Building Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Resilience During the Pandemic
May 6, 2020
Cassandra Vieten, IONS Senior Fellow
A Free 3-day Online Global Mental Health Summit That Can Help
Let’s be real. For some this pandemic and physical distancing is a gift…an unexpected opportunity to pause, go to ground, bake bread from sourdough starter, finally build that raised garden bed, meditate, walk and do yoga, and work in pajamas.
For others it is a time of loss, uncertainty, anxiety, isolation, fear, or being uncomfortably crowded with others for extended periods. It can intensify stress, depression, anxiety, or relationship problems.
For most of us it’s a little bit of both, depending on the day.
If you are starting to get a little squirrely, you are not alone. It is projected that overall, mental health symptoms will substantially intensify during the pandemic. Many will lose hope, lose faith, or lose someone they love. Mental health is being called the “parallel pandemic,” expected to impact more people and for a longer period of time than the COVID-19 crisis, especially for those without a history of depression and anxiety. Check out this chart from our friends at One Mind:
This makes it crucial that we all focus just as much on building our mental, emotional, and spiritual strength as we have focused on protecting ourselves from the virus.
Attending to your mental health is just as important as your physical health. In truth, the two can’t be separated. Your stress level influences everything – your immunity, inflammation, sleep, and health behaviors – all of which have a pervasive effect on your mind, body, and spirit. It’s not as if taking care of your mental, emotional, and spiritual health is different from dealing with your physical health. They are one and the same.
You may not be able to control whether or not you experience emotional or mental health challenges during this time. Your genetics, your life experiences, the extent to which your health or finances are negatively impacted during this pandemic, and many other factors will dictate that risk.
But what you can do is build your mental health resilience – in other words, how you withstand and adapt to the challenges that arise. To use a metaphor, you may not be able to determine what inner obstacle course you will face, but you can get more mentally and emotionally strong, nimble, and agile.
Building mental health resilience – whether in yourself, or in someone you love or people you work with – relies on ALL aspects of our lives. Mental health has to do with how we think and feel and how our brain works, yes – but also with how we move our bodies, what and how we eat, the microbiome in our gut, how we sleep, how we connect with community, nature, and spirit, where we place our attention, and even how we breathe.
It may seem overwhelming, but the good news is there are literally hundreds of evidence-based, simple (though not always easy) and free practices in each of these areas that can be gently included over time into our lives to boost mental health resilience in a short period of time. Not to be naive, integrating even small lifestyle changes into one’s life can be surprisingly difficult, especially when you are feeling down. But behavioral science and community frameworks offer multiple ways to help with that process as well. You can build an ecosystem that supports your mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. What’s more, most of these practices are enjoyable, rewarding, and connect you with others – helping you to remember that you are not alone in this. At times, they even bring joy, wonder, and magic into your life.
This is why Deepak Chopra, Poonacha Machaiah, Gabriella Wright, and I have been pouring our hearts into creating Never Alone: A Global Mental Health Summit on May 22-24th. A collaboration between our respective organizations – The Chopra Foundation’s #NeverAlone initiative and the John W. Brick Mental Health Foundation – this 3-day livestream focuses on whole-person approaches to mental health. Attending this summit can help you build your own ecosystem for mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
About the Author
Cassandra Vieten, PhD, is Executive Director of the John W. Brick Foundation, Scholar-in-Residence at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at the University of California, San Diego, and Senior Fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, where she worked for 18 years in successive roles as Scientist, Director of Research, CEO, and President from 2013-2019. She is a psychologist, mind-body medicine researcher, author of numerous articles in scientific journals, and an internationally recognized keynote speaker.