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Healing After a Traumatic Year

Steps for Moving Forward in the Post-Pandemic World with Optimism

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Each day, as more and more people around us are vaccinated, life is slowly settling into a new post-pandemic normal. Businesses are re-opening, schools are going full-time attendance, and we are free to gather and socialize again – at least somewhat. Sounds good, right? But are we truly prepared, emotionally, to go back to “life as usual”? Because, let’s face it, we’ve just emerged from a very traumatic year – some in better shape than others – and jumping right back into the same old routine isn’t going to happen with a simple snap of our fingers.

We have lost jobs, friends, and the ability to congregate – for sports, music, faith, or even a celebratory dinner. That’s weighed heavily on everyone’s overall sense of wellbeing. In fact, according to Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. “have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder,” up from one in ten adults who reported similar symptoms to the CDC back in 2019.

For many of us, returning to the “new normal” is going to take some concentrated effort. Similar to those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, many of us will be afflicted with post-pandemic stress disorder, marked by a difficulty in trusting our circumstance in the real world again.

The good news is, by practicing several techniques, we can make the transition go a little more smoothly. These techniques are founded on our ability to assimilate positive vibes and adoption an optimistic attitude. Doing both, we will have the drive and impetus to author our next chapters, no matter how we are feeling after a year of challenge and trauma.

The Power of Optimism

Being optimistic doesn’t simply meaning looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. If anything, crisis events such as the COVID-19 Pandemic remind us that life is not always a bowl of cherries.

And there’s no need to walk around spewing empty platitudes, especially if you don’t mean or believe them. No, optimism encompasses much more than this. Chiefly, optimism is about mastering a mindset that acknowledges that adversity is nearly always just a temporary setback. Let me repeat that: a temporary setback. Too often in life, and especially after the year we’ve just had, it’s easy to dwell on adversity. But that’s exactly what we need to avoid doing.

This past year spoiled a lot of our dreams. Let down by this health crisis, it’s easy to feel jaded and be wary of becoming optimistic since reality might let us down again. That’s understandable. But in an adopting an optimistic attitude, you train yourself to focus on the positive circumstance yet to come, instead of dwelling on the negative circumstance you find yourself in at any given moment. This is key to becoming more optimistic, because dwelling in the negative is what causes us to become depressed, listless, and unmotivated to move on.

Live with Mindful Intent and Purpose

Anyone can learn to become more optimistic. One method for doing so is staying mindful of your purpose. Always have a purpose, intent, or goal for every action you take, even if that action is as small as, say, getting up in the morning and saying an affirmation.

People who live with purpose and intention feel more fulfilled – because every action becomes a success, at least a vast majority of the time. With that much “winning” going on, it’s a lot easier to see setbacks as temporary, and success as your new normal – so make an effort to think about every action you take and have positive intent behind it. Get in the habit of celebrating each success.

Soon, you will be in the habit of enjoying getting things accomplished, and realize that setbacks are a lot fewer and surmountable than you previously believed.

Approach Hardship in a Productive Manner

Being optimistic doesn’t mean always having a pollyannaish demeanor. In fact, optimists don’t ignore life’s stresses, rather, they accept that hardships will and do occur. The habit to get into is not letting hardships, when they occur, consume the entirety of your thinking. Instead, use the hardship to fuel other reactions and other intentions. Learn from the hardship, understand it is going to make you feel upset, but then move on to the next goal of finding a way to build off of the hardship.

I know this is tough advice to heed after a full year of hardship, but you have to remember, a hardship like COVID-19 only comes once a lifetime. Your goal now is to shake off the bad habits – the pessimistic feelings – it instilled in you and start building a pattern of manifesting positive successes.

Keep Away from Kryptonite

Finally, as you go about are constructing a stronger, post-pandemic, “super” you, be careful to stay away from your kryptonite – those toxic people, situations, and relationships that will keep you stuck in a negative mind set.

Keep note of the company you keep and the discussions you participate in. Negativity is both toxic and contagious. Try, instead, to surround yourself with like-minded people who want to support and encourage your success. Do your part by encouraging theirs as well.

Challenge Yourself: Can You Be Optimistic for 21 Days?

Recently, I hosted a video series on YouTube entitled 21 Days of Optimism. Why 21 days? Because that’s how long, experts tell us, it takes for a new habit to “stick”. So, given the tough year we’ve all been through, I started challenging others to practice being optimistic for 21 day, three weeks, to see if it had a change in their wellbeing. I was surprised how well the program did, and that’s why I’m giving you the same challenge now. Can you be optimistic for 21 days? Give it a shot and see what wonder it does for you.

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