Building Resiliency in a Global Pandemic


For families and youth across the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic is a source of unexpected stress and adversity. Building resilience can help us get through this time and overcome hardship. However, resilience is not something we’re born with, rather it’s built over time as the experiences we go through interact with our own unique self. That’s why we all respond differently to stress, anxiety and adversity, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are a few things you can do with your family to help build and strengthen resiliency during this global pandemic. Think of resilience as a seesaw or balance scale, where negative experiences tip the scale toward bad outcomes, and positive experiences tip it toward good outcomes.

1.       Unload the negative side. We can lighten the load on the negative side of the resilience scale by reducing sources of stress for families, youth, parents and teachers. Reducing sources of stress may include; creating and providing children’s activity kits that include things like coloring books, crayons and markers, word searches, puzzles, books, craft supplies, etc. to give parents and caregivers a breakeven for a few minutes at a time. Encouraging parents and caregivers to take time to do some self-careeven if it’s just taking a few minutes to themselves, going for a walk, or getting plenty of rest.

2.       Load up on the positive side. We can add to the positive side of the resilience scale by piling on positive experiences—especially through responsive relationships. The one thing that most children who develop resilience have in common is a stable, committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult. Adults need those supportive relationships, too! Maintain and encourage connections with family and friends. Even though we’re all required to maintain physical distance, it’s important to call, video chat, email, or write letters to the people we care about to engage in responsive interactions, protect our emotional well-being, and manage the stress of living through this challenging time.

3.       Move the fulcrum (where the scale pivots). We can make it easier for a scale to tip toward positive outcomes by strengthening core life skills. All of us need executive function and self-regulation skills to manage daily life, but stress makes it more difficult to use the skills we have. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we need these core life skills for things like planning less frequent trips to the grocery store or market, filling out forms for relief funds or loans, navigating support programs, and for managing work, home, and caring for children. During a crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak, families need their immediate, basic needs met before they can focus on anything else. But, when the crisis is over, longer-term programs that support adults and children in building and practicing their core life skills will again be necessary and effective.

4.       Get involved in ResilienTN. The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) and Department of Health have kicked off a new campaign centered around the risk of drug overdose and suicide during the winter holidays. The campaign focuses on building resilience and strengthening community connections to prevent the tragic loss of life to overdose and suicide.  Behavioral health experts worry the climate around the COVID-19 pandemic may worsen the rise in overdoses traditionally associated with the winter holidays and could also result in increased deaths from suicide. Learn more about the ResilienTN campaign and how you can get involved here.