Here we are: for many readers you’re close to the month mark being confined at home. This unprecedented situation seems to be becoming a constant for the foreseeable future… But there’s one thing you have in abundance: TIME. No more commuting time if you are asked to work from home—or if you’ve been furloughed.
So what will you do with this extra time that is given to you? Indulge in watching movies frantically; message people around you over and over again to keep busy; listen to the news every hour to see where we’re heading to?
Or: reconnect with people you didn’t talk with for a long time; go explore those local parks you didn’t even know existed (if you’re allowed to!); learn how to meditate?
It’s all up to you really, but this can be your chance if you choose to seize it. Ask yourself:
I say this virus situation is an opportunity for growth and personal change. This crisis will end. So you should prepare for the after-coronavirus starting today! That means taking advantage of your free time in a constructive manner.
First I want to take a look at the psychology of change. When the epidemic abates, we will realise there are scars left in all areas of our society. In fact, we should expect even more changes than today to deal with in the medium term! So we’d better get used to embrace change starting now because change at a large scale is now inevitable.
Resistance to change is in the human nature. We like stability. We like comfort. The idea of change is related to the unknown, and we are naturally scared about that. It is therefore more important than ever to understand our natural reactions to change and how we can ease the discomfort of having to deal with huge changes in our lives.
In psychology, there is something called the ‘change curve’ that basically describes the stages we go through as we adjust to change in our lives. It can be applied to traumatic events (e.g. a bereavement) or more common changes (e.g. being made redundant in a job; moving house). After the change occurs, the typical stages an individual will face are in the lines of:
Put on a chart it’s easier to appreciate what happens.
The interesting part is that not all stages need to occur and—if they do—they do not necessarily follow that specific order. Now in the context of COVID-19, we are still in the early days but everyone is making their way through this progression as I write these lines.
Now it seems to me that the coronavirus crisis is on the rather severe end of the change spectrum. This crisis heralds a series of change that will ripple through the very fabric of our societies. Yes, COVID-19 may well shatter your personal reality—sooner or later. Things you took for granted since a child may suddenly become questioned, become difficult or impossible. In general the older you are, the more difficult it will be to cope with change. Some people will not be able to process the events and feel profoundly distressed. Once stuck in depression our energy levels lower and it becomes harder to move on. So we need to be very careful about our emotional balance.
Now let’s look at the stages in more details. Let’s talk first about DENIAL. Denial is very paralysing. And most often we are not even aware of being in denial! For example, there is the so-called ostrich approach when you stick your head in the sand to avoid dealing with the situation… It’s easy, low effort. But low rewards too. Whoever practiced that in their life and have self-honesty will know it’s never a way forward.
Are you one of those who will ignore the events, pretend it’s just a passage and that everything will get back to normal? I am convinced it won’t. This crisis is one of those defining moments for humanity. There will be a before and an after coronavirus. Things will never get back to where they were. And for the better probably, because we were on a dangerous path.
Then there is ANGER. That’s when you are overwhelmed by a need to blame others for what happens to you. The government that was unprepared, the conditions that allowed this virus to propagate, the incautious citizens who did not respect social distancing. The list can go on forever. You are venting your frustration on whatever target the mind can come up with, and this is very unproductive.
Then comes DOUBT & DEPRESSION. You are conflicted about the mainstream news you hear on one side, and the so-called ‘conspiracy theories’ that your friends are sharing with you on social networks. Just a few months ago you would have dismissed this ‘nonsense’… but now that you have seen your personal reality smashed by this coronavirus, you are somehow less sure about everything. And the worst part is: some of those theories seem increasingly believable!
By the way, certain ‘theories’ will open your eyes about things that had been going on for a long time but you just didn’t see… This is part of the collective awakening process. But beware not to be thrown back into ANGER, because trust me you feel anger as you awaken. Lots of anger…
Certainly this is a time to expand your concept of truth and be more curious and open-minded than before. It does not mean everything said out there that is ‘alternative’ is valid though. In fact in times like this, some people will try to profit from your gullibility. As usual, use your discernment and ask yourself: “deep inside me, does that sound true?”.
As you hear things, think about them, discuss them, find similar but also opposite points of view, you will doubt even more… Profound questions may haunt you. What if you had been lied to for such a long time? What if you had been asleep and the others were trying to wake you up but you just didn’t want to listen? Now that you start seeing… the doubt will stay with you.
So many other things can have happened that give you a hard time. You may have lost your job and do not see any way out financially. You are separated from your lover because of the long distance, and the lack of physical contact is difficult to handle. You do not know how this entire crisis will end and you’ve lost sleep at night. Once stuck on this downwards spiral, your mind will find endless reasons to worry and wonder. So just don’t listen to it! Keep the focus on the positive aspects of your life.
The negative outlook on things dominates when you are experiencing one of the first four phases of the change curve i.e. shock, denial, anger & blame, doubt & depression. When doing so, you are basically experiencing FEAR and one of its many energies. And what’s propagating the virus even faster is fear! When you are afraid, your immune system is weakened. By staying stuck in a negative emotion you are really not doing yourself a favour. So do whatever you can to step out of negativity! And raise your energy levels.
Clearly what we should always promote is a positive outlook on things! Your goal is to reach the stages of acceptance & integration to move beyond the current situation.
If you feel stuck, then do something about it! Unlock these energetic knots you may feel. Circulate the energy, let it flow! Read those books stacked up in your bedroom since last summer that you barely touched; clean that loft; repair that door knob that drives you insane yet you procrastinated for the last 3 months… Then move onto the activities that generate pleasure and connect you with others & nature. Spend that time playing with your kids; give a sensual massage to your lover; or just watch the sunset alone from your window and realise how beautiful it is with a sky with barely any contrails on the horizon. Who said confinement only has drawbacks?
So just go for it, do those things you had promised yourself to do but waited for the right time. This IS the right time!
I strongly believe we should invest in ourselves with this abundance of free time. Follow an online course on your favourite topic (there are so many free options out there!). Learn a new skill e.g. gardening and feel the satisfaction of doing something new with your hands. Create that online video channel to express this talent you long wanted to share with the world. Find something new, fun and that you love and start doing it! There are unlimited possibilities to fulfil yourself and to actively enjoy your free time. Sprawling on the couch watching TV is not a bad thing to do in itself, but you should keep a balance.
By all means, focus on the positive. Focus on what life has to offer. Focus on feeling the satisfaction of doing things YOU choose and nobody forced you to do. That’s self-empowerment.
You are locked down: you can’t go anywhere… but do you need to go somewhere at all? How about going within? And probe the depth of your consciousness… I noticed how terrified most people are at the idea of spending time alone. Are you one of them? Most people are not used spending so much time with themselves. Now in this age of confinement, this is hard to avoid.
I am not saying meditation is for everyone and you must do it. But, maybe the current circumstances are giving you space to try that? What if you secretly or unconsciously wanted this break for a while and that finally the universe was sending it to you—in the disguise of this coronavirus crisis? What if it was time to try these new things you’d always wondered about? Give yourself permission to try something new. Without judgement.
One thing that quickly became obvious to me—as this crisis unfolded—is how much on the edge some people can live. I am talking about the capacity to cope with unforeseen circumstances and go through them without too much damage. I am talking about being ready for rainy days and having a bit of a leeway. Because many people seemed quite unprepared for this type of scenario. I don’t mean being prepared for a catastrophe and being a survivalist/prepper and having 12 months’ worth of canned food in your underground bunker. What I mean is having a bit of a buffer in your life to allow for such unforeseen events to happen without being on your knees. For example: having some form of savings to see you through a couple of tough weeks. Yes, what happens today is big and unusual… But depending how old you are you’ve likely seen it happen before, haven’t you? Think 9/11 or the 2008 financial crisis. You never know when ‘the shit is going to hit the fan’ next…
Large businesses have entire teams focused on contingency planning all year round and they were the best prepared for this crisis. I think we could learn a great deal from that: preparation is key. And without targeting a particular scenario, that could mean a few key principles to follow at a personal level, such as:
“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong… and at the worst possible moment.”
Also for some of us it’s been a cruel wake-up call for certain material things we had waited too long to do. Did you delay some repairs in your home or for your car? Did you neglect certain things and now find it difficult or expensive to get them sorted (e.g. lack of parts, labour etc.)?
If anything, this coronavirus crisis is a cure for procrastination! I know we had learnt to live in a society where we could get things quickly whenever we wanted them. But this crisis is also teaching us patience and that planning and staying on top of things always pay off!
And I will finish the list with the most important thing you may have neglected… your HEALTH.
Regardless of what is being debated about this virus—protection with masks, antibiotics, the future vaccine that will save us (really?!) etc.—there is something fundamental to realise: only your body can fight a disease. It’s your immune system that does the job. Our body has the intelligence to take care of itself but we must treat it well for it to perform well.
Now if your overall health is not good, then your immune system is relatively weaker. It does NOT mean you will fall ill for sure, but you are more likely to. So it’s time for a checkpoint with yourself. In all honesty, have you been doing everything you could to keep healthy? Because today it seems to matter a lot. Have you neglected your health? Did you wait for better days to take care of your health? If the answer is YES, then take this as an opportunity, Follow an online fitness course maybe. Start running? Start cooking healthy meals? It does not matter but start somewhere. There are so many free resources online. Give it a try!
What if this coronavirus crisis was an opportunity in disguise? Of course you could just chill: drink beer and eat pizza on the sofa all day long while watching countless seasons of your favourite series. And take it as a holiday. But do you not feel—deep inside—that this is time for something else? Plus, 2 months of holidays doing nothing that’s a bit long isn’t it? And what if this confinement lasts much longer…
You can make a conscious effort to leverage this ‘break’ if you wish. What will you do? That’s so exciting yet terrifying because it’s for you to come up with the answers. Do you want to change? Improve your life? Then use your additional spare time to do some real work on yourself. Still waiting for that future perfect moment?… it’s now! So just do it. Now.
This crisis is also a reminder. Have you been living at the limit of what you can handle lately? If so, you should play it a bit safer if you want to buy yourself some peace of mind . Have plenty of room for the unforeseen. Because there is no warranty that things always play out the way you expect.
And last: stay grounded and lucid during these times of turmoil, uncertainties and disinformation. Keep your centre, keep your healthy routines & practices as much as you can. Trust that you will be fine and let go of negativity.