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Coping with COVID19 Coronavirus angst: Find strength by knowing your strengths

Coping with COVID19 Coronavirus angst: Find strength by knowing your strengths

Guest Blog by Dr Rachel Hannam, North Brisbane Psychologists

Without your usual routines, it can be hard to know what to do with yourself or how to cope while distancing or quarantining during the COVID19 Coronavirus pandemic.

While much online advice has focussed on adjusting to working from home and the importance of maintaining self-care such as connection with friends, exercise and sleep, what about adjusting your mindset for these new and unprecedented conditions?

(These same suggestions can also help if you are struggling coping with separation or divorce)

Postive Psychology

Positive Psychology can help if you are struggling coping with COVID19. 

Positive Psychology is the study of the positive aspects of the human experience that make life worth living. It focuses on both individual and societal well-being. Knowing and utilising your strengths is one way to practice this and can be a helpful tool during times of stress.

Martin Seligman, a Positive Psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania, has been studying character strengths – such as hope, humour, bravery, creativity, and social intelligence – for over 20 years. He has developed a research-backed tool called the VIA Character Strengths Survey which ranks the top 24 most common human strengths to help us understand and use our unique combination of personal strengths. You can complete this survey for free online 

Using your character strengths

Here are a few research-based ideas for drawing upon your different strengths to uplift you and those around you. 

Use your social intelligence

We are social beings at our core, so social isolation runs the risk of leading to psychological distress.

While these physical measures are necessary for our health, we still have the opportunity to stay connected.

Try applying your strengths of love, humour and kindness to stay in touch—and keep in mind that hearing a voice and seeing a face can enhance social connectedness above and beyond texting.

Use kindness to maintain healthy relationships

For some people, the downside of social isolation is the forced physical closeness which can create conflict and distress.

For healthy relationships, we all need to regulate our closeness and distance from each other. Before reacting to your family member’s request for “personal space” try applying your strength of social intelligence and to consider their needs and emotions.

Now, more than ever, we can be more generous in making allowances for time-out from one another.

We can also use strengths such as humility and forgiveness to practice self-control, instead of regressing to more primitive fight-flight responses to our stress and anxiety.

Use your creativity and love of learning

Many recreational activities such as going to restaurants, movies, gyms, and concerts are currently off limits and no longer options for managing our stress via relaxation.

Your strength of creativity can help you think of alternate ways to find enjoyment, exercise, and calm your mind and body. Or use your strength of curiosity to learn new things or try a new hobby. Research has shown that learning something new is an effective way to manage stress.

Use hope to find the silver lining

Now is a time for hope that the virus will become reasonably contained, and effective treatment for the illness and immunisation against it will come sooner rather than later. Character strengths are forged in the cauldron of stress and challenge, and help us get through difficult times. As we await better news, we can broaden our focus beyond the virus without diminishing its impact.

Turn to your strengths of perseverance and love of learning to work on projects you may now have time to attend to.

Don’t set your aspirations aside. Try to keep forward progress when you can.

Success in life requires living by your values and drawing down on your strengths. Only you choose what sort of person to be during these trying times.

My advice is to stop trying to control how you feel and instead control what you do.

Ultimately, the best way to prevail over anxiety and despair whether you are struggling with separation, divorce or coping with Coronavirus and its impacts on our lives,  is to focus on and use your best personal qualities. 

About the author

In addition to private practice as a psychologist since 2002, Rachel Hannam has a podcast called Help Me! I’m a Comedian on ABC Radio, started in 2018. 


Dr Rachel Hannam

More resources for coping with COVID-19 coronavirus

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