Given the global state of affairs surrounding the COVID-19 crisis it’s fairly safe to say that, no matter where you find yourself reading this article right now, your life has been impacted in some way. For some, this situation is an inconvenience. However, for many millions of people around the world this has been, and will continue to be, a major life change in routine and daily living for the foreseeable future.
In this time of need, I believe we all have a moral responsibility to aid and assist others both near and far. Having said that, here are five ways you can protect your mind and rise up from this situation as a better and stronger individual.
FOCUS ON THINGS YOU CONTROL
Too many people give away their power in life because they fix their attention on matters that are outside their control. “This person said that.” “That person said this.” “Can you believe what so-and-so just did?” “The government needs to do/not do such-and-such.” The list goes on and on. Unfortunately, this world isn’t perfect and there are many things that happen around us that are unwanted and less than desirable. But every time we choose to focus on these things that are outside of our control then we give up our power. Not to mention the fact that we open ourselves up to negative emotions like stress, anxiety, overwhelm, or even depressive thoughts.
Instead, focus on the things you do control. These are your thoughts, emotions, and actions. Nobody else controls your thoughts. This is something you control. Nobody owns rights to your emotions. These are yours to maintain. Nobody is forcing your actions like a puppet on a string. You control how you act, behave, and respond to situations. These things are solely yours to control. So take ownership of your thoughts. Take responsibility for your emotional state and adjust when necessary. Take control of your behaviors, which include how you act towards others and how you treat yourself.
DETERMINE HOW YOU CAN SERVE OTHERS
COVID-19 is a global concern. We are all in this together. We haven’t experienced a situation like this in our lifetime – possibly even several lifetimes. We are learning and adjusting as we go along day by day. Given the impact these events have had, it’s easy to get wrapped up in how drastically our lives have changed on a personal and individual level. But remember, you’re not alone. There are millions of people around the globe experiencing the same dramatic life changes.
One great way to move beyond this egoic view is to stop thinking and acting out of mere self-interest and start being of service to others. This could mean volunteering your time, donating funds or resources, or contributing in some other way. In your community, right now, there are many organizations that require manpower, donations, and valuable resources to help those in need. If your community has begun to enforce limitations and restrictions on activity then there are still plenty of ways to make a difference. In fact, you probably know someone in your apartment building or on your block that is in need of assistance. Check in on your elderly neighbor to see if s/he needs any groceries, toiletries, or essential items. Check in on the single mom down the street raising three kids on her own and see if she needs any help. Call up your friend who just got laid off and see if he’d like to visit for dinner or accept a home cooked meal, as a reminder that friends are thinking of him.
MONITOR YOUR THOUGHTS
Isolation can be difficult. It feels like we’re being punished because we’re cut off from others. (Think: solitary confinement for prisoners.) Sure it can have a more palatable name like “social-distancing” but the effects are the same. For many of us, sooner or later, our thoughts get the best of us, which is why it’s important to monitor the thoughts we think.
A healthy way of monitoring thoughts could be as simple as a daily journaling exercise. This provides an opportunity to take that swirling mental energy and give it a proper medium for expression so that it’s no longer taking up space in your mind. Give yourself this outlet to release and let go of this mental energy, especially if you find yourself thinking negative or toxic thoughts. Use this as a way to mentally dump all of the garbage that doesn’t serve you. On a related note, if you’re looking to improve your thoughts then start keeping a gratitude journal and each day write down ten or more things that you are grateful for in life. This is a surefire way to start changing the way you think.
SELF EDUCATION vs. MEDIA OVERWHELM
In this current climate we all need to be well informed. Every day the CDC and medical officials at all levels are issuing statements, providing updates, and sharing clear recommendations and strategies for best practices to ensure safety and well-being. It’s important that we stay informed and take necessary precautions. If you’re not already in the habit, then this is a great opportunity to take a little extra initiative and begin to self-educate. Let’s be honest, that old “I simply don’t have the time” excuse is no longer valid. Unless you’re on the front lines because your job is considered “essential and life-sustaining” then you probably have more than enough time on your hands; more than likely you fall into the category of those who now have entirely too much time on their hands and are beginning to get stir-crazy. If that’s you, then use this time wisely and educate yourself. Stop sitting around waiting to be told what to do.
The caveat to that is to also be mindful of your sources and limit exposure to protect yourself from media overwhelm, especially those who thrive on sensationalism. Get the information you need to be well informed and then turn the channel or simply start an enjoyable activity. Hearing the same upsetting information on repeat can increase likelihood of negative thoughts, depressive feelings, or create a doom and gloom outlook. None of which would serve any of us right now. We all need to do our part to stay informed, pass on good information to others, and make educated and safe decisions for the well-being and health of everyone.
PLAN TO BE BETTER
Despite these current circumstances, this can be an opportunity to improve certain areas of life so that we emerge stronger and better as individuals. Rather than wasting away binge watching TV and streaming services, take this time to reflect on your life in general. Are you exactly where you want to be with regard to career and finances? Are you satisfied with your level of health/fitness and the quality of your relationships? If not, then how can you improve these areas? If your career or finances have been negatively impacted in some way then why not start a side hustle? If you’ve been noticing that your clothes are feeling just a bit tighter coming out of the winter then put the remote down and go for a walk outside. If you want to improve the quality of your relationships then pick up a good book or listen to a podcast to develop new skills for effective communication, relationship building, and relating to others.
You can also use this time to reconnect with your core self and rekindle interests and activities that used to bring you joy. For one reason or another those interests and activities were put on hold or forgotten about. Now that you have extra time on your hands, go back to those activities and give yourself a reason to smile.
Feel free to share ways you are protecting and strengthening your mind right now.
Thanks and Be Excellent!