One of the characteristics of emotional health is flexible responding. This means that you have the ability to change your behavior to fit the situation you are in, to make wise choices in context.

So many are being challenged now to respond to a situation that we have not faced before. Routines are interrupted and desired activities are not available. Our lives just aren’t the same. Many aren’t going to work, can’t eat at restaurants, or go to the gym. Maybe your favorite way of relaxing and coping is to be with friends or perhaps going to the beach. Perhaps you had planned a vacation that you were really looking forward to enjoying. Adjusting to this situation means being able to change your habits and find ways to make the restrictions we are under work for us in the best way possible. You may be tempted to just stop, be frustrated or upset, or be paralyzed with fear.

Take a look at what you miss. Exercise? Walk up and down stairs, follow an online exercise tape, or go for a walk (keeping 6 feet from other people). Maybe you begin teaching yourself something you didn’t know how to do before, such as ballroom dancing or yoga. There are tapes to follow on the internet for beginners.

If you miss hanging out with friends, try using an online video chat. Of course it’s not the same, but it’s a way to stay in touch. Share humorous cartoons or stories, or something that you found entertaining. Watch a movie together by playing the same movie in each of your homes and talking about it on the phone.

You may need to cook at home. Think about what you can cook that’s easy and quick (if you don’t like to cook) or new dishes that you may want to try (if you like to cook). If you enjoy cooking, you may be challenged by figuring out what you can cook with staples you have on hand. You may have more time, so you might want to consider baking bread or other projects that can be time consuming and perhaps you’ve wanted to try but didn’t have time.

You may find that you have more time that you’ve had in the past. In general, what have you wanted to do that you didn’t have time to do before?

Flexible responding can include finding a silver lining. This is a disastrous event for so many with many tragic consequences. And at the same time, there may be lessons learned that we can take forward, or maybe we find some meaning from going through this situation. Is there something to learn? Can you find any meaning? We are seeing so many examples of people around the world reaching out to help others and sharing information. So perhaps one silver lining would be how people are coming together and working together to get through this.

How are you responding flexibly?
By Karyn Hall, Ph.D., May 8, 2020

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