Building resilience amidst isolation

Sarah Cross is a self-employed resilience and wellbeing coach in Otago. Photo: Supplied
Sarah Cross is a self-employed resilience and wellbeing coach in Otago. Photo: Supplied
A big part of building resilience is being able to renew your personal resources – your physical, psychological and spiritual ones. It’s calming to be among things that are the same as they were before Covid-19 hit, writes Sarah Cross. 

I was feeling pretty down yesterday. I am not trying to gain sympathy – we are all struggling and many worse than me – it’s just about being honest, encouraging people to talk about mental health and sharing some self-care strategies that I use.

Some would say it’s risky for a resilience and wellbeing coach to admit feeling down, but being resilient doesn’t mean you’re never going to feel s**t. Everyone does at times. It’s about what you do and how you help yourself when you are struggling.

I was feeling down because three months into my self-employment journey, I am finding that a lot of the work I have lined up for the next six weeks is being postponed until further notice.

This is the same situation many self-employed people and businesses are in, so I imagine my feelings of worry, anger and helplessness are pretty common at the moment.

I’m currently working from home, like many others. I had spent the morning at my desk, emailing and phoning clients and when I finally stopped to look outside and there was beautiful sunshine.

Blackberries picked on the outing. Photo: Supplied
Blackberries picked on the outing. Photo: Supplied

So I decided to go and pick the wild blackberries that grow on the roadside near where I live. I took my fluffy handbag dog Pepper and went out into the sun for half an hour. I always say that a big part of building resilience is being able to renew your personal resources – your physical, psychological and spiritual ones.

Well my little blackberry outing did that for me, it built up my physical resources by moving those muscles that had been atrophying since Sunday’s gardening-bee.

I got some immunity-boosting Vitamin C through my “one for the pot, one for me” policy.

My psychological resources (emotional and mental) got a boost from feeling the sun on my face and seeing the canine fluff ball enjoying herself with all those smells.

I was able to get some perspective and recognise that I could be grateful that my husband will still get paid and our health is not currently at risk.

Focusing on finding the best and juiciest berries (and avoiding the thorns) allowed me to get out of my head and just be present in the moment. It stopped that anxious internal soundtrack.

I always find that getting outside and engaging with the natural world grounds me spiritually too. Blackberries haven’t gone into self-isolation. They’re still out there, hanging on the branch with all their delicious friends – nature is unaware of our crisis and is not panicking.

Sarah's fluffy handbag dog Pepper. Photo: Supplied
Sarah's fluffy handbag dog Pepper. Photo: Supplied

It’s calming to be among things that are the same as they were a few days or weeks ago, before Covid-19 hit. My garden’s unaware. So are my chickens and Max, our giant rabbit.

Spirituality is about being connected to the things that give meaning to your life. And if we think carefully about it, we’ll find that those haven’t changed. In the midst of all this change and perceived chaos, look for those things that are stable. Your friends are still awesome. Your family still loves you and you all have each other’s back.

Whatever it is that drives you – your mahi, your purpose – is still relevant and necessary.

If you belong to a church or religious group, I’m sure your collective faith hasn’t wavered and in its teachings you will find comfort, support and direction.

Walking back along the road to home I started to look forward to the muffins, jams, desserts and smoothies I would make with my bounty, and which I would enjoy giving away to friends, families and colleagues – oh gosh now I’ve put that out there I hope I have enough!

And it also made me think about ways I can still do my mahi and work to my purpose – making work better – when I’m prevented from running my programmes and workshops due to the restrictions on gatherings.

That’s when I thought I’d write this up and put it out there as a way of encouraging us to share how we’re feeling and not bottle it up. And to build a self-care library of strategies for when we’re struggling or feeling down. That way we can normalise our emotional responses to these uncertain times and make talking about it a natural thing.

When we show our vulnerability, we offer others a chance to show their humanity. Because I know I’m not alone. None of us are. HE WAKA EKE NOA - We're all in this boat together.

 - Sarah Cross is a self-employed resilience and wellbeing coach in Otago

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