By Rob Jost
Only a few months ago, COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus sounded like codewords from a science fiction book. Presently, they have become words associated with lots of anxiety and stress, and much of the world as we know it has changed greatly. All our routines have been uprooted. And, as many of us look to find out the latest news and updates, we find ourselves looking for information and at the same time deeply unsettled about the ever-changing aspect of our lives. The way forward seems to be filled with uncertainty and confusion, at best.
At the same time, perspective, especially in these times, is important. It can’t guarantee safety, but it gives us a way through the difficult times. Perspective can help us gain more clarity so we can take care of what needs to be taken care of without the added fog that unprocessed anxiety can bring about. As the past has shown, human kind is capable of amazing resilience and persistence through difficult times. The human spirit seems to shine through the most when times are at their toughest, and there will come a time when the current upset will seem as a distant object in the rear-view mirror.
However, for the time being, we need to continue to make our way through the daily uncertainty, and here are some concrete steps to take to ensure our well-being and functioning:
Limit news intake
Stay informed, but also find time to get away from the constant talk about the virus.
Tend to the good and the bad
To deny the gravity of the situation doesn’t seem like a good way to deal with the situation. But to counter the struggle with uplifting stories and belief that we can get through this adds to the balance of perspective.
Do more with less
Most of us aren’t used to rationing or living on less, yet this is a great time to learn! While it initially is a challenge to change our ways, we probably have more than we think we need in our homes. And, if supplies really are running low, stay calm, plan the trip to the grocery store, and keep in mind that although supplies seem like they are running out, the supply chain is well stocked and will be replenished.
To yourself and others.
It’s OK to tune out!
Some of us may feel guilty that we’re not “tuned-in” to the latest news, but it’s perfectly fine to take a break for as long as we need.
Take the time to do something you’ve craved to do for a while
Now is the time to indulge in a book you’ve been meaning to read, explore recipes you’ve intended to cook, or work on a creative project you’ve set aside for a while.
For some, it’s a good time to think about personal and professional growth
Layout plans for either self-improvement or business plans for the future.
Check in on your relationship with yourself and others
Our patience could run thin quickly and we may need a nice dose of “what’s really going on?” Clearing the air in an understanding way with loved ones is especially important in this time.
Try to get a daily dose of exercise
This could be a long walk outside, a run, squats in your apartment, an online yoga session, or any other way to get the body moving. Movement and exercise keep us physically healthy, and also offer a much needed cleanse for our psyche.
Stay connected (through social distancing)
With isolation and self-quarantining becoming the new norm, it’s an especially important time to stay connected with friends and loved ones. Reaching out for a conversation and a connection always feels good, and speaking with others renews our sense of much needed connection.
Anxiety manifests when we seem to have no control over an unsettling situation – quite apropos for the current time. In small doses, anxiety points us to be protective and alert to the situation. However, prolonged anxiety isn’t good for us, and it’s important that we take care of it. It may sound oversimplified, but just being aware that we are anxious is a huge step in the right direction. We recognize that we feel deeply worried, and that at this time especially it is completely understandable that we may feel this way. The flip side is that it also sends a signal to take care of ourselves. When external events are beyond our control, and by definition they usually are, it’s important to focus on the sense of safety and healthy control we can exert in our lives – talking with loved ones about how we feel, exercising, meditating, reading a book, going on a walk or run. The see-saw of emotions then becomes much more gentle, and a balance of worry and relief give way to a sense of normalcy about how we feel.
We don’t know how long it will take until things return to normal, so in the meantime, it’s important to “make friends” with the new norm we have settled into. Chaos can lead to upset and panic, but it can also be a hidden opportunity to figure out new ways of being and existing in the world.