If the stress of COVID-19 is making you feel like you are moving backwards at record speed from any progress you’ve made to improve your mental wellbeing, you are certainly not alone.
Many people who have worked really hard to improve their mental wellness as it relates to their relationship with food, their relationship with other people, their relationship with their jobs, and their relationship with life in general are all feeling like backsliding is happening at lightning speed. While backsliding is a natural part of creating lasting growth and change, what is currently happening in the world is unlike any “normal” occurrence.
Positive psychology can help with any emotional struggles that happen with backsliding, as positive psychology encourages building and growing your inner strengths.
Positive psychology focuses on the process of creating inner peace, happiness and overall wellbeing from a strength-based approach. Positive psychology encourages you to build inner resources and inner strengths in order to feel, live and be well. The resilience positive psychology develops is a part of growth and necessary to build self-awareness, so that you can get up, dust yourself off and begin moving forward once again.
Three inner strengths are key to living a balanced, happy and peaceful life: hope and faith, gratitude, and vitality.
If you are struggling with feeling stuck, or worse, moving backwards in your growth process, begin to examine where you can build these three powerful inner strengths. Building these three inner strengths will help you create a renewed motivation and focus to move forward, even during challenging times.
The first inner strength that it is helpful to cultivate during these unprecedented times of social isolation and global disruption is hope and faith.
When you have hope and faith, you can connect with an inner belief that all will be well. While your mind might resist this, you can practice growing this strength in order to feel the truth of this awareness.
The inner strength of hope and faith creates an ability to not feel like you have to control every aspect of your circumstances. Feeling out of control is exhausting and inevitably creates mental and physical stress. This stress becomes overwhelming and can trigger episodes of anxiety and/or depression. Hope and faith counteracts this stress through an experience of surrender, acceptance and letting go, which is a deeply personal process.
When you create and build on the inner strength of hope, you become more creative when it comes to problem solving and forward thinking.
This inner strength is not about only thinking positive thoughts, but more importantly to not getting lost in negative, fear-based thoughts. Hope provides optimism and this will help keep you moving forward with more determination. Faith allows you to let go of fear and clinging to wanting what may not be possible to obtain at this time.
The second inner strength that it is helpful to cultivate during these uncertain times is gratitude.
When you are in a state of feeling grateful, you release the state of wanting and desire, and feelings of lacking and longing. When you create a perspective of gratitude towards your life, as in this moment and what you have is enough, you can transform your emotional experience of the present moment. This state of gratitude creates a momentary transcendence of suffering and can deeply release internalized mental and physical anxiety.
When you possess the inner strength of gratitude, you create an overall attitude of being content within the present moment. When you focus on what you are grateful for, it naturally brings on a feeling of warmth, a smile, and a sense of inner calm.
Gratitude does not mean that you don’t plan or strive for what you want; it means that you don’t go into a space of desperation for what you don’t have in this moment. Desperation creates a feeling of lack while gratitude creates a feeling of abundance.
Gratitude is a powerful antidote to anxiety and fear because it allows you tap into the present moment. When you are being mindfully present, you slip away from past and future regrets and worries and into what is true right now.
Gratitude is an attitude and a way of being. When you practice the act of being grateful consistently, it becomes an integrated part of who you are and an inner resource that you can draw on at any time, again and again.
The third inner strength to begin to cultivate and strengthen is vitality. When you feel healthy and vital, both in mind and body, you create an inner confidence and sense of courage.
Vitality is valuable on so many levels. During this time of being isolated and quarantined, stress eating, drinking, and TV-bingeing are at all-time highs. This is not a sustainable way to live or be—and certainly not a healthy way to cope with stress.
When you find ways to feel vital, food, alcohol (so long as it is not a larger problem in your life), and TV can find a healthy place within your life. However, when these become your only source of pleasure or stress relief, they become problematic.
When creating the inner resource and strength of vitality, building on the foundations of wellbeing and creating a simple routine and structure will help you feel strong and empowered.
Vitality allows you to make a choice in the present moment to choose your health and wellbeing over a temporary desire or need for escape, allowing you to live in alignment with how you want to feel.
Creating a strong foundation of wellness is a part of this process. The foundations of wellness are nutrition, movement, intentional relaxation and sleep. If you want to be, feel and live well, it’s helpful to find a daily routine that addresses each of these foundations.
Finding a routine that allows you to feel well in mind, body, and spirit will help you move through these challenging times with more comfort and ease.
Try one area to begin to build your inner strength of vitality and grow from there. Remember that change is most sustainable when it is achieved consistently and intentionally.
When you have a strong foundation and can truly live, feel, and be well, you will build resilience.
I hope you find these strengths encouraging and inspiring and you begin to build them within yourself today. If you are feeling overwhelmed by where to begin, choose what feels the most comfortable to integrate into your current routine and lifestyle.
This is not about perfection, that just creates more pressure and anxiety! This process is about offering yourself an opportunity to grow during these challenges, build your inner resources and feel empowered in a time that so many feel powerless.
If you feel as though you need support, reach out; find an accountability partner; or use the support of therapist, coach, or friend.
I hope this finds you safe, healthy and inspired. Be well!
Sarah Thacker offers a wholistic approach to health and wellness. She specializes in supporting those struggling with emotional eating, eating disorders, anxiety, PTSD and challenging life transitions. Sarah’s approach is rooted in mindfulness, self-awareness, and self-compassion to help people live healthy, peaceful, fulfilling and balanced lives.
Sarah is a licensed psychotherapist, certified EMDR therapist, certified holistic health coach, certified yoga therapist, and board certified art therapist. You can learn more about Sarah on her profile page.