giving yourself the message that you have some positive qualities to share with others, it might be a little easier to reach out to others.

Yet, another thought might quickly enter your mind and keep you from taking action to connect with others. You might be thinking, “When I’m with others I think they are constantly evaluating me—what I say, how I look, what I do.” That self-talk holds you back so you have to change it into something more helpful.

Challenge that thought by saying “I will focus on the other person instead of focusing on the anxiety I feel when I feel I’m being evaluated.” Focusing on the other person instead of yourself takes the pressure off of what you are feeling.

Let the other person know what you noticed or heard instead of worrying about what you should reply. Stay with this stance. Everyone wants to be acknowledged as noticed and heard. It starts the connection and it deepens it.

Where to Find Others

If you don’t have some friends or relatives that you can reconnect with, try volunteering to help others. Volunteering increases your sense of really mattering to someone, which is the opposite of what you might have been thinking when you were isolating. 

Think about who you would get the most satisfaction from helping.  Would it be children, teenagers, adults in special circumstances, senior citizens?  Then do an online search for where you might be most needed.  The search terms would be the name of your city and the word, “volunteer”.  Or, you can make the search more specific, by adding the name of the group you would like to help (e.g. neighbors, homeless, migrants, special needs). VolunteerMatch.com and CreateTheGood.com are two sites that list volunteer opportunities in your local community.  Not only would you be making a positive change in your community, you would be meeting other people who are also volunteering. And in this time of the Covid-19 crisis, so many people need so much help.

If you want to help but still want to stay home, there are many ways you can volunteer virtually.  You won’t have quite the same experience of connection but you are taking the first step in reaching out to others.

Thus, by opening up your mind and focusing on the needs and words of others you will start to recover from loneliness.