I don’t know much about how to get through a pandemic. I’ve never been through one before!
But as a cancer survivor, I know something about living through a major disruption, and ending up not only okay, but stronger and more spiritually grounded than I was before.
Since such difficult experiences so common, it helps to know that meaningful growth in response to “psychologically seismic” experiences is possible. That’s hopeful and encouraging to know as we live through this pandemic.
Working to make sense of so much upheaval is hard. It’s worth it though. Without denying it’s severe impact, or taking on a “just think positive” attitude, both of which are not helpful, we can use this understanding to empower ourselves to find meaning in this collective trauma. In this way, we can allow it to strengthens us and our relationships, enhance our appreciation of life, our resilience, creative and and our sense of purpose.
7 Ways to Grow During the Pandemic
Doing one or more these things can be comforting and help us get through these difficult times. They can help us to grow and thrive in the short and longer term. If there are some you don’t want to do now, feel free to let it/them go. Try the ideas that feel right to you. Later on, you might want to come back and try out an idea that you’ re not now feeling ready for.
Here are seven things we can do:
- Accept and soothe the very uncomfortable thoughts and emotions that arise.
- Shift to more positive emotions. Look for signs of hope, reasons for joy, feelings of love and compassion, without trying to avoid the difficult emotions. Avoidance can make things worse, increasing feelings of being unsafe and decreasing motivation to pursue important goals. Instead, allow them to simmer down so that don’t demand all your attention and focus.
- Shift your perspective to view what is happening, as difficult as it may be, as an opportunity for spiritual growth.
- Allow some time for thinking about and replaying events, thoughts and feelings. Do this with self-compassion, and without getting caught in intrusive rumination. In other words, deliberately find new words to express them, look into them more deeply, organizing them in a coherent story and see if you can find ways to shift or move forward.
- Use creative self-expression, such as art therapy or expressive writing to uncover the meaning of a traumatic experience, turning what may have been experienced as a chaotic event into a story with a beginning, middle and end.
- Stay open to rethinking your purpose in life. This time of difficulty can help focus your understanding of life’s meaning and purpose. Expressive art or writing, or coaching can help you explore this.
- Be part of a network that exchange practical and emotional help and support. A tough time like this one is a good one for strengthening and appreciating connections with others.This can include neighbors, friends, family, colleagues and connects built online.
I’d Rather Skip These Hard Parts of Life
I wish I never had cancer. I’d rather we weren’t undergoing the collective existential threat we’re now going through. But I did have cancer, and I’ve done okay since. I’ve even thrived, becoming more creative and better grounded in what matters most. I know from confronting that serious illness that’s possible to grow, individually and collectively, from this very difficult time.