Between the lived reality of Covid-19, exceedingly high levels of unemployment and social unrest due to a complex political environment locally and abroad, the events of 2020 have created many reasons to feel sad, angry, anxious, stressed, and depressed. The South African Stress and Health Study conducted this year found that since the start of the pandemic, South Africans’ stress levels have increased by 56%.
“So many people have felt the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their mental strength,” says Thabang Tlaka, independent psychologist and life coach. “Social distancing, working from home (with kids or roommates or no space to work), on what may be a reduced salary or processing the grief that follows the loss of a loved one are some of the experiences that have triggered mental health conditions or worsened existing ones.”
This is indeed an unprecedented time, and the world is going through significant trauma for a variety of reasons. Even if you have not had your physical or financial health directly impacted by the pandemic, hearing about it repeatedly on the news and social media platforms can be highly distressing and upsetting.
At this point in the year, after enduring and witnessing various large-scale issues, it may feel as though there is no fuel left in the tank. However, Tlaka says that it is important to keep in mind that you are much stronger than what you may think. “Resilience is an important tool to help us get through and overcome hardship. By building mental resilience, you can limit the impact of life’s inevitable challenges on your wellbeing. Developing confidence in your ability to solve problems and trusting your instincts helps build resilience. Keep things in perspective. Even when facing very painful events, try to consider the stressful situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective.”
Resilience is the psychological quality that allows some people to be knocked down by the adversities of life and come back at least as strong as, or even stronger than before. When learning from trying times, we need to tap into more than just our own lived experiences, but the experiences of those around us. In doing so, we all learn from each other and can find ourselves in a better position to deal with tough situations in the future and become stronger together in our adversities.
Like so many others, the effects of Covid-19 created anxiety and stress for Author and Actress Rami Chuene. “I don’t think any of us anticipated how things turned out. One day we were going about our business, the next we had to deal with the impact of Covid-19 in the country. With the news of infections and the death toll rising daily, job losses and restrictions in terms of physical movement and gatherings, levels of stress and anxiety have shot up.
“I have however been encouraged by the resilience of those around me – family, friends and colleagues who moved from anxiety, panic and fear to acceptance. They managed to adapt to the changes (restrictions and regulations) and accepted them as a way of life to ensure everyone’s safety. We know that we are going to have to live with the virus for quite some time, and have found ways and means to be brave, courageous, and hopeful. Now, we can move on with the belief that we will rebuild, we will be okay, and that makes us winners. Life goes on, we move on.”
Metropolitan is inviting South Africans to hear more about Chuene’s experience, and to share their own stories of loss, during the “Mzansi Class of 2021” virtual series. Hosted over the course of three weeks, the series will be led by popular local personalities, Chuene, Somizi Mhlongo and DJ Tira, who will share their experiences with loss this year. In addition, experts will join the sessions to help South Africans work through their losses and put plans in place to mitigate against the devastation of loss so that they can start 2021 on stronger footing. Topics to be covered in the series include loss of income, loss of a loved one and loss of well-being.
“The events of this year have taken a significant emotional toll. But developing resilience is an important tool to help you deal with any potential loss and suffering in the future.
Fortunately, resilience can be learnt and many may find that they have become more resilient after facing such adversity in the year that was. Every defeat, loss or heartbreak, contains its own lesson on how to be better prepared for next time.”