Everyone is getting very tired of trying to dredge up inner strength. There are the big things — the constant fears of terrible disease and imminent economic collapse. And there are the relatively little things — boredom, loneliness, feeling constrained, Zoom fatigue, wearing masks and gloves, and constant handwashing.
Meanwhile the regular stresses of life haven’t gone away. Family relationships, work, lack of work, non-COVID health issues, political strife — they all continue to be demanding and draining.
How do you find the inner strength to continue during Covid?
I found an interesting answer in an unlikely place — a book review in The Wall Street Journal. The book under review, To the Edge of Sorrow by Aharon Appelfeld, describes the experiences of a small band of fugitive Jews hiding in the Carpathian Mountains during World War II. Their goal is to outlast the Nazis and prepare for a future after the war.
As I thought about their situation, suddenly mine didn’t seem so awful. Believe me, I am not in any way equating our current crisis to the experience of Jews during WWII. But what struck me was that the book asked the question, “What did they rely on for the strength to continue?”
3 sources of inner strength
The author suggested that strength comes from your answers to three questions:
- Where do you go for wisdom?
- What is your community?
- What are the convictions which give meaning to your daily tasks?
The writer says, “Find those things and no trial is unendurable.”
I’ve been asking my clients those questions. They find wisdom in a myriad of places. For example, they think about what they learned from their parents’ stories of their own struggles and challenges. They turn to spiritual leaders or books. Sometimes they find their children are surprising sources of wisdom.
The question about community also yielded some interesting answers. Many people described re-kindling relationships they had neglected — old friends from high school, relatives they rarely spoke with, former colleagues. They also talked about struggling mightily to maintain their current relationships by mastering unfamiliar technological tools and finding creative ways to stay connected.
The question about convictions is a deeply personal one. People talked about their need to reach out and care for others who are more needy than they are. They described finding self-esteem by staying strong and calm in the face of huge challenges. They spoke of struggling to stay true to the best in themselves even when they felt afraid or angry or hopeless.
As we navigate our exhaustion, and yes, sometimes, our despair, thinking about our answers to those questions may be a powerful way to find our inner strength and carry on. If you’d like to share your answers, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.