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Psychological resilience through the Pandemic

How can we stay resilient during this time? We are being presented with so many psychological challenges all at once. Prolonged anxiety and enforced separation from one another, the loss of so many everyday freedoms, structures and routines – and real fear, no wonder it feels overwhelming and hard to manage at times.

The following information is not intended to be the answer to everything. Different people find different things that work for them. But I have put together a range of evidence-based techniques and ideas from the field of psychology, neuroscience, resilience research and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which I hope will be useful and help to keep us psychologically buoyant at this challenging time.

The information and links to resources below are divided into several sections:  

Online resources are an excellent way to access helpful information/resources. However, if you would rather talk to a human to discuss where you can get the best support, please do get in touch with me, Deborah Golend, Pastoral Care Coordinator by emailing the Synagogue Office.  

Tolerating uncertainty and managing worry

It is normal to feel unsettled when big changes happen. We need to give ourselves time to adjust to current changing and frightening circumstances. We are all living with many unknowns:

Will I get coronavirus? Will my family/friends? 
If I do, how badly will I get it? 
How will the pandemic affect my job/income/finances? 
How will I manage home schooling my kids? Whilst working? 

And we don’t have the answers to most of these questions.  We are having to tolerate uncertainty. 

Unfortunately, no amount of worrying, questioning, reading the news, hearing experts, can give us the answers now.  In fact endlessly doing so can often leave us exhausted. 

Constantly worrying does not help us cope. Do not confuse it with problem solving and planning. 

Worrying thoughts, as opposed to problem solving, go round in a loop, they often race ahead and predict the worst-case scenarios. Worrying thoughts give our bodies an injection of adrenaline. They give chemical messages to our bodies that we are in danger at this very moment and switch on our sympathetic nervous system to prepare our bodies to deal with that danger – the fight/flight/freeze response.  It is a primitive and adaptive survival mechanism. The trouble is that if we are in constant worry mode we don’t give our parasympathetic nervous system a chance to come onboard. This is the system that allows us to rest and relax – that exhalation of relief and safety. Without this we can find ourselves locked in danger mode even when we are actually in our kitchen with a cup of tea and perfectly ‘safe’ in this present moment.   

So how can we get on top of the constant worry:   

1. Notice and catch yourself worrying. 
2. Remind yourself “ worrying doesn’t help “  
3. Focus your attention on the present moment

The worries may be back soon, that’s OK, but each time you catch yourself worrying, gently (without self criticism) refocus your attention on what you want to be doing NOW. With practice, the brain learns what you are trying to do and it becomes easier. This will be familiar advice to anyone who has meditated or practiced mindfulness but there are many easy ways to bring yourself into this present moment.   

You can name 5 things in the room. There’s the computer, the chair, the old rug, a coffee mug. It’s that simple. Breathe. Realise in this present moment, nothing you have anticipated has happened. Use your senses and think about what you feel. The desk is hard. The blanket is soft. I can feel the breath coming into my nose.  

There are a wealth of resources on mindfulness which can help you train your mind to step away from the thought stream and be present.

Learn Realistic Optimism 

Some of us are more pessimistic/optimistic than others. Positive psychology does not mean ignoring the negatives and assuming everything will be brilliant. It suggests actively looking for the positives, to balance out the negatives and develop a more realistic helpful perspective. The goal is to find balance in the things you are thinking. Two ways to cultivate this are by:

Using our existing strengths 

Identify your strengths and consider ways you can use them to make the most out of the current circumstances. Think about specific challenges you have been through in the past. 

How did you get through it? 
What did you do? 
What did you say to yourself? 
Who was supportive or helpful at the time? 
What resources did you use? Places, things, skills, organisations… 
What useful advice did you get from others? 
What did you learn about how to cope with these challenges? 
Which of these could be useful again? 

If you are unsure of your strengths have a look at this survey to help you 

Practising gratitude and kindness 

Research shows completing a gratitude diary every day resulted in 20% long term improvement in wellbeing and better sleep. Try writing down 3 good things that happened today.  

There are some useful digital journals for gratitude and resilience which can be downloaded such as this one.

There is also extensive research that helping others is good for everyone’s mental health. Acts of kindness boost neurochemicals which make us feel happy. What can you do to help your family, friends who may be struggling? 

If you want to become a volunteer to help in our clusters of care initiative please contact us.

Look after yourself

There are things we all know we should be doing, but really need to be prioritised when life gets challenging.

Eat healthy: lots of vegetables, protein, water. Minimise sugar, caffeine, alcohol to regulate your mood and energy levels.

Exercise regularly. There are so many online tutorials to try, fitness, yoga, pilates, different styles for all ages and abilities.    

Good Sleep hygiene 

Looking after yourself (resources and information website)

Resilience research shows the fundamental factor that all resilient individuals had was taking responsibility for looking after themselves. 

Managing media and screen influence 

Whilst it is important to stay informed and connected, the rolling news coverage and social media streams can become overwhelming, time consuming and trigger anxiety. Consider which sources of news you find useful and factual. Set time limits on how often you want to check the news/social media and for how long.  

Choose which social groups you find supportive/informative/fun and which trigger worry and anxiety. Disengage from those you find unhelpful or draining.  

If you are working from home, you may find you are spending far more time than usual looking at a screen, focusing in on conference calls. Before you realise it hours have passed without you moving. This is depleting and draining.  Schedule time away from the computer. Do something that feeds your soul.  

Managing Kids at home

The British Psychological Society (BPS) has published some guidelines for parents dealing with school closures and how to talk to children about the coronavirus.  

Managing Self Isolation

If you are living with others and selfisolating, you are likely to spend more time with each other and in closer proximity than you usually would. It is likely you may get more frustrated and irritated with each other than usual.  Give everyone the benefit of the doubt and a wide berth. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone at times. Try to move with grace through the blowups, to not show up to every argument you’re invited to. Stock up on compassion. Everyone has different levels of fear and anxiety and it manifests in different ways. We are all doing our best to get through this. 

If you are living alone, feelings of loneliness, boredom and a strong sense of isolation are likely to come up at times. Reach out to others. Focus on strengthening connections. Play virtual games with friends, arrange a virtual social outing online. 

Either way try to develop your own self-care toolkit. This can look different for everyone. Useful self-care strategies often have a sensory component. A soft blanket, a hot chocolate, comforting music, eucalyptus oil, an inspirational book. Create your own sanctuary, a little space that soothes you, something that evokes a sense of safety and calm. Find a long-term project and dive into it. Now is the time to learn the keyboard, complete that giant jigsaw, watch an 8 season box set, paint the kitchen. Find something to keep you distracted and busy and engaged, taking breaks from what is going on in the outside world. 

Chunk your quarantine time, take it moment by moment. We have no road map for this. We don’t know what it will look like in a day, a week, or a month from now. Remind yourself daily that this is temporary. It is terrifying to think of the road stretching ahead of us. Please take time to remind yourself that although this is scary and difficult,  and will go on for an undetermined amount of time, it is a season of life and it will pass. We will return to feeling free, safe, busy and connected in the days ahead.

Managing Anxiety 

It is normal to feel anxious at stressful times. Anxiety can trigger lots of physical symptoms including palpitations. breathlessness, shaking and feeling dizzy. These physical sensations often prompt more worrying thoughts, especially at this time when we are hyper vigilant to physical symptoms, for example, what is wrong with me? am I becoming unwell?  The vicious circle of sensations of anxiety and more worrying thoughts can spiral into panic attacks.

If you are finding your anxiety hard to manage, these websites have useful information:

Self-help for anxiety

Taking a few deep breaths can help calm the body down. Try to breathe slowly, in through your nose, right down to your stomach. If it helps, count to 7 breathing in and count to 11 breathing out. 

Managing loss and low mood

Many of us have lost things as a result of coronavirus, from routine, future plans, final days at school, jobs and tragically maybe loved ones.

In these circumstances it is normal to feel sad, tearful, angry, and lost. These emotions may come and go at different times. Being unable to get out and do the things we enjoy for long periods of time is likely to make people feel low.  Further advice can be found at

Knowing that loneliness exacerbates poor mental health JAMI are currently prioritising contact with people who are feeling vulnerable.  

JAMI can be reached on 0208 458 2223

However, if you feel in crisis and are considering harming yourself or others it is important to get help. Please contact:   

Samaritans are available 24/7: Freephone 116 123  
Or email or text 07725 909090  Text Shout to 85258 (free) 24/7  

MIND is open Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, call 0300 123 3393
Email or text 86463   

or contact your GP

Jewish Women's Aid

In this difficult period for everyone we are particularly concerned for anyone experiencing domestic violence or coercive control, who may be forced into almost inescapable proximity with an abusive partner or parent. Please see this link on how to access support and advice from JWA.

Fri, 20 May 2022 19 Iyyar 5782