In recent weeks many members of Mayo Clinic Connect completed what community mentor Dona Locke, Ph.D., called a Resiliency Roadmap. The exercise was designed to help people navigate through some of the stresses and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is Dr. Locke's final article about the work the community tackled.
Thank you so much for joining me on this resiliency roadmap journey! I hope you've been reminded of your strength and perhaps added a few more tools to your coping toolbox. With this one last post, I want to bring all the components together one final time. Remember, everyone's roadmap will look different--the goal of this series was to give you coaching so that you develop the roadmap that is most likely to work for you. Each day you reflected on one component and hopefully made some notes. Now, lets bring them all together here so you have one more moment of reflection. You can use this Resiliency Roadmap to bring your plan together.
"This looks like an amazing program – I am going to go back and start with Day 1. I deeply appreciate you providing this for us!" - Mayo Clinic Connect Member
You learned that there a number of different signs of stress that can include physical symptoms (e.g., back pain, fatigue), emotional symptoms (e.g., worry, irritability), cognitive symptoms (e.g., trouble concentrating, catastrophizing thought patterns), and behavioral symptoms (e.g., snapping at others, withdrawing from activities). Identifying your constellation of symptoms (and hopefully sharing that pattern with loved ones) will help you (and them) recognize stress as soon as possible so that you can go to your coping toolbox for support.
We all find different aspects of a stressful situation difficult. For some, it may be the loss of control of a situation. For others, it may be when a situation separates us from family. And for yet others, it may be disruptions in a routine or financial pressure. Being able anticipate what features of a challenge are most likely to be the highest stress for you will allow you to plan some coping techniques to mitigate that impact.
Next you brainstormed all the positive coping techniques you already use! Being sure to identify and commit to those existing resiliency-building strategies helps you give more intentional time to these strategies (and not letting them fall by the way-side when challenges arise). I gave a few additional tips including: Be sure to take breaks, limit your media consumption, remind yourself what gives you a sense of meaning and purpose, and get some time outdoors.
I'd encouraged you to try this website for the free breath pacer (www.xhalr.com) and discover the inhale, pause, exhale timing settings your body likes best for use in your Resiliency Roadmap summary for easy reference. Then remind yourself to practice your paced breathing daily so that you'll be able to lean on it more robustly in times of stress.
In this post, I gave you resources to try progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, mindfulness, and meditation. Were there specific techniques you liked best? Did you try any of the apps I suggested? Summarize the tools you've added to your tool box from this post on the Resiliency Roadmap.
My favorite! "Our greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." So often we do not even realize the negative self-talk we have running in our thinking patterns. I gave you some broad types of unhelpful thinking patterns (Overgeneralizing, Catastrophizing, Maybe it is true, but...) and some challenges questions to ask yourself with the goal of shifting your thinking into a more helpful frame. Which challenge questions resonated with you? And, what helpful and healthy thinking patterns resonated with you (e.g., acceptance, self-compassion, humor, optimism, belief in your abilities).
"Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day!" In this section of your Resiliency Roadmap I encouraged you to describe your plan for giving intentional attention daily to times of joy and gratitude. Also, a reminder that this is not about denying those things in life that are a challenge and pretending everything is "fine", but really about being sure that our positive emotions get equal (or more) attention during those times.
And finally-this section was about identifying what social support means to you. Who is your support network, and what types of support are most valuable to you (e.g., emotional comfort, encouragement, acts of service, advice, companionship)? And, do you feel that cultivating new supports would be a good idea for you? If so, what's your plan for that?
Using the Resiliency Roadmap from the link here, here is my completed roadmap! Each of ours will be unique even as we have some similar content and features!
Although this resiliency workshop can help you feel confident and empowered, many of us may still need to reach out and ask for professional help. I want to be the first (but I hope not the last) to encourage you to do this if you feel at all like you need more help. If you are experiencing daily distress and having trouble finding joy and getting things done, please start with talking to your primary care doctor about what's going on. He or she may recommend some additional tests or some medical therapies. He or she may also suggest professional therapy with a psychologist or licensed counselor. They may already have specific mental health providers they recommend. You can search for a psychologist or mental health professional by looking at providers in your area on your insurance panel, asking your primary care physician for a recommendation, or searching Psychology Today.
Information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding along with guidelines and recommendations may have changed since the original publication date.
Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for additional updates on COVID-19. For more information and all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network and mayoclinic.org.