Words by Dr Nicola Spence – Clinical Psychologist
COVID-19- it’s the ultimate test of our resilience! Humanity is being challenged to survive, physically, emotionally and psychologically. Japanese scholar, Okakura Kakuzo once wrote; “The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings”.
Aptly defined by studies undertaken by Department of Mental Health & Learning Disabilities, London; “resilience comprised the ability to frame difficult life events in positive terms, accept what cannot be changed, manage worry and anxiety effectively, develop psychological flexibility in the face of change and continually seek opportunities for growth.”
So how do we build resilience in a time when we are faced with set-backs, financial worries and a new social dynamic that defies humankind? Dr Nicola Spence provides some insight into how we can build resilience in the face of adversity.
Make choices about what and who you pay attention to
What we pay attention to matters. It affects our emotions, thoughts, behaviours and relationships. If we spend our time absorbed in reading negative news stories and thinking or talking about the ‘what if’s of the pandemic we fill our mind with worries and end up feeling stressed and low. Making choices to limit the amount of time we spend reading or hearing about the pandemic and only getting our information from reputable sources (rather than our Facebook feeds!) can really help us to put some boundaries around the amount of worrying content coming ‘in’ from the outside world. We can also make a conscious effort to seek out the exceptions and look for the positive or heartwarming stories of the pandemic – communities coming together, recovery rates growing, the planet rejuvenating.
Pay close attention to holistic health
Staying healthy is more than diet and exercise. We also need to pay close attention to getting good quality sleep and exercising our mind and staying connected with others. Some ways to improve sleep include; taking time out from technology in the evenings, having a regular routine, reducing caffeine and alcohol and getting daily exercise and fresh air. Mental exercise that includes practicing mindfulness, meditation or relaxation can help to improve cognitive function. In a time when we must be mindful of relating safely with one another, technology has become a vital part of staying connected. Telephone or video calls help us to keep in touch and give and receive care. It is not quite the same as physically connecting but it’s a good second place during the pandemic. Consider ways you can use your senses to keep the presence of others in mind and feel close to them. Sending voicemails rather than text messages so your voice can be heard, video calling instead of telephoning, reminiscing and looking through old photos or letters, virtually sharing a meal or activity with loved ones.
Finding a sense of purpose
In the face of adversity, finding a sense of purpose is a vital building block of resilience. Many of us have experienced changes in employment – redeployment, redundancy or being stood down since the outbreak of COVID19. These challenges can impact on our self-esteem and have us question our self-worth and sense of purpose. Carving a sense of routine and predictability is helpful. We are in extraordinary times so try to keep your expectations of yourself in check. Accept that there’s lots going on right now that is out of our control and you can only do your best. Look for ways to make a difference and have some control over what we can control. If it’s feasible for you to do so consider making a contribution to help others; such as volunteering for the Queensland Care Army or the Adopt a Healthcare Worker initiative.
You may have noticed that you have felt more unpleasant emotions recently, started or increased behaviours that you know are unhelpful or noticed you have become withdrawn from others. All of these things are understandable reactions to us feeling a sense of threat. We likely find it easy to feel compassion for others being affected by the pandemic; every person who has caught COVID19, the healthcare workers on the frontline, the people in the ‘at risk’ health/age groups, people unable to attend their loved one’s funerals. Whilst feeling compassion for others is good, it’s just as important that we practise self-compassion, and allow ourselves to receive compassion from others. If your self-critic is causing mayhem – criticising your emotions, pressuring you to do or achieve more, berating you for not keeping more contact with loved ones – ask yourself “would I think this way about a friend if they were in the same situation?”. We often hold ourselves to standards that we would not hold for others. It can take practise to develop a more self-accepting, self-compassionate relationship.
Ask for help when you need it
There is no shame in asking for help. Reaching out to friends, family and professionals like Psychologists is an act of courage and a positive step forward towards living your best life.
Telehealth during COVID19
During this time of isolation, Psychologists have taken to offering therapy via telehealth as we strive to protect you, ourselves and the community physically, whilst continuing to help people manage their emotional and psychological wellbeing. Telehealth has many benefits. Research has shown that it is an effective way to receive psychological and emotional help and that those who use it tend to be happy with it. For more information on telehealth appointments visit our website.
MA (Hons), DClinPsy, MAPS
Master of Arts (Hons) – Psychology, Doctorate of Clinical Psychology
Membership: Australian Psychological Society
As a Clinical Psychologist, Nicola is often working in different roles; therapist, supervisor, leader, trainer. No matter what hat she is wearing her goals are the same – to help people to cope with whatever life is throwing at them, to help them grow and to support them with figuring out how to get to where they want to be. She works with people to find the right ‘fit’ for them in therapy and draws on therapy models that research shows to be effective.
Nicola has trained in and practices a number of different therapies, including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Brief Solution Focused Therapy (BSFT). She has also studied approaches for helping people to cope with traumatic experiences, including trauma-informed care and trauma-focused interventions.
Nicola’s areas of interest include working with people who experience a range of difficulties, including :
- anxiety (e.g. phobias, OCD, social anxiety, generalised anxiety)
- trauma and stress
- self-esteem difficulties
- occupational stress
Nicola has worked as a Clinical Psychologist in both the UK and Australia since 2011, having obtained a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology. She has worked in different roles in mental health since 2005. She considers it a privilege to be trusted with people’s life stories and to be able to make a difference in their lives. Nicola currently works in private practice and also in public health as a Psychology Professional Leader. The Psychology Board of Australia have approved Nicola as a Clinical Supervisor.
Nicola is taking telehealth appointments on Thursday & Friday; please phone (07) 3395 8633 to make an appointment or to discuss how telehealth appointment may work for you.