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  • Writer's pictureVirginia Hurdon

Pandemic Times and HERO

We're now well into the pandemic; where I live, the second wave is emerging. I'd like to think we're better prepared this time...and infrastructurally, I think that's true. On a more personal level, though, I suspect a lot of us are exhausted and burnt out from the first wave, and really haven't had time or energy to reflect on the journey to date.

What would you notice if you did step back for a few minutes and collect those thoughts?

For me, there have been negative effects, of course, but also some surprising positives. On the negative side, I think what I've noticed most is anxiety about contracting COVID-19, and the repercussions of the requisite physical distancing, including from my partner (who works in health care). It's been tough not to have funerals or even hugs while grieving 2 family losses during this time. There's also fatigue and sometimes exhaustion from being stretched for so long, and the uncertainty of the future. But perhaps because of the physical distancing, my relationships with my partner, my children and my friends have broadened and deepened in other ways. I've noticed my own diligence and persistence; my creativity in adapting to changing circumstances; and my stamina.

I've learned so much about our human need for connectedness, and how to meet that need daily. How to negotiate new forms of relationship. There has been a clarification of my values and goals, and a spiritual focusing. People have a need to thrive despite very tough times, and I've found that I want to be a more compassionate, mindful and purposeful person through this time of change. What is evolving for you?

I was recently introduced to a conceptual framework for building our resources to cope and even thrive in difficult times. It's called Psychological Capital, and was developed by Fred Luthans to help organizations and businesses develop an 'edge' over their competition by focusing on enhancing helpful psychological skills in their employees to boost wellness and productivity. Research has validated the concept and the results of using this approach. More recently, it is being applied outside the business world to assist individuals and groups cope more capably through difficulty.

PsyCap, as it's known, has 4 components, which can be summarized by the acronym HERO:

hope, (self)-efficacy, resilience, and optimism. Note that these are both inherent traits and trainable skills. Hope, for example, can be developed by practicing the process of hope- finding motivation for a particular goal, and using multiple strategies to find a way to accomplish that goal. Willpower and waypower together comprise hope. Self-efficacy, the belief that you can accomplish what you'd like to, is again a trainable process that really builds on itself. Recognizing and applying your personal strengths to a goal, breaking down a goal into small manageable steps, and celebrating all the wins along the way strengthens self efficacy. Resilience can be enhanced by finding a meaning in what you're experiencing; accepting the reality of it; and actively seeking both ways to manage the experience (eg. what you can control), and to reframe situations (finding the good in the 'bad').

Lastly, optimism is cultivated when you bring your umbrella on a cloudy day but plan a picnic, weather permitting- in other words, having a well-thought out plan for the worst case scenario, but spending equal energy focusing on the possibilities of positive outcomes.

As you can see, these concepts are inter-related and boosting one has positive effects on the others.

Building awareness of these processes is one way to begin to incorporate them into daily life. Another might be to spend some thought on one of them that you feel a bit lacking in; could you find a simple goal to practice with? Like any mental habit, 'what fires together, wires together'- practice and repetition of these skills will make them smoother and more automatic. Or possibly, you could consider a question..."How would I like to move through the next few weeks?' and work on the answer through the PsyCap framework.

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