"You don't have to control your thoughts; you just have to stop letting them control you."
The global pandemic has changed the way we live. Contained in our homes, we must reorient our approach to our colleagues, clients, family and friends. While you might feel a massive loss of control, there are some important takeaways to learn from this moment in time.
Kristen Lee, Ed.D., LICSW, lead faculty for behavioral science at Northeastern University, says there are nine lessons we can draw upon for individual and collective fortitude.
Lesson 1: Intellectual humility is vital. We are not all public health experts. We are an evolved civilization with extraordinary advances in science and medicine and access to information. Dr. Lee says we must all consider the sources we rely on and how we transmit information across our spheres of social influence.
Lesson 2: Time-outs are not always punishments. We are creative, innovative, agile creatures. Moments of distress call us to rethink our typical routines and identify new strategies for coping and living. Dr. Lee says this pause might prove to be a return to creativity for many who might find it has been squeezed out during typical routines.
Lesson 3: We are more resilient than we realize. Humans are wired for resilience. Dr. Lee asserts that resilience can increase even during difficult times when we focus on activities that help to cultivate it. Join forces with people who co-nurture and provide reciprocal support.
Lesson 4: Kindness is contagious. While fear and illness itself can be contagious, so are acts of love and kindness. When we focus energy on helping those who are most vulnerable in times of crisis, the positive effects spread and strengthen our collective well-being.
Lesson 5: Challenges help us discover our strengths and resources. Dr. Lee reminds others that we have a host of internal and external resources to harness, including strong analytical and problem-solving abilities and people and places that provide solace and grounding.
Lesson 6: The basics are not basic. The elements of air, water, earth and fire are unparalleled. Spend time appreciating nature and get outside as much as is safe and possible, recommends Dr. Lee. Watch sunrises and sunsets from your window. Find ways to take in the elements.
Lesson 7: There are no wrong emotions. Pandemics can evoke powerful emotions, including fear, anxiety, shock and panic. Don't stress about being stressed. This is human, says Dr. Lee. Take time to name what is happening and consider what resources you can access to help you.
Lesson 8: Self-care is essential all the time. Crises can show us that we were previously running on fumes. There's no health without mental health. Proper sleep, nutrition, hydration and exercise can go a long way towards boosting our mental reserves, notes Dr. Lee.
Lesson 9: Mindfulness helps us combat mindlessness. When we focus on the now and engage in a non-judgmental stance, it strengthens our resilience and capacity to enjoy what is and cope with what isn't.
As you continue to adapt during these times, reflect on the lessons above and consider how you can help share them with your team members.
Compiled by Audrey Sellers
Source: Kristen Lee, Ed.D., LICSW is lead faculty for behavioral science at Northeastern University. She is the author of Reset: Make the Most of Your Stress and Mentalligence: A New Psychology of Thinking. Dr. Lee has also given a TED talk called "The Risk You Must Take."