Chasing Fifty Shades of Fox Glacier: The Lessons of Resilience During a Pandemic

Anzac Day 2020

The year of 2020 we went to War. Except we never left New Zealand. We went home instead. The enemy reached our shores very quickly. It was a very different war. A pandemic of wars. A World of Wars.

Should we call it World War III?

On her reflection of ANZAC 2020; Jude Dobson, the former NZ TV Presenter captured some poignant moments of similarities of war with the metaphors she used in her NZ Herald article. It has struck a cord with me being a frontline Nurse.

As we “Stand at Dawn”, we might perhaps catch our neighbour’s eye and shed a tear together as The Last Post is played.

This, of all years, will offer a very real connection with the cruelty, chaos, loss and aftermath of war. Although the war of 2020 comes in a different guise, it has the same hallmarks of death, destruction, rationing of supplies and loss of livelihood. Like a bruised and bloody boxer, utterly spent after a long battle, the pain of war will also linger much longer than the initial fight.

A Personal Reflection

On the eve of Anzac Day 2020 and in the middle of a global pandemic of COVID-19, I wrote this article. I felt very tested at times. Not having a full time job while still being able to maintain a real estate business was no easy feat. All these together whilst studying at University with minimal support brought a lot of uncertainty. But I knew I wasn’t alone in this journey.

I contributed to serving the country as an essential worker on the front lines of COVID-19. Testing and contact tracing remains a priority for the government and the population of the Southern part of New Zealand. I was part of the Southern District Health Intensive Care Unit Pandemic Training.

A Daily Instructions Manual on How to fight

New Zealand went into a complete lockdown. So did the world. The Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Honourable Jacinda Ardern armed us with some powerful rules and measures in place for the country to combat the enemy called COVID-19.

ANZAC 2020
A giant teddy bear turned humble hay bale commemorating the 2020 ANZAC celebrations in Southland, NZ. Photo Credit NZ Stuff

We were supported by the Police, Defence Force and Civil Defence. We learned how to pull triggers by washing our hands constantly as we journeyed through the different four-tier alert levels clearly laid out by the government. We were instructed to check on our neighbours and the elderly, to be neighbourly and to start phone trees from our streets. We learned new vocabulary such as “bubble, social distancing, contact tracing, quarantine, clusters, zoom, essential worker and unprecedented.”

Phrases such as “stay in your bubble, don’t break your bubble and practice social distancing” became a daily TV show at 1pm for our Prime Minister and Dr Ashley Bloomfield during the lockdown. Our Teddy Bears, through our windows or on our farms brought light, hope and smiles through the dark shadows. The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, both essential workers kept our mental health and sanity intact. We were also encouraged to keep diaries and journals for the purposes of contact tracing.

It was becoming a very different war indeed.

Our Greatest Powerful Weapon: Show Kindness

Our weapons were; be kind, be supportive and we will get through this together as continually emphasised by our Prime Minister.

be kind
Our weapon to get through the war together: Be Kind.

The meme on social media spoke volumes of the magnitude of what we were doing as a nation. “Your Grandparents were called to War. You’re being called to sit on your couch. You can do this.”

These were unprecedented times. It comes with unprecedented decisions. What we were doing was uniting the world from a distance to combat a virus that is a global pandemic. By sitting on our couches, we were saving lives. Not everyone understood this I believe. It had a significant impact on how the enemy was being controlled in these unprecedented times.

A very different war indeed.

Our Full Armour: Resilience

This global pandemic is testing one of our superhuman quality. The ability to be resilient in the face of a global disaster or unexpected circumstances and events in our lives.

The month of being in a complete lockdown in New Zealand has forever changed us. It has forced us to adapt and adjust to the changes and the challenges. For many, it broke us. The stress and the trauma of it has been unbearable.

Mentally.

Financially.

Physically.

Decades of action
The UN working to fight Covid 19 and achieve Global Goals.

But for some of us, we found new opportunities to spring back emotionally. Stressful periods often do that. Many of us Millennials, Generations X Y Z and Alpha will understand as we are continually learning.

This was and will be a war we will never forget. Ever. We will pay the repercussions for the years to come.

The Resilience of Our Pacific Neighbours

The Pacific went to the war too. They played a huge part supporting the NZ troops. Today on Anzac Day 25th April 2020, I am remembering and honouring our Service Men and Women.

These are special times indeed.

I remembered an emotional tribute and acknowledgement to our Pacific Soldiers especially the Cook Islands and Niue who served honourably during the war. Her Excellency The Right Honourable Dame Patsy Reddy, Governor General of NZ mentioned their service in the Vice-Regal Address. It stayed with me.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them” 

In the midst of this global pandemic, Vanuatu suffered another category 5 tropical cyclone called Harold. Tropical cyclone Pam struck in 2015 of similar magnitude and devastation. A double frontal disaster for them. The other Pacific nations Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga were part of this catastrophic disaster too.

But it’s the resilience of the people.

Tragedy after tragedy.

Disaster after disaster.

Heartbreak after heartbreak.

Rebuilt after rebuilt.

These people became and stayed resilient. Christchurch has experienced this similar  phenomena too.

But how?

Research on resilience suggests a number of traits can help us follow through difficult and stressful life events. Perhaps we should be looking at our Pacific neighbours on how they have achieved and maintained this phenomena so well.

Growing our Resilient Wellbeing

Special characteristics are part of themes contributing to being resilient. Marcel Schwantes, the Founder and Chief Human Officer of Leadership from the Core wrote of these:

First, our attitude. Attitudes provide the outlook, focus and psychological support that can lead to personal growth.

Secondly, resilience skill development. This focuses on learning and applying techniques for problem solving: changing your perception, empathic listening and communicating effectively with others.

Thirdly, healthy lifestyle. This tends towards being focused on supporting the physical and the emotional energy needed to recharge.

According to Psychologist Rick Hanson, the New York Times Best Selling author of Resilient, a basic fundamental need and a priority for all human beings is the need for satisfaction. The other two he discussed were safety and connection.

Poppies 2020
ANZAC 2020 Lest we forget.

In this global pandemic, a lot of us Kiwis were satisfied with the leadership from our Prime Minister and her government. She led from the front. We remained compliant to her instructions, measures and leadership. The statistics of 87% as shown by the survey from Colmar Brunton gave significant indications of public backing for NZ Covid response. We were satisfied. We felt safe as community transmissions evidently became lower during alert level 4. We stayed connected through technology as the government pumped in more financial help to the New Zealand MediaWorks to keep us all sane through Radio, TV and other entertainment channels.

Pillars of Resilience

Rick Hanson expanded that satisfaction is met by drawing on four pillars of mental resources and emotions. His emphasis was on:

Mindfulness. Staying present in the moment as it is, rather than daydreaming, ruminating or being distracted.

Gratitude. Appreciating and feeling good about what already exists.

Motivation. Pursuing opportunities in the face of challenges.

Aspiration. Reaching for and achieving results that are important to us.

When we draw from these through any circumstances, we become more resilient. Lest-We-Forget-Remembrance-Day-Facebook-Cover-Picture

Final Words

ANZAC 2020 will be a memorable one. As we reminisce, honour our past and fallen heroes who dedicated their lives serving in the wars on the frontlines, we will remember them. As we delve into the history again, learning and reading about the wars and the pandemics, we will remember them.

Our Easter celebrations for 2020 became virtual as we tuned into healing and reassurances online. Our world no doubt, has changed. Drastically. We are continuously adjusting and adapting to it.

We have become more creative; more than ever before to stay connected, feel safe and to reach some degree of satisfaction.

But the persistent question remains, as a global community, will we win this battle from different front lines?

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