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THRIVING IN THE NEW NORMAL

Welcome back to Term 2! Based upon my own experiences of being at home with three teenagers, working and learning together, we are all riding this current crisis like an emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes we are in sync and at others definitely at odds, but I contend that this is all part and parcel of the collective struggle to thrive in what is the 'new normal'.

There has been a tsunami of resources to explore, and I am mindful of not overwhelming you further. Staying on message, to promote optimism and practice resilience will be the contextual focus. So here goes!

HOW TO BOOST YOUR WELLBEING LIKE AN OPTIMIST, EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT ONE.


The anxiety, grief, and profound loss so many people are experiencing during the pandemic can't be underestimated. COVID-19 is traumatizing, but it is well documented that people who have a penchant toward optimism are also more resilient in the face of a crisis.

In a recent piece in The New York Times, Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed With Happiness, referred to a study conducted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The participants were students, all of whom reported experiencing heightened distress after the attacks, but the more resilient participants reported having more positive emotions, like love and gratitude. It's not to deny their experiences of sorrow and despair but rather their capacity to see glimmers of light and hope in the darkest of times to sustain them.

As a parent or carer, in this current crisis, it may feel hard being optimistic, but cultivating a family narrative, expressing love, gratitude, and nurturing curiosity and community, can help to improve our mental health. It is something we can choose to do together, and it reinforces a sense of mastery in a self-determination sense.

Inna Khazan, Ph.D., a health and performance psychologist and lecturer on psychiatry at Harvard Medical School writes,

While we don't have any control over the virus, we do have control over our attitude and response. Finding the inner resources that we didn't even know existed, and connecting to our deepest core values increases our optimism, which in turn has a positive effect on our well-being.
Even if you don't see yourself as an optimist, you can behave like one. 
By choosing to interpret the situation as a challenge, and believing that we have the resources to meet it, we can become healthier and more resilient.

Here are six ways, Inna Khazan suggests, to find meaning and strengthen your resilience the way natural optimists do.

Connect with family and friends

Spend time with loved ones, even online. Getting support from friends and family during a difficult time and providing help to others will help you cope better, and feel more connected, which boosts well-being. Here are some ideas of activities you can do together.

Focus on the gratitude 

Fostering a sense of appreciation for what's right in your life — may be just that you are safe and healthy — will direct you towards what matters. It doesn't mean dismissing the difficulties and suffering, but being grateful will help you become aware of the positive and important aspects of your life, which can often be misplaced during a time of crisis.

Tap into community 

Being part of a community is comforting during times of crisis, as has giving back. Whether it's the school community, a Facebook group of people sharing similar experiences, or schedule a regular virtual meeting with close friends, the conversations you'll have with like-minded people will lead you towards meaningful reflections and a greater sense of purpose.

Give back

Facing uncertainty can be unnerving, but being kind to others can boost our mental well-being and resilience. Giving back not only increases our meaningful connections with others, but it's a powerful act of self-care as well. It can improve our motivation and resilience, and our physical health, too. 

While we are following social distancing mandates, one meaningful way to give back is through small acts of kindness .Those in our communities who are immunocompromised, such as grocery shopping, supporting the crowdfunding initiatives of local businesses, or sending cards and letters to people who live alone can help bolster both your community and your sense of meaning.

Learn something new

Expanding our horizons can help us become more positive and optimistic about the future. Unless you are an essential worker, you may well have more time at home. Take advantage of self-isolating for goals that you've never had time for in the past like learning a new language, playing an instrument, or completing an online college course in parallel to your kid's learning routine.

Remember you've persevered before

One proven resilience-boosting tactic is to think back to a specific time in your past when you overcame an obstacle. Take deep breaths and recall a time when you persevered. Remember that you've made it through difficult situations before, and when you do, you'll feel more resilient so you can continue through whatever you're facing now.

Finally, if you haven't checked out the webinars & parenting resources being offered by Dr. Arne Rubinstein from The Rites of Passage Institute, I can highly recommend this as a resource to explore.

On behalf of the Counselling Team at Woodleigh please know that we are here to help if we can, so please get in touch as needed.

DONNA NAIRN
Director of Counselling

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Acknowledgements & further resources

https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/helping-year-12-students-stay-on-track
https://ritesofpassageinstitute.org/
https://au.reachout.com/articles/how-to-deal-with-uncertainty-during-coronavirus
https://www.viacharacter.org/resources/videos/united-in-strengths-session-1-using-strengths-to-manage-stress
https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-self-determination-theory-2795387

External services include:

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800 or kidshelp.com.au  Headspace: 1800 650 890 or eheadspace.org.au  BeyondBlue: 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au 

Coronavirus-specific: 

ReachOut's Deal with bad world news resource provides discussion points for students and teachers on coping with the bad news that saturated the media and social media  

Headspace's How to cope with stress related to Novel Coronavirus, provides information for young people (aged 12-25).