As the Covid-19/Coronavirus situation continues, and in many places rapidly worsens, there is seemingly no end in sight.
People are being subjected to mental and physical strains that they have never suffered before. For those in lock-down, who have never experienced prolonged exposure to their own company or that of their family members, this could feel like their worst nightmare come true.
For those who do have some degree of liberty, but are subject to social distancing and mask-wearing, there are still all the fears that come from the presence of a deadly but invisible foe; seemingly lurking behind every cough or accidental physical contact. Added to these tensions are the “mask wars.”
So, what is a person to do in order to preserve their sanity and emotional well-being? Here are a few key strategies that should provide a lot of benefit if you are prepared to implement them:
This has to be the number one strategy, even if it may be easier said than done. Your mind is currently being bombarded by facts, theories, opinions, fears, anxieties and confusion.
It all builds up into a mountain of negative thought, anxiety and tension. These in turn lead to a variety of physical and mental stresses, which result in a decreased ability to cope and respond well. Hence, the vicious circle feeds back upon itself thereby making things continually worse.
So, one major way to help yourself cope and respond better is to deliberately schedule times and ways for you to relax. It might be walking the dog, reading a book, watching the birds in your garden or whatever. Perhaps you already know what works best for you? If so, do it. If not, some of the ideas in the rest of this article may assist you.
Relaxation is scientifically proven to improve your ability to cope with external stressors; physically, mentally and emotionally. Hence, it is not “wasted time” but rather key to your overall well-being.
(2) Schedule “alone time.”
Some people have a desperate need to have others around them. So, for them, solitude would be very stressful. However, for most of us, getting much needed time alone can really help to reduce the stress from the Covid-19 situation and induce much needed relaxation.
Admittedly, if you are in lock-down with other people, this might be quite challenging to achieve. However, almost anybody can manage to find at least a few minutes several times during the day when it is possible to be alone.
Simply breaking the cycle of having others around you, all with their various disparate energies, allows you a little time to just be YOU. This is important, because much of the time, you are a mixture of yourself and whatever is going on all around you; the people, the events, the concerns etc.
There are so many benefits to being alone that if you hardly ever do it, you will have no idea of how helpful it can be. If that is you, then it is all the more important that YOU do it sometime soon!
When chaos reigns, and you let your mind be connected to it on a ceaseless basis, mental and physical collapse must necessarily follow in time. Thus, it is vital to learn to disconnect.
That might seem unthinkable in our current connected era, but it is essential. Failure to do so is why there is such a high prevalence of mental disorder throughout the world today.
With the advent of social media, 24-hour news media, email, SMS, non-stop online access via mobile devices, people’s minds are essentially enslaved to externals of all shapes and sizes. We stop paying heed to our internal compass, and let our minds be swayed in every direction by the whims of whatever happens to present itself in the moment.
What does “disconnect” mean? Put simply, you cut yourself off from all the distracting external stimuli that holds sway over your consciousness. That means news media, online distractions, people, email, everything. You simply have to take time out regularly, preferably every day, to do this!
The mind has an innate ability to self-heal. Indeed, underneath all of the trauma and upset lies an unshakable foundation of peace and tranquillity. Given enough of a chance for the mind to settle, the inner peace that is naturally within you will arise and produce the healing that you need.
When you are under stress, your breathing becomes shallow, short and unnatural. By contrast, there is boundless evidence to demonstrate that deliberate slow deep breathing helps balance mind and body.
It helps alleviate stress, creates inner peace and a firm sense of well-being. No matter what the external stressors may be, focused deep breathing can definitely help you restore your mental and physical equilibrium. It can also defuse tense situations that you may be facing in life.
You can do this anytime during the day, but if you schedule some relaxing alone time, it will work better for you. Most of us never breath properly anyway, so gaining awareness of your breath, and how it affects your mental and emotional states, is a powerful life strategy, even in the absence of Covid-19.
There are many resources out there teaching you how to do this properly. However, it can be as simple as breathing deeply by expanding your abdomen and then filling your chest as far as it will comfortably go, holding that breath for a few seconds, and then slowly letting the breath out completely, until your abdomen is completely empty. Do just that ten times and you will feel better already!
(5) Don’t get caught up.
This relates to (3) above i.e. disconnect, but is worth discussing separately. There is a lot of controversy right now around the Covid-19 virus; a lot of anger, frustration and bad feeling all round. Many people want to wear the mask, and many do not. The government is to blame, or it’s not. People differ on whether they want to respect the social distancing laws or whether they want to actively protest to undermine them. Some people think the whole thing is a hoax, and others are terrified by its apparent reality. And so on.
As if the Coronavirus situation was not enough all by itself, we have somehow managed to make the whole thing much worse with the maze of opinions, blame, politics and speculation flying around. Of course, your mind, being the meaning-generating mechanism that it is, will actively work to try and make sense out of this flurry of incoming information… even if it is actually impossible to make any sense of!
Probably the single biggest cause of mental illness is inability to cope with the increasing complexity of life.
Imagine a whole series of challenging circumstances hitting simultaneously to the point where it seems impossible to cope due to the stress and anxiety generated. When you try to pick yourself up, you get knocked down again.
That is what actually happens to many people, and the frequent result is mental breakdown. It derives from an inability to mentally process and cope with what is happening, resulting in a failure to take appropriate action in order to turn things around in time.
However, this does not have to be you. You are always free to consciously choose your response to any outer situation, and not let yourself get helplessly swept along by the tide of events.
The most important thing for you to do at this time is to take the precautions needed to protect yourself and your loved ones. Fear and anxiety add nothing to that, and neither does getting overly involved in all the nonsense going on out there at the moment.
Keep things simple. Don’t over-complicate it all with unnecessary arguments. Don’t work so hard at conceptualizing all the mind chatter. Just let it go, and live your own authentic life, free of all the matters that the media and those around you think you really ought to be worked up about. Actively watch your own mind, and ask yourself to what extent you are getting caught up. If you catch yourself doing too much of it, revert back to the strategies mentioned above.
6) Lighten up a bit!
We don’t have to feel all doom and gloom about what is happening around us. Covid-19 or not, you can still choose to be a happy resilient person. Yes, it is a choice, and you get to make it.
There is no objective rule that you are supposed to feel a certain way about what is going on. If you feel heavy and gloomy, that does not make you a better person or prove that you really care, compared to if you feel light and in a positive mood.
However, having the latter mindset will not only benefit you personally, mentally and physically, but also all whom you come into contact with. So, this is the best way, because it is ultimately your mind’s natural way to be. Always remember that you really DO have the choice: you can choose how you operate your mind and what you focus upon.
Practically speaking, you can do this in a variety of ways; from watching your favorite comedy TV shows to simply choosing to smile and laugh more. Interestingly, smiling and laughing actually raise your level of happiness, all by themselves i.e. your physiology affects your inner mental state!
Remember that all that you experience within as anxiety, depression and fear arise from within your own mind, as a response to external situations. Hence, it is ultimately all made of thought. Regardless of external circumstances, you can dissolve that mountain of negative thought. It is possible.
Hopefully, these ideas will help you and implementing them will produce immediate benefits to your life. Be gentle with yourself and don’t expect better than you are currently capable of. Remember that these are unprecedented times. We have never been in such a global common experience before, let alone one that is quite as traumatic. We don’t know how much longer this Coronavirus situation will last, but it could well be much longer than any of us would like or believe. Then again, it is always worth remembering that “this too shall pass.”
So, review the ideas presented above, choose one right away, and decide to implement it as soon as possible in your life. You will experience a deeper sense of peace and self-control, regardless of what this Coronavirus (Covid-10) throws at you.