Solving the personal puzzle of COVID-19 requires resilience – and we’ve got plenty
By Alex Sabo, M.D.
Nearly six full months into the first global pandemic of this scale in 100 years, some of us have suffered hugely—losing a job, a business or a loved one to either the infection or the social and economic upheaval caused by COVID-19. Many of us have suffered less severely. Though every one of us has experienced moments of fear, doubt and even helplessness, for the most part we have been able, individually and collectively, to tap into our remarkable reserves of human resilience and to begin to solve this perplexing puzzle.
It certainly hasn’t been easy, yet understanding and appreciating the power of our own instinctive resilience is step one in getting through this maze.
Think of this pandemic as a puzzle you can solve. Given the many inevitable fears about health (Am I going to become infected or infect someone else?) and economics (Is this pandemic going to seriously harm or even ruin me financially?), it’s understandable we may experience a sense of helplessness, a feeling that that this is a catastrophe beyond our control. Instead of surrendering to that fate, we can use our survival instincts to reframe that personal narrative, to change that mindset. Think of it as a puzzle that you’re perfectly capable of solving – not easily or quickly, but ultimately one you will piece together.
Know you don’t need to solve the puzzle alone. As lonesome as this journey may seem at times, it’s important to remember tha many of us on this planet are experiencing similar challenges and emotions. Reach out to others, family, friends, neighbors; ask them what they’re doing to cope day-to-day, share the lessons you’ve learned. Talk to your doctor, a behavioral health counselor, a member of the clergy, a financial planner or anyone else you know can help you navigate this storm. There are plenty of online resources, including the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website, which has an entire section on coping with stress during the pandemic.
Focus on the pieces of the puzzle within your control. You can’t do it all. There are pieces of the puzzle that simply aren’t at your fingertips. (Medical scientists and pharmaceutical companies will work on vaccines, and our elected officials must design—with our strong input—economic and other policy decisions to address some of the really big issues. Once you make your voice heard, leave those pieces of the puzzle to them and concentrate on the things you can do to make a positive difference in your own life. Some good examples:
Solving the personal puzzle of COVID-19 requires great resilience, and the most important lesson here is that there are deep wells of resilience within each of us.
Alex Sabo, M.D., is Director of Medical Education and Program Director of Adult Psychiatry Residency Training at Berkshire Medical Center