Health is Wealth - Post Traumatic Growth - Time for a Life Review
This is part two of my blog on common mental challenges we’re facing during the COVID-19 outbreak. My last blog focused on loneliness, change and loss. This time we’re focusing on the life review process that can emerge after the worst of traumatic times.
Whether we like it or not we’re learning to live with Coronavirus. The last few weeks have been tough for everybody. A unique phenomenon often arises just past the peak of tough times called post-traumatic growth. This is something I’m being asked to help with more and more right now and refers to individuals deeply reviewing their life as a result of intensely challenging experiences. Positive psychological changes include improving relationships, improving self-view, confidence and considering a direction change from a new awareness of personal strengths and a more health-respecting outlook on life.
Tough experiences make us look at our way of life, reflect upon what we have learnt about ourselves and perhaps change the way we live based on that reflection. Growth from adversity comes easier over time, as we need space to process our reflections. It also comes easier to those who are realistically optimistic - this trait is doesn’t always come naturally but can be improved, or learned with mind management training.
Don’t fret if personal growth and positive change isn’t on your radar at all now. It may simply be too soon, or you may be caught up in a ‘more busy than before’ everyday to have the opportunity to really think about a life review. Your time may well arrive in the weeks to come, or you may find this article resonates with you, sowing a seed to build upon in the future.
Challenging times can make us stronger
Psychologist Dr. Richard Tedeschi proposed the theory of post-traumatic growth. He says,
“people develop new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have and a better understanding of how to live life”.
Certain subjects keep coming up in discussions of life reviews and are reflected in studies of post-adversity positive growth:
Appreciation of life
Relationships with others
New possibilities in life
All of the above relate to a down to earth honest assessment of your overall wellness and satisfaction in life. Values shift. Often it becomes less about what you own and more about what you have internally. Mental, emotional, psychological and physical fitness, weight management and overall wellness rise to the top for reasons of longevity, comfort, calmness, self esteem and disease avoidance, or disease reversal.
The latter - disease reversal/avoidance - is serious stuff. Being overweight has become common and normalised. Many are realising they value their one and only chance at life more than ever and have stopped making excuses of old to not prioritise health.
There are more reasons than ever to manage overall wellness, lose weight and get fitter. We’ve all been reminded of the fragility of life and our ability to minimise the risks that increase morbidity. We know more than ever that we are the only ones who can take responsibility for our long term health and that we can:
Minimise the risk of getting really ill or dying from COVID-19 - great article on the BBC here ‘Coronavirus: Does being overweight or obese affect how ill people get?’
Reverse Type II diabetes by eating well and losing weight - Great article in the Mirror here ‘Obese mum told she could die in five years loses 16st and reverses her diabetes’
Reduce high blood pressure
Reduce lifestyle related cancer risk (bowel cancer, lung cancer, in fact most cancers) by drinking less, eating a balanced diet, getting fitter and more active
Reduce dementia risk - Great article in the Telegraph here ‘Negative thought can raise risk of dementia’
Become calmer, happier, more confident and enjoy every day even if times are challenging
The list is far longer than above and we have heard it all before, becoming deaf to the reality and implications - until now. Now more of us are listening and alert to what control over our wellness means. Now is a great time to take control - to take your healthy Monday intentions and this time make them actions all week, every week, week after week until they become your new autopilot habits.
There are both practical factors and personal factors that influence our ability to see change through. Practical factors include circumstances and time since adversity. Personal factors include realistic optimism and openness to experience. An open mind and a down to earth optimism are vital for change, as is a period of recovery after the peak of ones troubles. It’s hugely helpful to simply make yourself aware that you can change your lot for the better as opposed to being helpless.
The take home message is it is OK to make positive self serving changes. It is not selfish but is self respecting and therefore it is right and proper to invest in positive changes and create new daily habits and a life that is good for you.
There is no perfect time to revamp your lifestyle, so don’t wait for a ‘good time’ - change breeds change. Maybe in these changing times you can instigate improvements and find your silver lining in the dark clouds of recent time.
Until next time, enjoy your reflection and stay well!