This is a challenging situation for all of us. It is almost as though the rapid spread of a virus is reminding us painfully of how interconnected all of us human beings on this planet are. Perhaps we can use this reminder to cultivate healthy ways of connecting to ourselves, other people and the world at large.
The human spirit is strong and has survived through horrendous challenges at countless moments throughout history including various pandemics such as the plague and the Spanish flu as well as many wars and natural disasters. At times in the past people have thought: life will never be good again, we are doomed, everything is always going to be terrible. And people have bounced back, sometimes having learned painful but useful lessons.
We human beings tend not to do well when faced with lots of uncertainty and the helplessness that comes with the inability to change things that are adversely affecting our lives. So let’s use this moment in time to focus on the things that we do have power over.
This is a great time to bring out and dust off all the tricks we’ve learned about how to influence the state of our mind. This will help us stay not just mentally but physically healthy as it boosts our immune systems when we treat ourselves with care.
See if any of the following ideas inspire you:
- Now that many of us need to stay at home in our cocoons, we can find some elements of certainty and predictability by creating our own routines and our little islands of joy. Focus now on the little things that you can positively influence in your current life in your cocoon: tidy your home, do spring cleaning, sort through your books or piles of papers that have been lying around for months, do exercise, eat healthy food, wear clothes you enjoy wearing.
- If you are now working from home, perhaps spend a few minutes at the beginning and end of each day changing the space from a home into a working environment and vice versa by e.g. moving some furniture and plants. If you have children, you can involve them in making a game perhaps using with a magic wand to turn the space into an office with a „Do not disturb“ sign on the door.
- If you are responsible for children, this is a time to bear in mind that many people are struggling under these new and confusing circumstances to just get on with their own life. If you tend towards feeling guilty about possibly doing something wrong by your children, remember that we are all, even our politicians, just making our approach up as we go along to the best of our knowledge. We cannot do any better than that. And looking back with the benefit of hindsight we are always going to be wiser. There is no parenting manual available on how exactly to deal with this.
- For yourself and your family replicating some of the routines that belong to normal life can help the world feel a bit more predictable and can be really reassuring. A daily planner with a timetable with stickers can be a fun way to work together on establishing routine with children.
- For some ideas about how to communicate to your child in an age-appropriate manner about he virus, take a look at his link: https://www.bps.org.uk/news-and-policy/bps-highlights-importance-talking-children-about-coronavirus.
- Use Skype, FaceTime, telephone, voice memos etc to reach out to friends, family and people you may not have been in touch with for a while. We are all in this together! Many people are looking to share some of what they are experiencing with others and are keen to reconnect. Rather than sending bare written words in texts or emails, make use of voice and video, which are so much better able to transport emotion and help us benefit from the felt presence of another human being. People separated from children they love could even read them bedtime stories via telephone or Skype.
- If you have trouble focusing because of worries, set a timer for e.g. 25 minutes and make an effort to concentrate on just one single activity until the timer rings at the end of the time. If you have any experience at all with mindfulness or meditation, you can use that skill to focus on the various sounds, sights and sensations of what you are doing even if it is just washing some dishes.
- Remember that your worries about the future are not real. The only moment that is real is right now. After each next breath, the next moment can be different and we can choose to focus on an activity or a positive thought. There are plenty of apps and online communities that are eager to help us meditate and cultivate a healthier mind e.g. Headspace which has made much of its paid content available for free to anyone who has installed the app.
- Actively look out for the positive things in life for which you can still be grateful. For example, it is spring outside: many trees and plants are in bloom, the daffodils have come out and they look delightful especially with some rays of sunshine gently shining on them. If you have ever used a gratitude diary or a diary of positive moments, this is a good time to come back to it and cultivate your appreciation of the joyful things.
- When faced with uncertainty there is always hope because the outcome is unclear. We can always focus our thoughts on our hopes for an improvement of the current situation, for a good or good enough outcome. We can even hope to be able to remind ourselves in the future of the strengths and resources we can make good use of in order to cope with anything that lies ahead.
- Find a mantra that you can use to help you focus on a positive outcome such as “I have the strength to cope with what comes!” or “You’re going to be ok!” As long as you are able to believe that thought, it can be very powerful to actively put it into the forefront of your mind and chase away any catastrophic thinking that will not help you now or in the future.
- Make a list of ten or more things that you can do to activate pleasure in your life. Music might be one of them. Allow some of your favourite songs to flood your body with the impulse to dance and sway.
If you have any more tips that you think should be included in the list, please let us know.
We are also adapting to new circumstances and are happy to be able to offer therapy possibilities using technology. So if you think you would benefit from some therapy assistance we are available for online or telephone therapy. Just get in touch. We are happy to support you.