It’s going to sound weird but in an unprecedented time when COVID-19 is single-handedly changing lifestyles and inflicting global fear, I realize that I’ve had this feeling before.
In recent years, I’ve experienced social distancing and loss in a very different way. Just 3 years ago, a doctor was pointing to an x-ray of the head of my shoulder, telling me it was completely filled with a tumor which may be cancerous. I was jolted from my seemingly "normal" life into completely unknown territory. The several years that followed were frequently full of feeling scared, at times bed-ridden and experiencing intense loss - of income, of the capability to do much of anything physical and diminished connection with friends and family. It took a toll but thank goodness I’m optimistic by nature.
Forever, I will be grateful for that time because I truly believe that I received much more out of it than was taken from me. However, this mentality was a conscious choice and sometimes one that I made a 100 times a day. No, really.
What I experienced and learned during this time of my life absolutely applies to our current situation, so here are the 5 things that are guaranteed to help you weather this temporary storm and maybe even come out better on the other side.
You must start here, no exceptions. Getting to a better place won't happen if you don’t accept where you are right now. Let me be clear, this does NOT mean that you have to like your situation, but you must stop fighting it. In this case, accept that it can only get better if we ALL practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, stay home if sick, etc.
After you've accepted what's going on, you can start on trust. Trust in our medical professionals, leaders, each other and ourselves. There’s really nothing else you can do so why not try. Any recovery, whether from health, trauma or any kind of disaster, will not be linear. All you can do is your best with what you have and know and hope that everything will be okay. There there may even be a greater purpose behind the madness.
This was the hardest for me, and will likely be the case for most. Patience starts at the very tail-end of trust, believing that it will get better. We all want that now because the change in lifestyle is no doubt super uncomfortable. Stop putting energy towards wishing things could be different, right now. It be won’t and pushing away what IS will create a negative filter you see everything through. Simply put, it just makes a tough situation harder. Don’t go down that rabbit hole…trust me. No good comes out if it.
Am I the only one who feels like we’ve all been sent to our room to think about what we did? Why not spend some time and put your energy towards reflection on where you’ve been, what you’ve accomplished and what’s next? Think about what good could come out of this situation? What have you learned (or what could you learn) during this time? Can you create or build something? Who can you encourage with a call or text? What were your earliest memories of being really happy and what were you doing? Are you still doing that or is there a way to incorporate that into your life again? Now, THIS is the kind of rabbit hole you want to go down, so jot down ideas that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling or better yet, act on them. If I could do it, you can too. It just takes slowing down and allowing space for it.
Journaling helps me quite a bit. Life is primarily a reflective experience where we assess or find meaning after the fact. Writing down my feelings about something or how hard something is, forces me to think through and process it. While this is a tough time for everyone, I bet there are some significant insights to be found if only we look.
Looking for a sure fire way to snap out of a negative mental place? Gratitude is it and it's magical. There were many days where I’d make a mental list of everything I was grateful for…literally all.day.long. Feeling grateful for having all of my body parts (thinking of one at a time), having people that love me, having a home, etc. is all I could do to distract myself from the constant pain and worry I was understandably experiencing. Our current situation really is no different. Things can always be worse so there is much to be thankful for. Make a list or not. The feeling of gratitude is all that is actually needed to benefit from it.
If nothing else, being more mindful and intentional will make us all better people in the long run.
Be kind. Be safe. Be healthy. Be hopeful.