Staying strong during tough times with the “medicine of resilience”


​​​​As Indigenous people, we can draw on our intergenerational resilience


A message from Dr. Shannon McDonald, Acting Chief Medical OfficerDr-Shannon-McDonald.jpg

We would probably all agree that the year 2020 is not going to win any popularity contests! BC was already in the middle of one public health emergency – the opioid overdose crisis – when we were hit with another one – the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, we had to isolate ourselves and make other drastic changes to our lifestyles. For over two months, things have been very different – and difficult.

Fifty per cent of Canadians say their mental health has deteriorated over the past several weeks because of the pandemic, according to a recent survey by Angus Reid Institute. This is not surprising; we're dealing with a dangerous virus on top of the usual stresses of life, and are anxious about our loved ones or ourselves getting sick. Needless to say, we could all use extra helpings of inner strength and resilience right now!

Resilience – the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, change, threats or significant sources of stress – has been called a “mind-body medicine that reduces the need for health care." We as Indigenous people have many years of experience with using the medicine of resilience – our inherent, intergenerational resilience – to not only survive but to come out stronger.

We have already begun the process of resilience by adapting quickly to come up with solutions to safely continue our daily lives. Even so, there is more we can do to cultivate resilience to help ourselves and others get through this challenging time while remaining as healthy and well as possible. Here are some recommendations:

*Follow the FNHA's four wellness streams: 1) Eat Healthy; 2) Be Active; 3) Nurture Spirit; 4) Respect Tobacco. (If you smoke cigarettes or vape, you're at a higher risk of both lung disease and COVID-19: click here for more information.) 

*Maintain or establish a routine, even if you don't have a job right now or your work situation has changed. Wherever possible, keep consistent times for meals, getting dressed, work, study, exercise, leisure, and sleep

*Stay connected with others by video call, email, text, phone, or other apps. Try virtual groups, e.g., the Facebook Social Distance Powwow, which has 186,000+ members sharing videos of wonderful cultural activities and good-news stories.

*Focus on the positive things in your life -- not on negative news! Cultivate gratitude and hope, and try to keep things in perspective, e.g., “This too shall pass."

*We as Indigenous people have always used humour to get through tough times. Seek out funny stuff like these videos.

*Don't overwhelm yourself by creating a big list of things to achieve while you're at home. Instead, set reasonable goals and give yourself credit for even small steps.

*Avoid or cut down on alcohol or drugs, which can make matters worse and reduce your coping skills. Also limit caffeine, as it can aggravate stress.

It's normal to feel stress and worry during a crisis (click here for more information), but if you feel pushed beyond your limit, please seek support. Call your primary care provider or mental health professional to ask about options such as phone, video or online appointments. Or, click here for contact information of mental wellness supports available during the pandemic, or here for mental wellness resources for youth.

If you need immediate assistance: you can call 9-1-1 or the BC Suicide Prevention & Crisis Centre: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433). Or you can go to your nearest hospital.

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