Monday, February 15, 2021

Human Adaptation and Resilience: The Ability to Bounce Back from the Stress of COVID

Did you know that the average height of a female 100 years ago was 5 feet 2 inches, and a male was 5 feet 7 inches.  Today it is 5 feet 4 inches for women, and 5 feet 10 inches for men.  Doesn't seem like much, but in just 100 years, we are taller than we once were because evolution seems to believe that we need that for our survival.  This ability of the human being to adapt is what makes our species so capable of survival and to be resilent to the constantly changing factors that make up life on this planet.

Look what happened this last year between January and December 2020.  Due to the COVID situation, our species adapted repeatedly to the changing conditions required by the presence of the virus.  We had to change the way we work, the way we buy food, the way we go to the vet, the dentist, the doctor.  We had to change the way we stand in a line in public, and in the way we just walked up and down an aisle at any given store.  And in order to survive the virus itself, we had to decipher what the rules and laws would be that make our species strive toward survival in the safest way.  In this case, we were also torn between different definitions of survival.  One form of survival was to avoid the virus completely, but another was to have a job, money, and means to keep a roof over one's head, food on the table, bills paid, all of which are also what helps us survive by providing heat, air, internet, transportation, and so much more.  These differing definitions left us at times torn between staying home or venturing out to get food and go to work.  All of these survival "needs" are things we strive for every day, even if it just seems like it's our basic day to day activities and not necessarily hunting wild game or fighting predators, as it might have been in ancient times.

What this means is that we are under a lot of daily stress to take care of ourselves and make it from one day to the next.  Our survival needs (and COVID) have pushed our daily limits, and what we were once used to is now expanded from what it was just a year ago.  I'm sure many of us had no idea that just learning to stay home was going to one day be a survival behavior we would need to "endure", and that each of the things we've had to adjust to since the beginning of 2020 would increased our stress.  So thank goodness for the incredible human ability toward adaptation and resilience.  We are getting the job done despite the increased stress, but this means there has also been an increased need to cope with all of that stress as well.

The good news is that our brains have also evolved and we have used those brains to create an abundance of ways to cope with our stress.  Though some of those means are unhealthy adaptation methods, many others are very healthy and finding one that you resonate with is going to be key in bouncing back from what has been a very long year of endurance with the COVID virus.

Though this list of relaxation techniques is not exhaustive, it does provide some ideas for you to try as you (like many of us) continue your journey of resilience and adaptation to this magnificent changing world:

  • Get a massage
  • Meditate
  • Listen to soothing music
  • Learn Tai Chi, Qigong, Yoga
  • Soak in a warm bath or hot tub
  • Sit down to a cup of green tea
  • Spend time with your favorite pet
  • Learn a meditative form of chanting
  • Forest Bathing
  • Practice slow diaphragmatic breathing
  • Aromatherapy
  • Biofeedback
  • Art (viewing or creating)
  • Hiking

Thanks to peasap for the great photo (