doing every social activity, errand, or appointment we may have wished to do during the pandemic. This pressure may cause unnecessary stress, but some connection should help (Brandt, 2021).If you feel you do not have a strong social support network, this may be a good time to reach out to a support group, church, or community organization to reap the benefits of connection. If this feels intimidating or you are struggling with ongoing anxiety over the pandemic, seeing a therapist may help in order to receive support and develop strategies to cope. At this time, as throughout the pandemic, we may feel the urge to judge others or ourselves for our behavior choices (Brandt, 2021; Mills, 2021). Our fear may motivate us to become harsher in these judgments. The reasons people have for their choices are varied and often unseen. For example, someone may choose to continue wearing a mask due to an underlying health condition. Someone else may have grown up in an unsafe environment with untrustworthy people and have difficulty trusting recommendations from authority figures. We will fare better if we regard ourselves and others with compassion even if we disagree with others’ viewpoints (Brandt, 2021). Another factor which may allow people to cope better with this transition and the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic is psychological flexibility. Gordon & McGiffin (2021) have suggested that psychological flexibility may “provide an anchor and a compass” as we try to adjust to this in between phase. Psychological flexibility is thought to consist of three steps. First, the individual assesses the requirements of the situation. Next, the individual selects a strategy to address the problem. Lastly, the individual monitors the strategy and modifies it, as necessary, moving forward with this loop repeating (Bonnano & Burton, 2013 as cited in Gordon & McGiffin, 2021). It is believed that psychological flexibility is a central aspect of resiliency in the face of stress (Bonnano, 2021a; Bonnano, 2021b as cited in Gordon & McGiffin, 2021). The opposite of psychological flexibility is captured in the comment often attributed to Albert Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” As logical as this is, we are comforted by our routines and predictability, so changing coping strategies can be hard.
Gordon & McGiffin (2021) argue that factors which support psychological flexibility can help us now as we try to adapt. Some of these factors are hope and optimism, grit and perseverance, and mindfulness. They note that optimism and hope are motivating and that both involve the idea that we can create positive outcomes. This opens the door to flexible problem solving. They also cite research which indicates that grit and perseverance allow us to do the tough work at the front end which results in reaching long-term goals even when our first or second strategy does not work. This is particularly useful as we cope with ongoing uncertainty. Lastly, they promote using mindfulness “which involves the ability to be open and to observe rather than to judge or “push away” thoughts and feelings” (Harris, 2018, as cited in Gordon & McGiffin, 2021). This capacity allows us to avoid getting hijacked by our fears and to be more accepting of factors over which we have no control.Meditation is used as a way to strengthen mindfulness skills. There are many low cost or free apps available that offer meditation exercises such as Headspace, 10% Happier, and Insight Timer. There is some evidence that the mindful breathing which is a part of meditation exercises lowers our stress levels and calms our bodies (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020). Gordon & McGiffin (2021) developed a list of strategies to increase our psychological flexibility during the transition out of the more severe phases of COVID-19: • Cultivate optimism. Questions including “What have you discovered about yourself through the pandemic?” and “Are you aware of any aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic that has changed you for the better?” allow one to construct a more flexible and self-compassionate narrative (Gordon et al., 2020).• Make a list of things you can and cannot control.• Accept events as they actually happen during the transition and focus on yourreactions and attitudes.• See your struggles as part of the human condition rather than an isolatedexperience.• Your decisions during the transition phase should be consistent with yourmost important values, what kind of person you want to be, and long-term goals (Harris, 2018).
• Consider context—determine whether you are appraising the situation accurately, then adjust your coping strategy to match the situational demands.• Self-monitor and give feedback. After trying a strategy, ask yourself “How well is what I am doing working?” “Could I try something else that might work better?” Using these suggestions can promote optimism and hope, grit and perseverance, and mindfulness. All of this can increase our ability to be psychologically more flexible and build our resilience. Tapping into our connections with others can add to this resilience. Lastly, being compassionate with oneself and others can only help as we navigate this ongoing uncertainty. American Psychological Association. (2021, March 11). Coronavirus stress: Majority of Americans never imagined pandemic would last this long [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2021/one-year-pandemic- stress-conclusionBrandt, Andrea. (2021 May 3). Is the Transition to Post-Pandemic Life Making You Anxious? Some of us aren’t ready for our pandemic lifestyle to end [Blog post] Retrieved fromhttps://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-anger/202105/is-the- transition-post-pandemic-life-making-you-anxiousGordon, R., & McGiffin, J. (2021, April 27). How to Build Resilience During the Post-Pandemic Transition [Blog post] retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psychological-trauma-coping-and- resilience/202104/how-build-resilience-during-the-post-pandemic(Harvard Health Publishing). (2020, July 6). Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath- control-helps-quell-errant-stress-responseMills, K. (Host). (2021, March). How we’re coping one year into the pandemic, with Vaile Wright, PhD. (No. 132) [Audio podcast episode]. In Speaking of Psychology. American Psychological Associationhttps://www.apa.org/research/action/speaking-of-psychology/pandemic-year- anniversaryWeir, K. (2018, March). Life-saving relationships. Monitor on Psychology, 49(3). https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/03/life-saving-relationships