A tangle of feelings has filled recent weeks, sometimes leaving me a balled up mess. The time has come to comb them out with a good talking-to for myself right here in public and with the hope that readers will gain some understanding and tips for their own use during the Covid-19 pandemic. Our feelings are messages to us as they signal that something external is happening. We can then respond by determining whether to embrace, ignore, or deal with the event to either reduce or prolong the resulting feeling. What feelings have been surfacing for you? What tools can you use to cope with them and perhaps set them to rest or bring on more of the good feels?
Who isn’t fearful right now? A few enlightened souls maybe. I’ve been trying damn hard not to be, but I admit it has crept in a few times. Fear of imminent death of self or loved ones, fear of suffering through an uncertain illness, fear for safety of friends working on the front lines, fear of people living in fear and how they might react from it. Many people are afraid that supply chains will fail, producing a more lengthy discomfort through lack of supplies and/or food. Loss of income (and the resulting loss of autonomy) is a rampant fear. Last year, I presented a workshop on busting through fear, so I feel well-equipped to offer solid useful suggestions on overcoming the big one.
- Educate yourself on the risks–this is tricky because there is conflicting information out there. Do your best to siphon it down to the main points. For me, that was understanding the death rate/stats of the virus, and how to minimize contagion as well as severity of illness. You may want to research food supply chains, stages of starvation, or how your government can assist with temporary income.
- Analyze the worst-case scenario–In a Psychology Today article, Dr Karl Albrecht said there is a hierarchy of only five basic fears, and he claimed that every fear can be slotted into one of these categories: Extinction, Mutilation, Loss of Autonomy, Separation, and Ego-Death. Some worst-case scenarios we are facing right now are immediate death (extinction), prolonged suffering (mutilation through illness; loss of autonomy), global trauma (separation); or that things will never be ‘normal’ again (ego-death). Some even fear ‘returning to normal’. So, wow! Covid’s got every fear covered! Sheesh.
- Turn it around and look for the opportunity–It’s not every day we get to look death in the eye. Usually we can avoid or ignore it. If you think you or your loved one(s) could die within two weeks, how do you want to maximize your time? Do those things now. Right now! If you are concerned about food, is this an opportunity to adjust your consumption habits? If you are out of work, can you treat it like an unpaid holiday and get some things done at home that your work commitment never allows, or maybe treat yourself to relaxing on the couch or sleeping in?
- Create a list of achievements–Reflect on how you’ve beaten your fear(s) in the past. For the most part, I’ve lived a no-regrets lifestyle and completed many things I set out to do, which gives me some comfort as I consider death (although I’m not ready to go yet!). If you can’t think of anything to put on your list, start working on your what-to-do-if-death-is-in-two-weeks list. Do those things now, and call them your achievements.
- Visualize success–what does surviving Covid-19 or life beyond Covid look like for you? Let your imagination fill your senses with love and life and connection and touch and celebration and kindness and dining at your favourite restaurant and dancing with friends and less pollution and more time in nature and full shelves and … and … and …. Create a vision board or play a movie in your head. And believe it. We can do this!
- Habituate through practise–some of the things on your to-do list might be difficult. Eg. forgiving someone. Do it once. Do it again. It gets easier. It becomes less scary.
- Surrender–nothing is really within your control. Take action when it feels right or where it is necessary for you. And then let it be.
Feelings of anxiety are closely related to fear but are a little more subtle and insidious. To me, this one feels like the physical outcome of underlying, unexamined fears: restlessness, difficulty sleeping, shallow breathing, heart-related symptoms (increased rate, noticeable palpitations, twinges), some of which of course lead to further increased anxious feelings–a vicious spiral.
- Examine your fear(s), see above
- Exercise daily, slowly at first and work your way up to more
- Do not listen to, watch, or read the news–this has helped me immensely
- Limit social media reads to feel-good stories only–I’ve been using Facebook very sparsely to connect with friends/family, often only reading the top post in my feed and then shutting it off immediately.
- Phone a friend or have a video chat with a good listener–if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
- Meditate daily
- Practise good sleep hygiene–look it up; there are loads of tips online for improving quality of sleep
- Try to eliminate feelings of worry. If you worry first and then it happens–you’ll have suffered twice.
I’ve always had a big sadness pool, so this is an especially difficult time. The whole world is grieving. I hear you. I get you. We are grieving deaths of loved ones, cancelled plans, precious lost time with friends and family and lovers, interrupted trips to exotic places, the recipe we can’t get ingredients for, our baby’s graduation/prom, a special wedding, the overload on our essential service workers, the difficult decisions health care workers must make, and the list goes on. I think the antidote to our feelings of sadness is hope.
- Believe in the brilliance and resilience of humanity
- Know that good things will come from this (and already are)
- Practise abundance (rather than scarcity) thinking
- Make tentative plans for late summer or next year or the year after–having plans to look forward to stimulates happiness.
Anger certainly hasn’t filled my days (heart occupied with sadness, empathy, compassion), but anger is one of our most valuable emotions because it’s about boundaries. What boundary has been crossed for you? How has someone insulted you by tromping on your values? And what can you do to protect that boundary in the future?
I’ve been angry-ish twice during the pandemic. For me, it was about getting to the root cause of some of the world’s problems–a) the illness; and b) how we react to it with our behaviour. The first was after watching a 60-minutes documentary on the illegal trafficking of wild animals for food consumption. Good people have been fighting against this, and I’m angry (more like shock, confusion, curiosity) that humanity didn’t catch on sooner and end a practice that stresses animals and weakens their immunity to be susceptible to viruses that can transfer to humans. Ouch. Yuck. Stop it!
Second, I feel angry (more like disappointed) by any shaming I witness. We don’t know why another person makes a choice they make. They may have a good reason for walking close together in a group. Or if they did something to produce more contagion like attended a party with grandpa or forgot to wash their hands or doubted the seriousness of the times, they likely already feel terrible. Let’s not pile on. Relating this to my first point–I hope that the animal traffickers are NOW aware that they perhaps caused a pandemic and maybe they feel bad enough to stop now. I sure hope.
- Make a list of the values you hold high for yourself and humanity
- Examine if one or more of those values has been disregarded, which one(s) and by whom
- Determine if your anger will subside if you let it go or if it will continue to resurface
- If this is a battle you are willing to proceed with, equip yourself to approach the offending party with clarity (what is the problem), assertiveness (what solution is acceptable to you), and tact (when, where and how you deliver your message), and with a sprinkle of kindness (be willing to receive/listen to/empathize with their point of view).
Whoa. Yes. Feelings of overwhelm have hit me a few times, mostly when I spent two weeks reading everything and feeling all the feels.
- Be still. Stop everything and just be still.
- Breathe. Take long, slow, deep breaths and focus on delivering that oxygen to every cell in your body.
- Shut off the news or social media or the stove or your work project
- Let yourself cry
- Let yourself be alone
- Take a nap
- Take a bath or long shower
- If/when you are allowed outside, take a walk alone in your yard or in a nearby nature setting, hiking trail, forest, beach, etc.
- Gift yourself as long as you need to reset and start over
- Make self-care a priority in the coming days
Who knew that joy could come of this? But of course–without the dark, there would be no light. My joyful feelings have come from several sources. Hoax or not–I have no idea–but I get a thrill from stories of dolphins in Venice canals, and reduced air/noise pollution in industrial cities. I well up at stories of neighbourhoods and nations singing, howling, or playing music together. I love when friends share their musical collaborations or when stars donate large sums of money or take their benefit concerts online. There is much excitement in medical/science victories, business innovations and companies adapting on the fly for a common cause. And my ultimate joy during this time has come from babies–pictures of new or young babies are the best medicine right now.
- Subscribe to a “good news” channel or social media network
- Connect with distant friends or family through a video app
- Remember your creative passion–and practise it
- Play board games with your self-isolation people or online games if you’re home alone
- Collaborate on something creative and share it–friends have challenged us to make a quarantine cover song.
- Watch The Good Place, a 4-season comedy TV series with the best ending and very appropriate for the times
- Post your baby pictures!!!
Wish you could do more? I do. I want to be with my elderly relatives. I want to hold the hands of my nurse and doctor friends and help them through. I want to donate money to every food bank and struggling business, entrepreneur and artist.
- Phone or video call your elderly friends and relatives
- Offer to pick up and deliver groceries for those who can’t go out
- Send digital messages of support and gratitude to front line health staff and other essential services workers
- Stay home. Stay out of the way. Stay healthy.
- Donate small amounts of cash ($1,$2,$5,$10) when/where you can
- Share your good news stories. If you have contracted and overcome Covid-19, tell us what it was like. Sharing your good news story can give others hope.
- Post your baby pictures!!!
It’s hard for me to be bored. Even now (on day 8 of mandatory travel quarantine at time of this post), I still have a long list of items I would like to complete. But after the initial spurt of activity when I first arrived home, I kind of lost my groove. I’m less motivated to work on my list. I feel restless and sleepy. I sometimes eat when I’m not hungry. Time for a kick in the pants.
- Make a list of priorities and wishes. Include daily activities and longer-term projects. Include things you have to get done, things you’ve always wanted to learn, things that irritate you and things that bring you joy.
- Choose one thing from your list and get started.
I hope this post has brought a little more clarity to your feelings and gives you some ideas for moving forward during the coming weeks and beyond. Feel free to share more ideas in the comments. Now, back to my to-do list!
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