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3 Ways to Thrive, Not Just Survive, During Covid

Not everybody feels successful in the same ways. Find out what your best feels like, then take steps to get there.

How to thrive
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In Frank Capra’s 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life is a scene when the main character George Bailey, at home during World War II because of a childhood injury, is struggling to speak to a group of frustrated townspeople waiting for gasoline rations. He says, with exasperation, “Don’t you know there’s a war on?”

I’ve thought of that scene many times during the pandemic, when we have all had to ration not rubber and nylon, but energy, patience, attention and understanding.

In times of great challenge, it’s natural and even helpful to shift into “survival” mode as Bailey did. As a strategy, survival mode is a chance to be flexible with our expectations for ourselves, to end each day with a feeling of having navigated something hard—to varying degrees of success. 

Psychologists note that survival mode is marked by stress indicators including disturbed sleep, a general sense of nervousness, muscle tension and irritability.

After awhile, though, it can become hard to remember the difference between “surviving” and “thriving.” Thriving is marked by more consistency in our moods plus our ability to communicate, focus and adjust gracefully to changing circumstances. In the film, things had to get much worse for George Bailey before he reconnected with the things that fuel his life’s thriving—the love and connection of his family and dear friends.

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the first time we heard the word “coronavirus,” it’s a good time to focus on how we define “thriving” for ourselves, and map out ways we can take daily steps in that direction. 

1)  Distinguish “Thriving” from “Surviving”
Be intentional about the difference between getting through a hard day and feeling a bit easier throughout your day. What’s different—the amount of sleep you get? The amount of water you drink? The amount of time you spend outdoors? Get specific about what a successful day looks like for you.

2)  Make a New Definition of “Thriving”
The past year has brought a “new normal” to our lives, including the definition of what it means to be succeeding or thriving. Be gentle with yourself if your baseline habits have changed—we have all been through (and are going through) something very hard. Ask yourself what it would feel like to be doing well right now, not measured by your previous standards.

3)  Choose Just One Way to Thrive
It could be that for you, coming out of survival mode is a multi-step process. Start with one area of your life that you want to feel great about every day. Maybe you complete 15 minutes of gentle stretches each evening. Or write daily in a journal, have a flavorful, healthy breakfast or organize a long-neglected closet in your home. 

Whatever else might be going on, bring a thriving mindset to just one thing you do every day, to remind yourself that success is not a win-or-lose situation but a continuum you move along each time you make a choice—even in a time of great challenge.

What does “thriving” look like for you?

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