Over the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve faced challenges collectively and individually. It can be hard to see the blessings in such an unprecedented and difficult time, but they’re there and worth exploring, says Dennis Buttimer, M.Ed, CEAP, RYT, CHC, a life and wellness coach at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont.
“When you’re going through something difficult like the pandemic, you might start to focus on the stress of the situation,” says Buttimer. “This can build the momentum of negative feelings and, as a result, drain your energy.”
If your main focus is on what’s wrong, then you’ll end up feeling increasingly poorly, both mentally and physically.
“But when you open your mind to what the blessings could be, you’ll shift your mental focus away from the acute situation that’s occurring,” he explains. “You’ll begin to feel better and can redirect your energy.”
Authentically exploring your blessings
Considering the blessings of the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t mean ignoring reality or faking positivity.
“It’s important to acknowledge that the situation is real, painful and challenging,” says Buttimer. “But you don’t have to let it hijack your focus and positive energy in the long term.”
Positives to consider
As Buttimer has taught his Cancer Wellness class on the pandemic’s potential silver linings, he’s noticed some common threads. Many participants noted their appreciation for:
Their relationships, particularly close family and friends.
Their home and immediate environment.
Technology, which allows them to stay connected to the outside world.
New projects they’ve taken on, such as gardening, reading or learning a new language.
What upsides have you found during this slower season?
When you’re struck with a difficulty, it’s normal to feel fear and worry about the “what-ifs” because you’re in a vulnerable position. You might even dwell on outcomes that are worse than your current situation.
To combat worry, Buttimer recommends practicing awareness. Direct your attention to your current surroundings and circumstances. Perhaps you’re sitting in a comfortable chair, have close relationships in your life and have food in the kitchen.
“Awareness is so powerful,” he says. “Once you’re aware, you can slow the momentum to notice where you are, becoming fully present in the moment. When you go into the ‘what-ifs,’ you’re putting yourself in the future, which isn’t a reality.”
Shift your mindset
You can also try a one-minute exercise to shift your mindset. For 60 seconds, visualize the answer to, “Wouldn’t it be nice if…?”
Don’t worry about being realistic – the purpose of this exercise is to change your mindset.
“Being realistic won’t necessarily help you feel better,” Buttimer explains. “It’s OK to have an expanded imagination of positive possibilities for just one minute to shift the negative energy. Invite yourself to be as creative as you want without minimizing or tamping down your thoughts.”
Reflect on past challenges
If you’re in an acute moment of loss or pain, it can be hard to find the upsides of the situation. So instead, Buttimer recommends reflecting on a time in the past when you made it through a challenging circumstance.
“If you’re going through something very difficult, like a cancer diagnosis, the death of a loved one, a divorce or the loss of a job, it can be hard to focus on the blessings,” he says. “But perhaps you could reflect on the recent past to recall other challenging times where you were able to become more resourceful and resilient.”
Reflecting on the past challenges you faced can empower you in your current circumstances.
Moving forward with a new perspective
The good news is you can carry your new perspective into post-pandemic life. The more you practice being in the present moment and take time to reflect on the positive possibilities instead of imagining worst-case scenarios, the more likely you’ll continue that approach when the pandemic is over.
“The point of power is in the present moment,” says Buttimer. “If you’re developing the skills of being present and grateful, you’re more likely to be able to skillfully do these things in whatever the future looks like. You can’t control your conditions, but you can control your response.”
Learn more ways to reduce stress and improve your well-being.