Updated: Mar 19, 2020
First and foremost, my heart and prayers go out to all those who have been sick with the coronavirus, all those who’ve lost their sources of income, and all those whose schedules have been suddenly and drastically changed (now working from home possibly with kids being schooled at home too). Life has been flipped on its head and this pandemic has left us in a surreal state of immense uncertainty.
Just like when in grief, it’s been a rollercoaster ride—and it’s not the fun kind.
Before the virus hit U.S. shores I was concerned but admittedly complacent. The New Year had started off on a high note for me and, after years spent grieving the loss of my mom, I felt the happiest I've ever been. I was in this state of flow with life and work and it felt like, for the first time since her death, everything was coming together. Once the virus spread down to Florida where I live and the first case appeared right in my hometown, I began to feel the stress of it. It was real. It was here.
The stress I felt during those initial few days, I noticed, had spiked after a bombardment of emails about offices and stores closing nationwide due to COVID-19, not to mention the news updates I was reading more incessantly than I do when we’re stuck inside the cone of uncertainty in an impending hurricane. (Have you noticed how you feel after reading or watching the news especially when there's an imminent threat present? This is why I generally don't watch the news.)
Entire sections of supermarkets and stores were cleared out. Lines of 10-15 people deep stood at every cash register in local supermarkets, mostly avoiding eye contact, as if not looking at each other would protect us from the portentous pathogen. Prices on Amazon suddenly doubled and, in some instances, even quadrupled on basic staples. No toilet paper to be found anywhere. People afraid to be near one another.
We may not all be infected but every single one of us is affected. All of our lives have been disrupted including our regular schedules of work, school, gym, social activities and events. We can no longer shake hands. We can no longer hug (that’s a hard one for me as I’m a hugger at heart!). We can’t touch our faces (have you now become aware how many times in a matter of minutes that you or others touch their face?? I just did as I typed this!). We can’t eat out at restaurants. Life as we’ve known it has been temporarily wiped out. What are we to make of this?
So much is now out of our control and all this uncertainty can feel scary. The truth is being in control is an illusion, one that we were caught up in for so long. The coronavirus effectively swiped the illusion out from beneath us so it’s bringing up and out a lot sh** for us. It’s time for us to face ourselves. This is a tremendous opportunity for growth, to let go of the things that don’t serve us and to make positive changes in our lives. There's so much we can't control but we do have complete control over what we make of it all.
A crisis, whether in our own individual lives or on a global level, can make or break us. It’s our choice how we let it affect us moving forward. We can either give into the panic and into the fear or we can stay informed, acknowledge the ways it’s changed our lives and make the best of it regardless. The question is who do you want to be in the face of this crisis?
12 ways to make the best of this now that we're largely, if not entirely, in isolation:
1. Meditate. If you regularly meditate, keep it up! It reduces stress and anxiety which, in turn, boosts our immune system. If you’ve always wanted to do it but haven’t, now’s your chance. You're stuck at home. Take advantage. Even 5 minutes every morning can help you set your intention and mood for the day. Sit somewhere comfortable with your spine straight, consciously relaxing the rest of your body and your facial muscles. Close your eyes. Notice your breath. (The simple act of noticing your breath lowers activity in the amygdala, your brain's center for fear, which is triggered when in fight-or-flight mode, aka when you feel "stressed out"). Now deepen your breath, lengthening the inhale and the exhale if you can. Observe your breath. Notice any thoughts that arise. Don’t resist them in an effort to quiet your mind. Simply notice them first (this can help you see where you might be stuck in your head). Then after a couple of minutes, bring your attention back to your breath and focus only on each inhale and each exhale as it comes and goes, tuning into the natural cycle of breath and of life. Just as the breath comes and goes, so too shall this crisis pass. Close your meditation by feeling gratitude in your heart for an opportunity to explore yourself in new ways.
2. Do those house projects you’ve been meaning to get to for the past few weeks (umm, months?). Use this time to do some spring cleaning. Clear out stuff you no longer use or want and save it in a bag to later give to Goodwill or another charity of your choice.
3. Read the books or take the online courses you’ve been putting off. Take this opportunity to learn and grow.
4. Have a dance party. You might not feel like dancing given our current situation but humor yourself and give it a try. Put on your favorite song and let the music move you. The saying goes, “fake it ‘til you make it” so go for it and, who knows, you might end up feeling better! (Unless of course you enjoy being miserable and fearful, then have at it).
5. Go inward. Being stuck at home, whether alone or with family, offers a great opportunity for you to take time to yourself to notice and observe whatever feelings and triggers are coming up for you during this time. Are you going stir-crazy at home? Why? What about being home bothers you? Are other family members driving you nuts? What about them triggers you? If you live on your own, are you afraid of being alone or lonely? Ask yourself what is triggering you and why are you being triggered? Why do you feel angry/overwhelmed/sad/frustrated/(fill in the blank)? Consider, as Kyle Cease said in a recent video, that perhaps this is the time to shed everything that you are not, bringing you closer to who who you really are—you are not your money, your job, your status, etc. You are a spirit having a human experience inside a physical body. What is this physical experience right now teaching you? Don't resist whatever's coming up; simply observe. You may pleasantly surprise yourself with any insights that arise because of these circumstances.
6. Speaking of the physical body, take good care of it. Exercise at home. There are so many YouTube videos out there for yoga, total body workouts at home, etc. If you’re new to yoga, you can check out my video for beginners or, if you're ready for more, go for a 15-min energizing flow. Be creative with your workouts. Today I used a pair of 5 lb dumbbells I’ve had lying around collecting dust (since I'm usually at the gym or on my yoga mat), a resistance band, a jump rope and a YouTube video of 15 must-do isometric exercises and had an awesome workout.
7. If you're working from home, set boundaries for time and space for work. If you have other family members at home, designate a room or space to yourself where you agree nobody will disturb you between the hours you establish. Be able to delineate time for work and time for loved ones to keep everyone’s sanity in check. Please, our sanity is important, now more than ever!
8. As humans we have the need to be social and since it’s in our best interest to avoid that for the time being, set up FaceTime dates with your friends and loved ones. Maybe do a happy hour with them toasting with a cocktail or have dinner with them or catch up with loved ones you keep meaning to but haven’t…this can all be done on FaceTime, Skype or a number of other live video or phone options. Let's use technology to meaningfully reconnect with others instead of disconnecting from them.
9. Go out to your backyard and sit outside for some fresh air and sun (increased UV exposure—within reason—may limit the spread of the coronavirus, according to AccuWeather founder and CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers). If you don’t have a backyard, go out for a walk on your own in the neighborhood and notice the buildings and plants and trees that you drive by everyday, most likely on autopilot. Observe your surroundings with a renewed pair of eyes and enjoy the fresh air and daylight.
10. Watch standup comedy or a funny movie. Laughter really is the best medicine. It will get you out of your head, if even temporarily.
11. Stay positive. Be informed and responsible (i.e. practice social distancing) but don’t give into hysteria and fear. They only weaken our immune systems.
12. Create some papier-mache art with all that extra toilet paper you’ve got lying around. Kidding aside, Newton discovered calculus, the laws of motion and the theory of gravity while in quarantine and Shakespeare wrote King Lear while in quarantine. So who knows what you can create?
Humans by nature make meaning out of everything. What will you make the coronavirus mean to you? A threat that ruined your life and made you retreat or an opportunity for you to slow down, to connect with yourself and your loved ones in new more meaningful ways, to learn and grow, to enjoy quality time at home and, ultimately, to step up and show up as your best self?
We will make it through this. And we will, I wholeheartedly believe, come out better because of this.
"When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity."
~ John F. Kennedy
This is a great quote I had to share here; interesting that it happens to be about the word in Chinese. Either way let's take this opportunity to make the best of the here and now, yes? Yes!!