Let’s talk about the elephant in the room; the coronavirus pandemic. Our whole lives have changed dramatically and rapidly. Many of us have had to stop going to work or have shifted to working from home, children are not going to school, and we have very limited social interactions outside of our home. Our activities, special events, and hobbies have been cancelled. It never escapes us that we could have the virus, be in close proximity to someone with the virus, and for those whose health is compromised to any degree it adds particular stress in considering how severely it could affect their health and well-being.
For those who are getting up and heading out to work each day, they are faced with increased pressure and increased vulnerability as to what they will be exposed to and what they could bring home to their own families.
During this time of heightened anxiety, there are some things that can offer comfort:
1. Meditation: I was listening to a podcast recently and Sam Harris offered this in addressing the importance of meditation during challenging times “Who will you be on the most stressful day of your life. You will only have the mind you built for yourself. You will only have the skills that you have acquired.” I’m not saying that you should sit for 1 hour, or 30 minutes, or even 10 minutes in meditation. We don’t even have to call it meditation. Practice spending 2-3 minutes, sitting quietly and focusing on your breath. We need to build those muscles of noticing and observing our body cues because that can be the difference between how we react to stress and how we interact with the people we are surrounded by. There are several apps that can help us to move into this practice. Calm and Headspace offer some free guided meditations and you can pay for additional access. Insight Timer is a great one and it’s all free. If you are a health care provider with an NPI number, you can gain access to the complete library of meditations that Headspace offers.
2. Your Tasks: I read a book called “The Courage to be Disliked” by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga which is a creative way of teaching about psychologist Alfred Adler’s theories. The authors discuss our “tasks” which are defined as anything that directly impacts us. When we are faced with a challenge and we feel triggered by it, we need to determine if this actually is our task or does it directly affect us. Hear me out because I promise I am not being heartless and selfish. If we determine that a task is not ours, so does not directly affect us, then we can take a breath, a step back and decide how we want to show up in the situation.
Rather than get angry because your neighbor’s children keep coming over asking to play, take a breath and remind yourself that you have made an intentional decision to keep your children isolated and then you can determine how you want to move forward. Maybe that means that you will make a call to the parents and kindly ask that they have the kids refrain from coming over but offer to host a virtual game that everyone can participate from home. Another option is to take a moment to reflect on how hard it can be to keep the kids contained at home and have empathy for each person’s unique circumstances and family dynamics. Maybe the kids are at home without their parents because their parents are essential workers that can’t not go to work or maybe the parents are deeply struggling to create boundaries and many of us can have empathy for that struggle.
Do you see that this isn’t about being heartless or selfish? It’s about putting things into perspective and deciding how we want to show up in situations in an intentional way rather than taking on each challenge as our own and feeling the weight of that burden?
3. Notice kindness and Practice Gratitude: Our beloved teacher, Mr. Fred Rogers, said “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” There are so many people helping. We are engaging in social distancing because we are trying to help. We are helping people who are vulnerable and that is important to remember. There is an act of love that we are incorporating in our lives and if we think of what we are giving rather than what is being taken away, we are likely to move through this period of time in a more positive way.