Today I come before you not as a psychologist or expert in anxiety, but an ordinary inhabitant of planet Earth who’s going through the same difficulties as you.
In a way, the fact that we share the burden together makes this whole crisis a bit more tolerable. At least that’s how I see it.
However, it’s impossible not to worry about the current crisis and what the future might hold.
And for good reasons!
Because of the coronavirus outbreak (year 2020), stores are closing, the economic landscape is changing, and you must change your entire lifestyle almost overnight. But change is tough even under normal circumstances. As you probably know from experience, some habits are hard to implement while others are tough to get rid of.
And since current circumstances are far from normal, change can be even more stressful and disruptive than usual.
It’s no wonder many of us are struggling with anxiety and depression these days.
But no matter how much discomfort and uncertainty life has thrown down our path, I still believe times like these create opportunities for growth.
The lessons we learn today (if we’re smart enough to learn them), can help us build a better world tomorrow. Furthermore, the emotional resilience we gain today, will prepare us for the next disaster humanity might face.
Until we get there, let’s focus on what we can do right now to adapt and overcome the situation.
HOW MUCH CONTROL DO YOU REALLY HAVE?
For tens of thousands of years, our species has survived thanks to a built-in mechanism that allows us to stay out of harm’s way.
In other words, as soon as a potential threat rises on the horizon, our first response is anxiety. And that’s exactly how we should react!
Thanks to anxiety, we were able to take some precautions and slow the rate at which the virus spreads. We wash our hands more often, avoid contact with others, and work remotely.Thanks to anxiety, we were able to take some precautions and slow the rate at which the virus spreads. We wash our hands more often, avoid contact with others, and work remotely. Click To Tweet
If it weren’t for this mechanism, we’d still be shaking hands, attending meetings, and spreading the virus uncontrollably.
What I’m trying to say is that the anxiety you’re feeling right now is normal. It keeps you vigilant and aware of the current difficulties we’re all facing; it can even teach you a few lessons about yourself – how resilient you are, how accustomed you’re grown to certain comforts…
But at some point, this constant feeling of worry and restlessness can prompt irrational behaviors and decisions. Like stocking up on canned food and toilet paper or spending hours on social media exposed to an avalanche of alarmist headlines.
It’s easy to see this whole situation as one big uncontrollable mess, especially when you look at it through the lens of panic, mistrust, and uncertainty.
CONTROL VS NO CONTROL
I believe the healthiest way to evaluate your current situation is by dividing it into things you can and can’t control.
That way, this whole crisis will seem less like a total catastrophe and more like something that you can partially control.
Not only that this perspective is the most rational way you can look at life’s unexpected turns, but it also gives you the hope you need push forward and not give in to panic.
Knowing that, even amid chaos, you still have some control over your life can be extremely encouraging. At least that’s how I felt when I chose to focus on what I can control instead of freaking out about the uncontrollable aspects of this crisis.
And that’s why I encourage you to try this mental exercise.
CHANGE IS HARD AND THERE’S NO WAY AROUND IT
As you probably know, the biggest source of anxiety and stress isn’t the virus itself, but the changes that we’re forced to make because of it.
In a matter of days, our lives have gone through dramatic changes from the way we work to the way we interact with each other.
Given that we had little time to adjust, it’s no wonder many of us are experiencing emotional discomfort.
The only way to make this situation more tolerable is by changing your perspective. Instead of focusing solely on the difficulties associated with the changes you’re forced to make, perhaps you can look for some silver linings.
Don’t expect this change to happen instantly. It takes time to adjust your perspective, especially when you’re dealing with emotional turmoil.
But if you make an effort to change your view and focus on alternatives instead of catastrophes, you will be amazed to discover how adaptable your mind can be.
RIGHT NOW, EMOTIONAL FLEXIBILITY IS A KEY SKILL
Over the course of one day, each of us experiences a wide range of emotions.
You get frustrated in traffic, share a funny joke with a friend, and stress yourself over tight deadlines. In other words, your mood changes constantly depending on the situation.
Under normal circumstances, this process happens subtly, in the sense that you’re not aware of all the emotional reactions you experience throughout the day.
However, when you’re faced with a significant change or a triggering situation (like natural disasters, accidents, pandemics, etc.), your emotional response will automatically intensify.
How well you handle your feelings and how fast you can move on after experiencing intense emotions depends on your emotional flexibility.
So, emotional flexibility refers to your ability to respond and recover (emotionally), whenever life takes a turn (for the better or worse).
Given the current crisis, our lives have gone through significant changes. That means more pressure to be emotionally flexible.
HOW TO BUILD EMOTIONAL FLEXIBILITY
Like any other mental ability, emotional flexibility relies on a series of healthy practices that boost your well-being.
From quality sleep and healthy eating to exercising and meditation, the habits you choose to cultivate will dictate how well (or poorly) you handle emotions.
According to a 2017 study, the building blocks of emotional flexibility are mindfulness and self-compassion.
Let’s start with mindfulness, a simple practice that allows you to observe the present moment in an accepting and non-judgmental manner.
By practicing mindfulness regularly, you will be able to confront emotions like fear, worry, or anger, without getting caught up in them. In other words, you get to a point where you realize that even unpleasant emotions (the ones you usually prefer to avoid) are tolerable.
A mindful moment gives you the chance to observe your worries and fears without getting caught up in them. For me, it’s amazing how this practice can create so much calm and mental clarity.
As for self-compassion, this practice involves showing love, empathy, understanding and acceptance towards yourself. So, the basic principle is to treat yourself as you would treat someone you care about.
I must admit that when I first started this practice, it felt kind of strange. Truth be told, most of us are not used to being kind and compassionate to ourselves.I must admit that when I first started this practice, it felt kind of strange. Truth be told, most of us are not used to being kind and compassionate to ourselves. Click To Tweet
But when life takes a turn for the worse, I believe compassion and self-compassion is exactly what we need to survive and thrive, not just as individuals, but as a community.
If you wish to cultivate self-compassion, start by accepting and embracing your shortcomings.
While compassion brings us closer to each other, self-compassion brings us closer to ourselves.
THE SUN WILL SHINE, BUT FIRST WE NEED TO WEATHER THE STORM
A couple of days ago, I read a Facebook post (can’t remember exactly where) that inspired me to adjust my perspective and look at current events differently.
It was a simple and straightforward message: Crisis = Danger + Opportunity
Let’s put aside the “danger” part (we’ve already worried about that) and focus on the “opportunity” part.
For me, this crisis was an opportunity to explore digital alternatives which I’m certain will come in handy even when things will get back to normal. It was also an opportunity to realize that I can live with less and enjoy the simple pleasures of life such as a warm bath after a stressful day, a breath of fresh air, or getting back in touch with an old friend.
But the one thing I’m most grateful for is the opportunity to reconnect with myself and realize that I’m resilient enough to cope with stress and anxiety without having a complete meltdown.
However, I’m fully aware that there are people in this world who have it worse than me.
People who are out of work and don’t have the financial means to access basic necessities like food, water, or medical care.
People living alone who might be hurting emotionally.
People struggling with depression who might be on the verge of suicide or self-harm.
The point is, let’s start being more grateful for what we have; others might not be so lucky…
A FEW TIPS THAT HELPED ME COPE WITH UNCERTAINTY AND FEAR
#1. If you’re having financial difficulties, look for other sources of income.
Keep in mind that now’s not the time to be picky. For example, I’ve decided to lower my standards a bit and work on low-paying freelance jobs, just to make sure my monthly income isn’t affected by the economic crisis that resulted from this pandemic.
#2. Since you’re forced to stay indoors, procrastination can become a problem.
That’s why you should find alternatives to stay busy and productive. Follow a tight sleep schedule, cultivate a home workout routine, and stay in touch with friends, relatives, and colleagues. These are just a few suggestions off the top of my head. I’m sure you can find more, depending on your circumstances and the changes you need to make.
#3. If you have the means to help others, do it!
The only way to avoid societal collapse is if we support each other in any way we can. A small donation to your local medical center or a kind word to someone who has it worse than you can make a difference.
Let’s weather this storm together!
COMMUNITY SPIRIT IS ESSENTIAL!
Over the course of history, humanity has overcome difficult times not just through competition and innovation, but collaboration and community spirit as well.
We have survived and thrived by supporting each other, sharing resources, and pursuing common goals.
From a global perspective, I think now’s the time to cultivate community spirit and build support networks.
Fortunately, we’re living in the digital era which means we can connect with people from all around the world in a matter of seconds.
You don’t have to wait for your government to do something. If you have a device connected to the Internet, you can easily find ways to provide and receive help.
Perhaps I’m too optimistic but I strongly believe humanity will recover from this pandemic and if we’re smart enough, we might even learn some lessons that will encourage us to build a better world.