Nurturing Resiliency and Thrivership Amid COVID-19 and Cancer Adversity

April 16, 2020
Tamera Anderson-Hanna
Tamera Anderson-Hanna

Tamera Anderson-Hanna is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Addiction Professional, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and became a Registered Yoga Teacher while coping with breast cancer in 2015. She owns Wellness, Therapy, & Yoga in Florida where she provides personal wellness services and coaching and she is a public speaker on wellness-related topics. You can connect with her at www.wellnesstherapyyoga.com.

Thrivership and resilience are what we can gain from adversity and help us cope with change.

Thriving in times of uncertainty is something those of us who have had cancer can relate to. The diagnosis and conditions might not seem fair, but we get to control how we cope. This might be a good reminder under current circumstances. There are stages many of us will experience that include shock, anger, fear, bargaining, and potential feelings of despair but hopefully, when we experience a setback, we let all of that in to reach a stage of acceptance. In today's terms, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, thrivership and resilience are what we can gain from adversity.

Cancer and current stay at home orders may have many grieving not only a diagnosis but a loss of identity, sense of purpose and routine. I have been impressed with individuals who are thriving and tapping into their resilience in light of uncertainty.

I had to personally explore my ability to tap into resilience and ability to cope with setbacks when I experienced an infection shortly after my double mastectomy. It took me back to healing all over again and my exchange surgery was delayed for 6 months while coping with an infection. In the process of healing, I tapped into skills I was practicing by becoming a registered yoga teacher, but also tips I had shared and processed for several years with clients I saw working as a Licensed Mental Health Professional. I am presently at home healing my lungs from exposure to mold before being allowed to return to my normal duties as a first responder and likely future exposure to COVID-19. I have drawn upon my past experiences with setbacks to guide me during this time of healing.

Things I am doing to promote a sense of resiliency or thrivership include what might be some helpful tips for you.

Create a schedule. I realized my first day of staying home I wanted to keep some sense of routine and feelings of productivity so I made an effort to get up around the same time I would for work and spread out activities to help fill my day.

Practicing patience and gratitude. Using patience has been key to helping maintain a sense of happiness. I am presently not allowed to leave my home to shop, so I depend on other family members to go to the store or I wait on deliveries to arrive to include needed medications. I switched to using telemedicine a couple of weeks ago and I have begun only filling any needed prescriptions by mail order. I don't control the speed at which things will happen these days, but I focus on what I have and gratitude that basic needs are being managed.

Practice kindness. I have found ways to help others to include being a guest wellness professional on podcasts to Facebook Live and other media outlets. It has been a good feeling to be called upon to discuss with others ways to enhance mental and physical well-being during this time. I have called to check on individuals I know are alone and are simply in need of social contact.

Develop a positive playlist. I was reminded of having songs that motivate me and music can influence our mood so I am careful to watch movies, news, or to listen to music which is of good quality and that will nourish my mind. I consider the quality of my self-talk and what I feed my mind to be similar to any foods I select to nourish my body.

Physical distance, not social distance. I schedule social meetings with peers via Zoom or other social networking. I have scheduled fun meetings such as gathering peers to sing happy birthday to those who would normally be celebrating in person or just to create a sense of community with groups I would normally socialize with or be teaching yoga to. I normally offer a free Yoga 4 Cancer class in Miami and with the help of Zoom, I am able to offer free live programming and I have been contacted by Susan G Komen of South Florida to explore programming I can offer with their support to reach more individuals who may be in need of social support at this time.

Work on my to-do lists. I have taken time to reflect and recall what I was often thinking when I said "If I only had more time" and I am working on some of those goals. For me, this includes fitting in training I can do online at my own pace to maintain certifications, and licensure, and playing simple games with my daughter or sitting down with a puzzle that allows us to slow down and bond.

Eating healthy. I enjoy chocolate, but I am eating fruits and mostly non-processed food to avoiding using foods for emotional comfort. This helps me in maintaining my immune system. I am also drinking fluids on a regular basis and mix in decaffeinated tea with extra ingredients to include turmeric and honey.

Physical Fitness. I am attempting to exercise or walk daily, sometimes I have time for both. This has included walking in limited areas around my home to enjoying various forms of yoga and mindful meditation to maintain a sense of calm.

Proper Sleep. Sleep has gotten to be a luxury with our typical busy schedules. I now have time to take a short afternoon nap if needed rather than reaching for a cup of coffee. If needed, I nap but for only 20 to 25 minutes to avoid entering into a deep sleep. I wake feeling refreshed and it is a way to give my mind and body a break if working on a computer.

Nurturing Mindfulness. I have been connecting with a sense of mindfulness by having pleasant smells around me and taking in the views of my orchids which are blooming to fruit trees or the developing pineapples I grow. Sunsets and sunrises are also a favorite and if I miss the sound of the ocean, I play recordings I have made of the sounds of the water. Birds sound louder and there is generally less noise in my community but rather a quiet sense of calm.

In general, I have taken a step back to nurture my own well-being and realize at this time in life — I am only in control of how I cope.

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