Ask The Therapist: Pandemic as a Catalyst for Personal Growth

Question: I’ve had an extremely difficult time during the pandemic, and I am still struggling. However, I hear other people talking about using this experience as a time for growth. What do they mean? How can I do that?

A: Having a hard time under these trying circumstances is entirely natural, however research does offer strategies that will help us cope better. The best way to deal with stressful situations is by having a deep and meaningful connection to other people. Eating well, sleeping well and exercising are important, but most essential is having someone to turn to to help process what you are feeling and experiencing. Conversely, trying to hold everything inside, can make you feel worse.

Post Traumatic Growth

There is another level to dealing with difficult situations, beyond just “getting-by.” My mentor, George Faller, introduced me to a concept called ‘Post Traumatic Growth,’ based on the work of Richard Tedeschi PhD and Lawrence Calhoun PhD. Post Traumatic Growth is based on the idea that within the stress and challenges that we face, there are opportunities to stretch ourselves and grow.

Research on people who have undergone all manner of challenges and difficulties have identified five areas of potential personal growth:

1)Increased Purpose People found more purpose or opportunities to grow; things became more important to them, and they started to look at life as an opportunity for change.

2) Increased sense of one’s own capabilities They discovered that they were more capable than they had previously believed, and that they achieved more than they would have thought possible.

3) Increased Appreciation People felt more gratitude for what they had and became more aware of the richness in their lives.

4) Increased value for Relationships Relationships are the most important part of life. People rediscovered the power and importance of their own relationships.

5) Increased Spirituality People grew more spiritual. They soul searched and contemplated God’s plan and how they could change to become closer to God.

Catalyst for growth

You don’t have to wait until the crisis is over before tapping into these five elements. Ongoing challenges can drive a process which could lead you to a very different place. Keep in mind that there is a greater purpose, and that while the distress is very real, we have the ability to reframe this challenge as a catalyst for growth.

Practical ideas

1) Purpose Look for chances to grow. Think deeply about what truly matters to you. Reflect regularly on how you might be able to use whatever is going on in a meaningful way.

2) Capability Take a moment during the day to reflect, to ground yourself and see how much you are growing and celebrate that. Look at what you were able to do over this time. Allow yourself to say thank you to yourself. Treat yourself to something special- your favorite treat or take a coffee break and give yourself a pat on the back. Realize that when this is over you will be able to look back and say wow, how was I able to do that?

3)Appreciation What are you appreciative about? What are the highlights in your life? Take a moment to list them in your mind and celebrate them.

4) Relationships Reflect on how important family and friends are in your life, especially when you can’t see them or spend time with them in person. Pick up the phone and reach out to a friend or loved one. Nurture your connections.

5)Spirituality Ask yourself what message is God trying to relate, to tell you- you can use it as an opportunity to get a closer relationship with Him. Ask yourself, how does He want me to show up today?

Gaining resilience and a sense of renewal

Yes it is stressful. Yes it is hard. We won’t always be our best selves in difficult times. However, the silver lining of a crisis is that it can be an opportunity to gain resilience, a better understanding of how to live life, and a sense of renewal. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Nissan Lachman, LMSW, Certified EFT couples’ therapist, Co-Founder EFT Israel, Director of Shlavim at Kav L’Noar

‘Ask the Kav L’Noar Therapist’ is a series running every fourth Monday of the month. If you would like your question to be considered for the series, please send it to feedback@kavlnoar.org. All correspondence will be kept in the strictest confidence.

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