This is the second blog in our series, Hope, belonging, meaning and purpose: suicide prevention in times of crisis.


While we’re all adjusting to living in a state of constant change while experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, why do some of us adapt more readily than others?

Adapting to change is difficult; when confronted with change, we may feel off-balance, and we may struggle to maintain our mental health. We may feel nervous, fearful, lonely, and confused, among other troubling emotions. These reactions to change are normal. Some reactions, however, may worsen pre-existing mental health conditions and intensify thoughts of suicide.

When your thoughts, feelings, and actions continually overwhelm your daily functioning, or you feel helpless and trapped, it may be time to reach out for help – help is available. It is through our connection to others that we can gather strength (Zhou & Lin, 2006; Macleod, personal communication, 2020).

For many of us, our negative feelings will not lead to thoughts of suicide, but we may still be struggling. Some people adapt to change readily, while others need to develop this capacity intentionally.

Adapting to change

“Adaptability is the capacity to make appropriate responses to changed or changing situations; the ability to modify or adjust one’s behaviour in meeting different circumstances… “ (VandenBos, 2015, p. 18).

 Learning to adapt to our current circumstances is essential to maintain our mental health and wellbeing (Zhou & Lin, 2016). There are a few ways through which we can learn to adapt, and the first is that we can identify what changes have actually taken place and why.

Asking ourselves why these changes are happening can help ground the event in meaning, making it easier for us to accept and adapt in our personal situations (Martin et al., 2015).

People providing essential services are going through profound change in their work environments, for example. These changes may leave them feeling fearful or powerless. Focusing on the positive impacts of the work they are doing for others, and for society as a whole, may help ground them in the meaning of their roles.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of us have been called upon to limit the spread of the virus by simply staying home. This can leave us feeling like we are ‘doing nothing’ and yet, there is deep meaning in the action of physically distancing: this is how we help slow the spread. This shift in perspective redefines our forced confinement from being burdensome to meaningful action.

‘We’re all in this together’ seems to have become the slogan of the pandemic. As simple as it sounds, and as overplayed as it may be, it is true. No, we are not all coming from the same starting place nor are we each equally affected. At times we may feel very alone. But the fact remains, we are each playing a role. We are all working together for the common good: we are meaningfully connected. This meaningful connection to others helps us garner strength and enhance our ability to adapt and thrive (Zhou & Lin, 2016). The global pandemic response has been the first time in our lifetimes we have enacted quick, committed, international action. Taken together, our meaningful, individual responses result in a powerful, collective outcome.

“When you go out and see the empty streets, the empty stadiums, the empty train platforms, don’t say to yourself, “It looks like the end of the world.” What you’re seeing is love in action. What you’re seeing, in that negative space, is how much we do care for each other, for our grandparents, our parents, our brothers and sisters, protecting people we will never meet. People will lose jobs over this. Some will lose their businesses. And some will lose their lives. All the more reason to take a moment, when you’re out on your walk, or on your way to the store, or just watching the news, to look into the emptiness and marvel at all of that love. Let it fill you and sustain you. It isn’t the end of the world. It is the most remarkable act of global solidarity we may ever witness.” “Empty streets,” Anonymous, posted by author Paul Williams.

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If you’re feeling hopeless, desperate, overwhelmed, or are having thoughts of suicide, help is available.


This is the second blog in our series, Hope, belonging, meaning and purpose: suicide prevention in times of crisis.

All blogs in this series:
Hope, belonging, meaning and purpose
Change is hard: Learning to adapt

References

Martin, A.J., Nejad, H. G., Colmar, S., Liem, G. A. D., & Collie, R. (2015). The role of adaptability in promoting control and reducing failure dynamics: A mediation model. Learning and Individual Differences, 38, 36-43.

VandenBos, G. R. (2015). American Psychological Association (APA) Dictionary of Psychology (2nd ed.). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Zhou and Lin(2016). Adaptability and life satisfaction: The moderating role of social support. Frontiers in Psychology. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01134