Posted April 21, 2020 in Psychology Today
It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a palpable uncertainty to our everyday lives. People have been thrust into sudden states of job loss, homeschooling, and social distancing. Entire cities are in hibernation mode. Face masks have rapidly become a mandatory accessory. Grocery store shelves resemble skeletons – bones picked clean of any remnants of once-stocked inventory. Healthcare workers are risking their lives on a daily basis to care for those in need. We’re inundated with constant Coronavirus news reports and media coverage. Worldwide, humanity has lost thousands of souls affected by this silent and sneaky virus.
All this can leave us wondering, How far away are we from crossing the finish line of this pandemic? Of course, it’s natural and beneficial to think about the future, to plan, to set goals. However, in times like these, thinking too far ahead may feel overwhelming, hopeless, or even scary. It’s easy to allow our minds to have free reign and to lead us down this dark, gloomy path. We may feel like crawling into a hole and assuming the fetal position. When we’re having these thoughts, it makes it exponentially harder to climb out of that hole.
The good news is that we can retrain our minds to help us climb out or to avoid the hole altogether. Just as we’re learning to adapt to this new normal, our brains also learn to adapt to the training they receive. We can teach ourselves to think and live positively. In other words, we can train our minds to simply “not go there”. We’re all born with this innate ability, but not everyone taps into it. Some people may have learned about this during their younger years, making it easier to readily access this positivity, while others struggle to find a glimmer of hope and easily slip into a downward spiral.
Maintaining a positive mindset, particularly during chaotic times, takes a conscious, deliberate effort. A solid first step is showing gratitude for what you have, such as a roof over your head, your partner, your children, your friends, your loving fur baby, your health, a job that allows you to work from home, clean water, electricity, indoor plumbing, etc. When we stop and take a few moments to think about the abundance of blessings we have, we’re less likely to get bogged down in the negatives (or the less-than-ideals).
Taking this a step further, learning how to enjoy even the smallest of moments helps us maintain a healthy outlook. While social distancing in your home, for example, think about the everyday moments that bring you joy: the smell of coffee brewing, the feel of your pet’s fur, the birds’ morning songs, the way the ground feels under your bare feet. By engaging your mind, body, and soul in this manner, you’re actually increasing your level of serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for happiness and overall well-being.
Although this pandemic has undoubtedly resulted in immense tragedy and mass self-isolation, it could be said that it’s also providing us with a view into a different, more improved way of being in the world. Due to the non-discriminatory nature of the effects of the Coronavirus, it has obliquely created a sense of global compassion and understanding. People seem to be kinder and softer towards one another now. Neighbors are helping each other out, offering to fill in the gaps where needed. Families are spending time together in ways they didn’t before. Friends are doing drive-by birthday, anniversary, and graduation celebrations. We’re connecting virtually with loved ones and colleagues far away, thanks to technological innovations.
The phrase “We’re all in this together” has never seemed more appropriate. If we adjust our lens, we might be able to see the empathic community blossoming from this global disaster. When we emerge on the other side, we may be the new and improved version of humanity.
Things happen. But miracles also happen.