Reflecting on the daily changes and stresses affecting virtually everyone on earth recently, I suddenly remembered a quote from the movie Apollo 13.
The NASA crew is facing the looming possibility that they might lose the crew of the Apollo 13 moon mission. Due to a series of disasters with no end or solution in sight, tensions are high. Cigarettes burn, brows sweat and fists clench.
One of the technicians says, “this is gonna be the worst disaster NASA’s ever experienced.”
But flight commander Gene Kranz quickly corrects that perspective: “With all due respect sir, I believe this is going to be our finest hour.”
It’s true—I’m an optimist.
I truly believe that the most challenging experiences in life—whether personally or globally—also open the way for growth and transcendence.
I’ve found this to be true so many times in my own life, when the most difficult experiences eventually led to incredible strength and discovery.
And right now, we are being challenged: individually and collectively.
So I recognize—and have been feeling—that even the most optimistic of us are finding current events to be challenging.
As a result, I wanted to share some proven tips for staying calm & resilient in times of uncertainty.
Practicing these approaches will help you maintain your center and remain stable and resilient in your mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
One of my favorite sayings during difficult times is, “This too will pass.” Nothing lasts forever. And while we don’t yet know how long this crisis or the effects of it will last, we do know it won’t last forever.
It’s all too easy to become saturated with news and social media posts related to the pandemic. While it’s fine to stay informed, you don’t need to spend hours online. Turn off your news feeds and social media so you don’t become emotionally overwhelmed.
Right now, understandably, the Coronavirus is on everyone’s minds and it seems to be one of the only topics in news and conversation. However, becoming hyper focused and ruminating on the issue will only negatively impact your mood, outlook and energy. Try your best to find other activities to keep your mind occupied.
“Social distancing” does not mean social isolation. Even if you’re not physically around people, reach out via phone, video chat, text, etc. Isolation has been proven to worsen symptoms of depression. So keep reaching out and stay connected to as many people as you can.
With so many places and events closing, many of your normal routines have probably been disrupted. But even if you can maintain small, simple routines (eating meals at the same times, reading before bed, your morning meditation practice, etc.) it will go a long way to helping maintain a sense of normalcy. This will help provide comfort and reduce stress.
See if you can enjoy doing things in new ways. If you’re working at home now, find ways to enjoy the perks of it. If your gym is closed (mine is), download an exercise app and try a new exercise approach. Go for a walk or run. Novelty is actually a great way to boost your mood and break out of ruts.
Focusing on others is an extremely helpful way to benefit other people AND yourself, and will help to combat depression and stress. When you temporarily take your focus off of your own problems and do something to help someone else, you get a much needed perspective shift and a healthy boost in mood & outlook. It simply feels good to help people.
We’re all in this together. Challenging times are an opportunity and an invitation to choose how you respond and how you treat others. See if you can be patient with that slow person blocking the aisle, kind to the cashier, and compassionate to people who are stressed. Smile, give something away, let someone go ahead of you. All of these are simple, yet meaningful ways to ease the burden everyone feels and will help you feel better too.
The Coronavirus is forcing us to stay in, slow down and spend more time at home. This is actually an opportunity to reduce your activities, busyness and usual distractions, and do inner work. Reflect on your fears and hopes. Journal your thoughts, feelings and goals, daydream, meditate, pray, visualize. Engage with any internal or spiritual practices that you don’t always make time or space for.
Similar to “going within,” if you would normally go out to restaurants, concerts and bars, you probably now find yourself with extra time at home. See if you can seize this unique opportunity to start that project at home you haven’t had time for. Start the blog or online business you’ve been thinking about. Pick up your instrument and play some music or start painting again. Learn to cook. Plan your next move. Start reading the books that have been on your nightstand. Whatever it might be, see if you can take this time to invest in your personal development.
Reflect on what these challenges may be asking of you. What personal limits or barriers are you now being forced to confront? This can be difficult work, but when it comes to your personal growth, you will thank yourself. And as you confront your own struggles and limitations, above all, practice being patient and compassionate with yourself.
As of right now in Colorado, we’re still free to roam outside. Connecting with nature, even if it’s just a walk around the block, can be tremendously restorative and reassuring. Listen to the birds, feel the sun on your face, breathe the fresh air, enjoy quiet or natural sounds, and notice the timeless changes coming with springtime.
If you’re used to lots of activity, being forced to slow down by circumstances is probably challenging. But see if you can allow yourself to slow down a bit and reduce your usual busyness. If you can allow this, it will help reduce stress and increase mental clarity. Give yourself some quiet time and rest that you normally wouldn’t get if your life were business as usual right now.
These are stressful times, in many ways. The high stress that can come from uncertainty and sudden changes requires more self-care to feel healthy and whole. As I write this, I’m watching one of my favorite shows, having a glass of red wine, enjoying a crock-pot meal I cooked for dinner and the chocolate chip cookies I made. You probably know what constitutes self-care for you, so remember to keep practicing your self-care in simple ways every day.
When stressed, it’s normal to constrict and tense up. But your breath is always available to you as a source of life and rejuvenation. Remember to breathe deeply, every day, whenever you can. Coming back to your breath is relaxing, grounding, and re-focusing.
You don’t need a reason to smile (but if you have a reason, all the better!) Whenever you think of it, just smile for several seconds. It might seem funny at first, but this helps trigger the mirror neurons in your brain that associate smiling with feeling good, and you will start to feel better. Even just smiling for 10 seconds or so can make a big difference. Give it a try and notice what feels different!
Finally, my sympathies go out to you if you or your loved ones have been negatively affected by the Coronavirus. Many people have lost their lives, their loved ones, or their income. I want you to know that I’m wishing you love and healing.
I’ll be back with another blog next week. I believe that “this will be our finest hour.”
In the meantime, BE WELL!
P.S. Last year, in the wake of a school shooting here in Colorado, I wrote a blog that includes a fantastic “Loving Kindness” guided meditation video to heal self & others, and it’s as relevant now as ever. Check it out here.