Finding perspective in uncertain times
Uncertain times may be the understatement of the year so far. When the news of COVID-19 (coronavirus) caught our attention, many of us were frozen in disbelief and bewilderment. Anxiety is incredibly high, to say the least. Many people responded with panic, frantically rushing to the store clearing the shelves of food and supplies, and not really knowing why they were even buying it (we all know how the toilet paper story goes). None of us really know how much food or supplies to get. We’ve never experienced anything like this.
Most of us are used to something catastrophic happening, on occasion, in just one place. Usually something like a weather event such as a hurricane, tornado, wildfires, etc. These tragedies also seem to happen “somewhere else.” Now we are faced with something that is happening in our own backyard and everywhere else in the entire world. It is hard to conceptualize. It is unprecedented in our lifetime.
There is a ton of worrying going on about a lot of things over which we have little to no control. Pretty much everyone is scared to some degree, whether it be this virus or something else, but we have to live our lives. It may be a different life than we are used to for a little while, but we have to go on. We have to do our best to not worry about everything we are seeing and hearing. Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.
None of us really know what to say or how to feel or what to do… and that’s okay! Let yourself know that it’s okay that you don’t have to understand your feelings right now. Just allow yourself to express whatever feelings come to surface. Do not resist them. This will block the healthy processing you need to go through. There is no doubt that this is a strange time, but from my perspective there is also a great deal of opportunity, and that is what I want to share with you to offer some new or different perspectives.
A friend said something the other day that I think encapsulates what everyone is going through. She said, “at the present I’m just lost about what to do.” I think this energy is what everyone is feeling so we need to do whatever we can to feel grounded and a sense of some sort of control.
Personally, I have been immersing myself much more into my work and hobbies to not get lost in this feeling of, blah, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to buy, I don’t know where to go, I don’t know what the world is really going through right now and when it will end, or how to handle it best.
Those of us who have chronic health conditions, such as me living with a movement disorder called dystonia, often already practice social distancing (a new term we had to become familiar with very quickly) and limit activities by choice or necessity, but it doesn’t make this any easier. Now that many of us are under an order of “shelter in place” (stay at home order), we don’t get to choose what activity outside the home we get to do that day, which limits us even more and can lead to increased isolation.
We are being asked, and in some cases, forced to stay at home. This is unsettling for a lot of people, as it is for me, so I keep as busy as possible NOT watching the news and instead, involving myself in the things I enjoy most that are close to home. I want to feel productive and make the most of my time, living as normally as I can within the new restrictions.
If you are overwhelmed with all the information coming at you daily, limit your exposure to the barrage of news, which you are still going to get even if you never pay attention to the news. Someone will undoubtedly tell you, but we can minimize it by turning off the phone, TV, and radio… basically, turn off all the noise in the world. Give yourself a break from your personal modern technological devices and let our modern technological, scientific minds find a solution for this virus. They will.
Be present with yourself, be present with your family, be present with your children, be with nature, immerse yourself in your hobbies, take time to pray, meditate, and breathe. So many of us rush around all day long wishing we had more time. Now we have it! Our wish has been granted. It is not the way we thought it would be, but it is the way it is, and we must do the best we can to make the most of it. Embrace time and space.
Like every other challenge throughout history, we will find a way through this and it will make us stronger and wiser. Keep that in mind. Be strong, be weak, be sad, be happy, be grateful, be whatever you feel you need to be, in this moment, without judgment or regret, and don’t fight it. Allow yourself to grieve the suffering. Also allow yourself to appreciate everything you have in your life and spend the time that we have been granted to really truly enjoy it to the best of your ability.
I heard someone say something that puts a lot of this into perspective. Our grandparents were asked to go to war. We have been asked to sit on the couch and watch TV. This is not asking too much, and for some people, almost a dream come true, without the part of the virus of course! I know many people have been hit very hard financially because of lost work, so I don’t want that last statement to dishonor that reality. It is very stressful in words that are hard to find.Like every other challenge throughout history, we will find a way through this and it will make us stronger and wiser. Click To Tweet
While we may not be able to invest our energy into things outside the home, we can invest our time with our loved ones, having a family meal or barbecue, playing games together, and using our imagination to not just pass the time… but to ENJOY the gift of time! Write letters to friends and family not near to you, do the home project you haven’t had the time for, read that book that stares at you on the end table but is never opened, get some Spring cleaning done, watch your favorite movies and television shows, take up that hobby you desire, and sleep more. In other words, now is the time to do what you never have the time to do when we are caught up in the rat race.
If you are alone, this is of course difficult, so utilize social media. Or reach out and call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while and see how they are doing. People need to talk right now. Be the one who initiates that conversation.
Not knowing what to do is how we all feel. This is unchartered territory, so we have to be careful how we process what everyone is saying or not saying or doing or not doing. There is no better time for us to take life one moment at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time. If we ever wanted to become a mindful person and learn to just be, right now is a great time for that.
This is a time to create new habits which makes it so we are more flexible and better able to handle stress when it inevitably hits again. The opportunities in this epidemic are endless and I believe the best way to get through this is to look for the opportunities and not the obstacles. All of this will be over before we know it, so use this time as an opportunity to work on just being at peace the best you can.
On the other end of this, our perspective and appreciation for life might be very different in a positive way, which I believe will happen. Embrace this the best you can and let peace and calmness be the collective energy of the world instead of fear, worry, and panic.
As Marcus Aurelius said, “we can turn everything that happens into fuel, and that the impediment to action can actually advance action.”
Everyone please be safe and know that we are in this together and we will get through this together. We are all doing the best we can and that is enough.
Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey (2015) and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges (2021). He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, The Mighty, Patient Worthy, and The Wellness Universe. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.