In the short space of a few weeks, our world has changed. We have had to alter fundamentally the way we live, our engagement in the world, our working practices and our social interactions.
All of us, in one way or another, are experiencing a varying range of emotions, from stress and anxiety to loneliness and vulnerability. However, there are psychological tools and tips that are worth our harnessing, which may just help us to navigate our way through this time of crisis more calmly and effectively.
The concept of psychological capital grew out of the field of positive psychology and organisational behaviour over the past decade. It relates to the psychological resources we have all developed, over our lifetimes, from experience and wisdom, that enable us to function, to remain responsive and resourceful, to find positivity, and to adapt in times of hardship. This is particularly pertinent now, when we are experiencing everything from cognitive dissonance to financial pressure, doubt and disorientation to loss of control, during these extraordinary and worrying times. Accessing the fortitude we require to navigate a deep and widespread crisis of this nature requires a level of calm and resilience that is exceptional in most of our lifetimes.
Psychological capital comprises four elements, which we can work on separately or together, and which – sometimes surprisingly – can lift mood and build our capacity to withstand stress and pressure. They are easy to remember, and to draw on, using the HERO acronym - Hope, Efficacy, Resilience, and Optimism:
- Create a ‘worry window’ of an hour or so a day, perhaps split into morning and evening, to stop the overwhelm of distressing and worrying news from around the world. This includes limiting our diet of news: turn off news notifications and choose the time you feel robust enough to read the coverage you want to read.
- Maintain a routine to each day, differentiating between weekday and weekend, and limiting unwanted distractions (social media, news feeds) during time carved out for home working.
- Distract yourself – without feeling bad about it. It is important to allow ourselves the pleasure of total distraction from the worry and stress, and from work outside our remote working times, without feeling guilty about taking time off.
- Have good conversations. Try Zoom, or Google Hangouts, or FaceTime or other ways of properly speaking with colleagues, friends and family for non-work conversations. Share your own experiences and personal feelings about how this time is affecting you. Listen to others, and be compassionate.
- Do something for someone else. Reach out to people on their own or in difficulty. Look out for elderly neighbours and people in your community who may need help. Social media offers some ideas for local support networks. Small acts of kindness go a long way, and helping others builds self-esteem and positive emotions.
- Exercise – take care of body and health, making time for exercise in whatever way is possible, and for healthy eating.
- Seek out humour, even in these dark times. A trite observation perhaps, but humour boosts the spirit and lifts the mood. There is also some scientific evidence that humour and laughter may influence health and boost immune function.