“Astronauts and Art”, by Dr. Alison Sands.
Recently two articles* captured my attention. The first article explores how the study of astronauts and others who spend long periods of time in isolation can help us develop positive coping strategies for getting through lockdown or quarantine. The second addresses how we may transform challenging experiences into opportunities for growth.
In the Astronauts article, six simple strategies are described, all of which are relevant for those of us unlucky enough to be in lockdown or quarantine, or even just still be working from home a lot;
- Understand how coping strategies help us maintain balance, by offloading stressors, preventing them from building up.
- Brainstorm different strategies, as multiple coping strategies are better than few. Think of both individual strategies (e.g., learning to draw) and group strategies for the entire household (e.g., board games).
- Find a combination of both goal-directed strategies (e.g. learning a skill/creating) and non–goal directed strategies (e.g. watching TV). Goal-directed strategies tend to provide greater meaning, but both have value.
- Remember how important routine, diet, exercise and sleep hygiene are to maintaining mental health.
- Improve social connectedness wherever possible, through phone, video chat or socially-distanced meeting.
- Make simple changes to the home through the use of light, furniture layout and decorations to bring novelty and visual interest to the environment.
As Viktor Frankl (1905 – 1997), an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author and Holocaust survivor, said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves”.
The second article addresses how we may transform these challenging experiences into opportunities for growth. During a traumatic experience we are often in survival mode. Afterwards it can be natural to want to avoid re-visiting uncomfortable emotions and thoughts, however resilience and personal growth are more likely to occur when we take time to reflect.
“The darkest hour is just before the dawn” (Thomas Fuller, 1650).
There are seven areas of growth that have been reported to spring from adversity;
- Greater appreciation of life
- Greater appreciation and strengthening of close relationships
- Increased compassion and altruism (helping others)
- The identification of new possibilities or a purpose in life
- Greater awareness and utilization of personal strengths
- Enhanced spiritual development
- Creative growth
Have you experienced any of these?
Sometimes we need a little help to transform bad experiences into positive growth. One strategy is to get creative. Creative activities allow us to consciously tap into uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. They allow us to examine these experiences, seek to make sense of them and express them in a form of our choosing. So go on, get creative! Whatever that means for you.
Another strategy is to talk to your doctor for advice. To make an appointment with Dr. Alison, simply go here.
- Psychological consequences of social isolation and quarantine, by Jurblum, M., Ng, C., Castle, D., Australian Journal for General Practices, 49, pp 778-783, 2020
- Post-Traumatic Growth: Finding Meaning and Creativity in Adversity, by Scott Barry Kaufman on April 20, 2020, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/post-traumatic-growth-finding-meaning-and-creativity-in-adversity/