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It’s OK to be OK

Is It OK To Be OK? This seems like a peculiarly English question to ask, especially during this pandemic, when the present time seems so full of doom and disaster. As a culture, we’re uncomfortable with too much optimism, which we see as slightly deluded. It makes us suspicious.

Yet the stories that inspire us are full of optimism, hope and resilience. Nothing better demonstrates this than the inspirational Captain Tom Moore, who has raised more than £20 million for the NHS walking around his garden.

The Greatest Generation’s greatest attribute was resilience, as personified by this 99-year old war veteran, who shows us how to stand up to adversity. Resilience is courage, hope and determination. If we ever needed to listen to anyone about hope and the human spirit, it should be him.

19 April 2020, Saxony-Anhalt, Magdeburg: Japanese ornamental cherries bloom along the Holzweg in Magdeburg. Photo: Stephan Schulz/dpa-Zentralbild/ZB

Taking a realistic perspective on life’s events and circumstances is healthy, even if we need to sprinkle on some negativity just in case. This negative aspect is the “yes but…” equivalent to anxiety’s “what if”.

Resilient people seem to show perseverance, tolerance, flexibility, optimism, and perhaps above all, they do not underestimate their coping strategies. Sometimes thoughts are worse than the experience, and people often find they cope better with life’s misfortunes than they may have anticipated. Vanessa knows a lady who spent years worrying about her elder husband’s death only to find that, sad as she was, she coped when the time came.

Resilience can enable us to take charge of our thoughts and stops them spiralling out of control. Resilience offers people the ability to rise to life’s challenges less emotionally.

Of course, there are tragedies in life, but they may be offset by an overall sense of confidence. This enables the resilient and robust people to keep on going and often to bounce back. We see this determination and drive to keep on marching with Captain Tom Moore. He demonstrates a degree of courage and perseverance learned in wartime. What resilient people have is a strength and tolerance that is linked to hope. They have a belief that things will get better.

Ultimately, it may be a belief that one will be able to cope that underlies resilience. People with high self-esteem tend to believe they can deal with what life may throw at them. They react and adapt as events unfold, as opposed to fantasising negatively as to how they might crumble when faced with adversity.

One reason resilient people fare better is that their internal locus of control affords them the ability to better choose their thoughts and feelings at times of distress. They may be less inclined to self-pity. It’s not that resilient people don’t get down or depressed or are thick-skinned or insensitive, but they are more able to manage and transcend their suffering.

Some find that their chronic anxiety has mysteriously disappeared at this time, which is in stark contrast to the more common reaction of increased stress. When faced with a genuine threat, people no longer have time to conjure up fantasies, and they may realise the contents of their worries may have been trivial by comparison. People are mostly resilient in a uniform way. Oddly, the flip side of resilience anxiety, is more a bespoke disorder, is like a virus that targets whatever we value most and turns us inside out with worry and fear about it.

Heidi has been in Toronto for several weeks, and that has allowed her to listen to many Canadians, including writer Malcolm Gladwell and astronaut Chris Hadfield. Both see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s OK to be OK. Captain Moore is proof.