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Us, Stronger

Key: We are nearly to the other side of the pandemic and, with reflection, we can identify aspects of ourselves which have improved that may escape notice if we get caught up in the increased pace of re-emergence.

Living It: Look back on both the challenges and the triumphs of 2020 like panning for gold, then refine those nuggets till they shine!

Clinical Concept: Use of Post-Traumatic Growth-mindset focused reflection on personal attributes to build an empowered post-pandemic functional self-image.

First off, thank those dear readers and KK.com family members who noticed that the April and May articles did not appear as scheduled on the last Friday of those respective months. No sooner did I write about the re-emergence than I began to get hit with it, first with my COVID-19 vaccination then with an exciting new opportunity which merited some quick but temporary reappraisal of effort and focus.

You’ll hear more about the opportunity next week. This week is a posting of April’s work, now complete, which was intended to be brief, anyway. What? Two posts in two weeks? Yes. I talk often about self-care and balancing your work and life. I had to do that these last two months, or I would have not been following my own advice. However, self-care never removes one’s responsibilities, nor would I ever abandon these articles. Thus, I will be releasing the 4/30/21 article on 6/4/21 and the 5/28/21 article on 6/11/21 to return to our usual schedule with June’s article on 6/25/21.

So, what is April’s article? In preparation for me having the COVID-19 vaccination, I had reflecting on post-traumatic growth which looked at in way back in Surviving Suffering and Thriving in 2015 and how we could apply it to our post-pandemic lives. We, individually and as a society, have been through a trauma. It is purely perspective which may prove the difference in if we come through it with more symptoms of stress, or more aspects of growth. In 2015 we found that “seeing the crisis as crushing loss, unsurmountable change or unacceptable injustice can lead to being stuck, while a perspective of ‘perceived benefit’ in which a person accepts the crisis, copes, and moves through it will help to find growth on other side (Burling, 2011). This is ‘part of a person’s psychological immune system…which helps convert tragedy into opportunity’ and kicks into gear following a trauma with a big or little ‘T'” (Foley, 2013). According to a recent Pearson educational study, “80% of college students believe the pandemic has made them stronger, and more than half say that young people overall will be able to bounce back from the negatives of the past 12-plus months. Parents of younger students agree, with 70% feeling confident that their children will rebound from this challenging moment in time” (Burt, 2021). What’s great is they cite their biggest growth in not just perceived strength but also empathy with those around them.

I know it’s in some ways heart wrenching to look at the ‘percieved benefit’ of the pandemic though some did exist. Let’s focus on the idea of a psychological immune system. That’s what I was thinking about as I was knocked for a loop with two days of harsh side effects from the vaccine. I expected them as a diabetic, I get them from the flu shot every year. Why, then did I get both vaccines? Because the benefits outweigh the pain. Each chill, fever dream and ache reminded me that my body was working normally. It was getting stronger and readying me to enter the post-pandemic world prepared to fight the potential remnants of COVID-19.

Similarly, we will face shadows of our pre-COVID stressors, remnants of our pandemic hardships and a host of all new challenges as we re-enter daily American life. Thus, lets strengthen those psychological immune systems! We said in 2015, there are only three things we need; Acceptance, Flexibility and Gratitude (Karabin, 2015). Today, I offer one more. We need to identify our growth points. We need to see those personal benefits clearly. Not that the pandemic was good–far from it! But that through that trial came strength.

Here are three of mine:

Telehealth Counseling – No stranger to Telehealth as part of my practice pre-pandemic, my pandemic practice thrived in the virtual world and I honed the virtual counseling skill more and more effectively helping many countless clients and families. It will continue to be a strength and a large part of my practice going forward.

Self Acceptance – I am, and always will be a very driven person. 2020 taught me to slow down, modulate, balance and allow for my own rest and coping while never letting the major priorities falter.

Measured Vulnerability – The strain of the pandemic life brought me a deeper awareness of my own interconnectedness and need of treasured friends and confidants. I began to open up on a deeper level with them from that need and will continue to do so.

What are yours? Feel free to write them down for yourself, share them with a confidant or, if there’s no one else to hear them, email them to me or put them in the comments. We’re going forth more every day. Let’s do so mindfully, focusing on our growth points. Let’s come out stronger than we went in. We owe it to those who are not here with us.

Burt, C. (2021) Report: 80% of students stronger from pandemic. University Business. Retrieved from: https://universitybusiness.com/college-k-12-students-show-strength-empathy-in-pandemic/

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