In stressful times, meaningful activities can provide relief and healing. In response to the September 11 events, I submitted a position document to an expert panel at the American Occupational Therapy Foundation in the fall of 2011. The paper was intended to guide meaningful activity. The argument remains the same despite the fact that the circumstances have changed dramatically. It is beneficial to be occupied, but its benefits increase when we face anxiety, distress, or upheaval.
Since the beginning of recorded history, we know that meaningful occupations are important to human beings. According to an extensive review of international literature, seven meaningful activities are proven to support our wellbeing in difficult times.
1. Identity: Our actions remind us who we are. The way we spend our time contributes to the maintenance and formation of the self. The integrity of the self is threatened by difficult times. The occupation is the means by which the past, present, and future of the self are integrated. When faced with difficult circumstances, work can offer the opportunity to become a more complete and integrated self after the crisis is resolved.
2. It reminds us that we can control our circumstances. It confirms that we can master a situation and use it to our advantage. The occupation makes the person an agent of their position rather than a victim of it. Validates our sense of mastery and adaptability.
Maintaining and developing habits can help you regain control. (Shutterstock)
3. Habit: Being busy in the middle of a crisis reinforces our daily routine. It assures us that life can go on as normal. For many years, it has been known that habits can restore order when chaos seems to be the norm. Habits can improve skill, reduce fatigue, and free up attention, as well as protect against stressful situations.
4. Diversion: When you do something, it helps to distract from stressful situations. Diversional activities allow individuals to transcend obstacles and difficulties they face in daily life and, in some cases, even achieve a more optimal experience outside of the fixed realities that we call “flow .” The power of occupation is to divert people from their difficulties towards satisfaction and healthy engagement.
5. Support: Being occupied involves interaction with others – giving support to their coping attempts and receiving it in return. It is well known that a sense of belonging can help people achieve positive results and weather stress without causing negative health effects. The positive impact of shared occupations is, therefore, twofold. In addition to the obvious benefits to the person receiving the support, careers that contribute to the wellbeing of another have been proven to have many benefits to the provider.
6. Many occupations have a survival value. Anthropology and prehistory have shown that humans developed and differentiated occupations to promote co-operation and that they were beneficial for both individual survival and group survival. The works that humans have created are vital for their survival. They provide safety and sustenance.
Baking bread can be a fun way to keep busy and is a valuable life skill. (Shutterstock)
7. Spiritual Connection: When difficult times occur, occupations are a way to restore meaning in your life. In the past, people may have sought meaning through religion. Still, in today’s world of secular pluralism, occupations are the most effective way to affirm one’s connection to the self, others, the cosmos, and the divine. Being occupied can help one feel less alone in stressful situations.
Continue to learn how to knit, do yoga online, and sort photos. Seven reasons will keep your sense of community and self intact during this pandemic.