Dr. phil. Melanie Peter is a psychotherapist and increasingly receives requests from people who have been thrown off course by the Covid-19 pandemic. She says that the virus threatens humans' four basic psychological needs: the need for autonomy, to increase self-worth, to bond and to experience pleasure. For this reason, she says, it's important to ask yourself: Where can I live autonomously despite the crisis? How can I satisfy my need for bonding despite social distancing? What can I do to feel valuable despite losing my job? And: How can I balance enjoyable activities with the Covid-19 situation? We wanted to know more about this and had an interview with the psychotherapist.
Why do people deal with crises in such different ways?
It's normal for difficult life events to unsettle and challenge us. We get thrown off course and have to reorient ourselves before we do anything else. People who are aware of their feelings and reflect on them and who have learned that they can make a difference themselves, find this reorientation or stabilization easier. These people believe that their actions can lead to positive change. They usually have a high level of social competence and are prepared to seek support in crisis situations. In addition, they can correctly classify the problematic situation and develop possible corrective actions accordingly. We call these skills "resilience-enhancing factors".
What is resilience?
How can we foster our resilience?
According to research, there are several skills that aid resilience:
- Self-perception and the perception of others: Learn to notice your own emotions and thoughts and to reflect on them. Take time out for yourself. Write down what's on your mind, go for a walk by yourself, do some exercise on your own or do a short breathing exercise. Relaxation training, meditation or mindfulness exercises can also help. It's important to make time to listen to yourself.
You should also strengthen your ability to correctly assess other people and their emotional states. Good self-perception is helpful when it comes to perceiving others, because you recognize parts of yourself in them. Listen to the person talking to you without interrupting and then summarize what you have heard. This is a good exercise to help strengthen your perception of others.
- Self-efficacy: People who find themselves to be self-effective have experienced that they can achieve goals via their actions. You can practice self-efficacy by stepping out of your comfort zone every once in a while. It is important to set realistic goals that are as concrete as possible. Many people set their goals too high and have excessive expectations of themselves. It can help to think about what goals you would recommend to a good friend.
- Social competence: It is essential to be able to correctly assess social situations and empathize with others. This skill is advanced throughout your entire lifetime in a variety of social situations. You can specifically improve this skill with what is referred to as "social competence training".
- Good self-regulation skills: Learn how to relax yourself and find out which behaviors will help you to do so. This skill is based on self-awareness. Once you are aware of how you feel, you can figure out what behaviors or thoughts you can use to regulate your feelings.
- Problem solving skills and coping skills: Analyze your problem. It helps to discuss the situation with a trusted person or to write down the problem. Once you have done this, you can develop options for all kinds of actions and implement these. It's essential here to familiarize yourself with your own skills and limits.
What tips do you have for dealing with difficult situations?
- Allow yourself to experience difficult feelings. These are just as normal as positive feelings and are just as much a part of life. They show us that one or more basic needs are threatened. Once you recognize the message behind the feeling, you can take care of the corresponding need.
- Talk about how you're feeling. A trouble shared is a trouble halved: your friends will understand you and you need this recognition in difficult situations. In addition, other people can help you to discover new scope for action.
- Call on your resources and reduce obligations. Ask yourself: What people or activities are good for me? In stressful times, we tend to focus on obligations and cut out the activities that bring us joy. This can create a vicious cycle. Take five once in a while.
- Studies show that resilience is greatest in people who have been through a moderate number of crises in their lives. In this sense, crises can sometimes also be opportunities.
- If you find that you can't get out of the downward spiral on your own – get professional help. This is not a sign of weakness, but a courageous decision to support your own personal resilience.
Dr. phil. Melanie Peter
Dr. phil. Melanie Peter is employed as a psychotherapist at a psychiatry practice. She has been getting more inquiries of late from people who need help dealing with difficult situations due to the corona crisis.