Finding the positives in a pandemic

Finding positives in even the smallest, everyday things can be a very healing exercise. Before you try this, there are resources here if you need mental health support and tips on calming.

During each day, allow yourself time to notice what you are doing. The aim here is to identify and appreciate skills, activities or experiences you may ordinarily ignore or dismiss. This exercise may be particularly useful if you are very stressed and believe you aren’t coping, and can be used to reassure you that you are doing the best that you can.

What things are proving useful right now that you’ve been training for your whole life without even knowing?
That could be your ability to cook on a budget, how to sew masks for emergency services, or being comfortable in your own space. You may have learned these skills by accident; through life experiences; as part of a youth club organisation; or after living with adverse events, poverty, disabilities and chronic illnesses.  Note all these things you can do. Be proud of what you are managing. Thank your past self for learning the skills you’re using currently. Be willing to share what you know online (if you have the energy) if it could help others, and honour yourself for surviving any difficulties that are present regardless of this pandemic.

What strengths are you finding that you didn’t know you had?
Maybe you have been really anxious but have found ways to calm? Perhaps you’ve been more patient with friends or relatives than you expected? Or discovered you are more organised and disciplined than you thought you might be.  It isn’t a competition, but each of us will have things we manage to do, every day. They may surprise us, and certainly should impress us. It’s understandable that even if you are finding many aspects of life difficult currently there will be something, even a tiny thing, that you achieved.  Avoid comparisons with others, and instead keep track of what you are able to do each day. Accepting some days will be easier than others. And that once you’ve identified strengths you can build on them.

What are you grateful for?
Seeking out things to be glad about can help lift us when we are feeling low. How many small things can you notice each day that make you happy?  The blossoms on the trees you can see outside your window, the meal you ate, or that someone you follow on social media shared a funny film that made you smile. These aren’t big things, but in that moment they mattered to you. There may also be things other people are doing that moved you – be that the bravery of public service workers, or neighbours singing to each other across the street. Give yourself permission to be alert to any positives that could happen in your day.  You may want to note these in a diary, photograph and share with others you care about, or replay in your head. Greed isn’t usually good, but being greedy for things you can be grateful for is just fine.

What new things are you learning?
Adjusting to a new, extreme, way of life is a challenge. But with challenges come opportunities for learning. It could be finding a new way to communicate with relatives, trying puzzles or crafting, watching documentaries or attempting new recipes.  Don’t take on more than you feel able, nor feel you have to keep up with others. New things that you learn could be very small, but are still new to you, and therefore important. Keep a note of these new skills and experiences, and notice how they stack up over time. They may be things you can continue or develop further once this is over.

What are you gratefully giving up?
There may be aspects of your life that you have found tiring, stressful or dull that you currently are relieved of. Maybe the bulk of the housework falls to you but with more people at home you’re finding this is shared more equally. Perhaps you don’t have to do a long commute to work. Or you might have felt tied to a routine of looking a particular way that you’re relieved from while you’re at home in your comfiest clothing.  When you notice something that you’re not doing that you’re pleased about, make a note of it. When things return to normal you may have identified key changes you’d like to bring to your life. That could be continuing what is working positively for you, or ensuring bad habits/practices don’t creep back in. That is in the future, however. Right now just notice what you’re able to let go of and be glad.

What are you looking forward to?
If it isn’t going to upset you, anticipate all the good things you’ll want to start again once we aren’t isolating and practising social distancing.  It could be catching up with friends and family, going out to the cinema or for a meal, getting back to the gym, or simply returning to your life as it used to be. Each time you notice something that isn’t happening as you’d like or that you are missing, note it down so you can create a ‘looking forward to list’.  You’ll find it much easier to cope with sad feelings of missing out if those can become a checklist of what you’ll be returning to, noting when this time comes that savouring these moments will be extremely enjoyable and healing.

Who are you going to say thank you to?
There are lots of people who are helping directly and indirectly. Is it the postie; the staff in the local shops: taxi drivers picking up shopping; our healthcare workers, teachers and other public service staff; the teller at the bank who always has a kind word?  How are you going to thank them? Could you do something now? Maybe put a note in the window to thank the postie, or alerting neighbours to local services that could assist them and need the business. Could you do something later? As you recognise people’s efforts now keep a note and think about giving them a gift or writing them a letter once it’s safe to do so. Better still email your MP and ask for improvements in funding and working conditions for all key staff.

Finally, what have you done today to make you feel proud?
You get to decide, and it can be as big or small as you like. Take a moment every day to give yourself some credit. You’ve got this.

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