As recently as two days ago, I thought I wasn’t going to write a single word about coronavirus. Today, I can’t imagine how I wouldn’t.
Like Helen Cassidy Page, I initially wanted to be “above” all this virus thing. I believed in the strength of my body. I told myself not to be concerned. Maybe other people were becoming sick. Not me.
But our collective situation is changing every hour. Today, I have to acknowledge just how real the coronavirus threat is. The challenge is to respond to it with positivity and responsibility.
To talk about it in a way that conveys support, not panic.
First and foremost, there is the most uplifting realization to be made:
We’re all in this together
This slogan became overused in the past years. We exploited it in conversations about social issues, climate change or self-improvement.
The phrase became a go-to for highlighting our shared humanity. But because it was so popular, some people became disconnected from its true meaning.
“We’re all in this together” became a sentence you could use to say everything and anything. But today with the virus, its deep implications become easy to grasp again.
I’ve been on the phone with my family and friends all around the world these past few days. To some of them, I hadn’t been speaking for months. The starting point for all conversations was the same:
Are you okay? How are things unfolding where you are?
This is a time when we’re concerned for one another. We’re reminded about what matters. Our primary issue isn’t the scarce toilet paper. (although I find it funny how often we mention that particular shortage)
It is whether our loved ones are okay, physically and emotionally. If they aren’t, we do our best to comfort each other.
Despite the anxiety, I can’t recall a time in my life when I felt so connected to the rest of humanity. These days, there’s one thing that concerns us all.
I think we may wield this to our advantage. We can find comfort in the fact that this is a predicament we all share.
The human psyche is incredibly resilient
Just to be clear: I understand how much is at stake right now. I’m not saying this is fun. We all have the full right to be anxious and deeply concerned.
We’ve never witnessed anything like this before.
But we also must acknowledge that panicking about the coronavirus will serve no one. To prevent emotional overwhelm, you can still look for the upsides of this situation.
‘What upsides, are you kidding me?’ — you may be thinking. Here I come with some examples of what I mean by that.
I went on Instagram yesterday to see how people I follow respond to the crisis. To my delight, I saw lots of uplifting posts. People were posting about opportunities and lessons that came to them because of what’s happening.
- neohippie.dk talked about how the lockdown in Denmark allows her to finally focus on some house projects that she’s been postponing. She finds the time to care for her plants and enjoy the quiet countryside life:
- s_lowlands shared the perspective shift the coronavirus spread enabled her to make. Because of the uncertainty of what will happen tomorrow, she came to experience the real meaning of “being in the present moment:”
- the.smallest.things used the anxiety around the pandemic to shift her energy to the things she can control. In this post, she shares that focusing on positive self-talk, consuming less news and staying home with her family helps her maintain her balance:
Reading what these three women (and many more people) had to share, my heart filled with hope. I realized that not only are we in this together. We are also equipped to find meaning and support each other in this crisis.
Our psyche is incredibly resilient because it is malleable. Each of us has some degree of agency about what we focus our attention on. And what we deliberately focus on, grows in our awareness.
Of course, the seriousness of the situation needs to be acknowledged. This is the only way we can take appropriate measures to mitigate the consequences of this pandemic.
But acknowledging it doesn’t rule out finding opportunities in the crisis. There are now thousands of people around the world showing us that this is possible.
How can you benefit from social isolation?
This question sounds off, doesn’t it? Social isolation sounds like something bad by definition. Benefitting from it may come across as a quirky idea.
But isolating ourselves as much as we can seems to be the most responsible decision we can make now. If we choose to do it, we may as well try to find upsides to it.
Yesterday, I heard the most inspiring story. A woman turned the coronavirus threat into a precious moment with her family. She has 12-year old twins at home who are obsessed with video games. This obsession makes it hard for their mom to connect with them and do things together.
As the virus became more prevalent in the UK where she lives, the woman wanted to buy hand sanitizer. Unfortunately, all the local shops were out of stock. So she decided to take her two boys to town and go on a quest — much like in the video games they play.
The quest was to find the hand sanitizer.
After a couple of hours of what felt like a treasure hunt, the boys found it. The woman said that the joy on their faces and the fun they had together was extraordinary. They’ve never had such a bonding experience before.
Inspired by this story, I started thinking of what the isolation period may mean for my writing.
By default, a lot of things that used to distract me are now disappearing. I have all the reasons to stay at home and work on the projects I couldn’t find the time for.
When public venues are being closed and events are being called off, it’s time to focus on other things. Maybe it means spending more time with your family. Maybe it means focusing on a passion project you’ve been postponing.
Whatever it is, make sure to ask yourself the question: How can I find something positive in this situation?
To say I’m grateful for the coronavirus would be a bit far-fetched. I do experience anxiety and uncertainty these days. I think it’s only natural given the situation we’re in.
At the same time, I realize that this anxiety doesn’t have to define my experience. This time is better than ever to practise mindfulness, take care of myself and feel that I’m an interconnected part of life on this planet. This is what I’m planning to focus on.
Sure, nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. But we can take this truth in at least two different ways.
One is to panic and project catastrophic scenarios. This doesn’t help anyone.
The second and more beneficial one is to take care of what you can control. Appreciate that right now, you’re okay. You can find ways to take care of yourself and others. You can look for opportunity in this situation, rather than just concentrating on the threat.
The coronavirus may be the most precious reminder we ever had. We are all in this together and we should be kind and caring towards ourselves and others.
There’s no better time to reinforce this message than right now.