No one could have predicted how distressing and downright awful the past few months have been. The health anxiety of Covid-19, the financial insecurity millions of people worldwide are now facing, the racial trauma being navigated, not to mention the slow recovery from the Australian bushfires and other worldwide natural disasters are just the most obvious things people are coping with every single day. It’s hard enough to deal with one of those things, but when there are so many upsetting and stressful things happening at once? It’s pretty difficult to stay optimistic about anything.
To help you find healthy ways to cope, we asked therapists to share their best tips for finding hope in difficult times – specifically, in the middle of a pandemic and a social justice movement.
Take time to breathe
“When you’re stressed or anxious, your breathing can get irregular, and shallow breath affects our autonomic nervous system (ANS), which can make us feel anxious and negative,” says Roseann Capanna-Hodge, an integrative and paediatric mental health expert. Breathing deeply and intentionally calms down the nervous system, which tempers the stress response in the body that makes us feel anxious and unsettled. Capanna-Hodge suggests trying the 4-7-8 breathing technique – simply breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, and then exhale for 8 seconds. This rhythmic breathing is great for calming down your body and brain.
Find a cause to rally behind
Taking action against injustice, in whatever way you can, is a great way to be fully present and reignite a sense of hope. LaQuista Erinna, a licensed clinical social worker, suggests finding a cause to rally behind. This can help you feel more in control of what’s going on around you, and hopeful that change will happen. “In particular, black people have found a renewed sense of purpose by participating in protests, advocating for change and demanding equality,” Erinna says. “Many white allies have taken the time to recognise their privilege and have taken action by showing up in meaningful ways for those who are less privileged.”