In the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, one of the characters says to another:
“May you live in interesting times.”
This is a curse. It is a way of saying, “I wish only bad things for you.”
We do live in interesting times, but we are not cursed. We are being challenged to live differently, to live physically separated, and to wait patiently. If flexibility is your super-power, put on your cape, because this is your time. And while we have proved ourselves to be adaptable as a species, we don’t always love the process of change.
You don’t need a long to-do list of how to navigate isolation. You need some simple yet powerful tips to help you through your day.
1) Have a mantra.
My friend Mary Carol has a calendar entry that pops up every morning. It says, “You are stronger than this!” She added it to her calendar a few weeks before “Safer at Home,” became her way of life. It was meant to help her with a different 2020 challenge. Now, she finds it to be even more poignant.
YOU can find a mantra of your own. It can be your favorite catchphrase, it can be an affirmation; it can be part of a poem; it can be the prayer you turn to in difficult times. Think of it as your power phrase. The words that MOST days will inspire you and give you the push that you need to get up, get going, and keep going.
Don’t just use it in the morning; call on your mantra throughout the day. Use it to re-center yourself when you feel fear or anger or anxiety creeping up on you.
2) Find a way to help others.
One of the best ways to take your mind off of your problems is to help others. Research has shown that helping others is beneficial for your physical and mental well-being.
“But what can I do from home?” It is easy to do at least one thing each day to help one another:
- Start a group text or message or email chain to check-in with your friends, family, colleagues, and others.
- Hold virtual happy hours and brunches and dinners.
- Post encouraging messages on social media.
- Make a phone call to someone you care about. Select one or two people to catch up with each week.
- If you sew, make masks for our medical teams.
- Send a card to someone you care about.
- Take videos of yourself and your family members (furry ones too). Share these videos with the people who miss you.
- Find a way to play virtual games. Some apps allow you to play card games and board games with one another.
YOU can grow this list. The point is to find a way to make this time easier for others. It does not have to be expensive; it does not have to be a grand gesture. Find something that you can do, that fits within your own mental and physical capabilities. Every day your abilities will be different.
Sometimes helping others might mean extending patience toward them on the days when they lose their cool when they panic when they quote false facts and when they yell at you for opening the front door.
And that brings us to our next tip.
3) Practice self-compassion.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Compassion begins at home! And by at home, I mean with YOU. Remember, self-compassion is not an excuse to indulge in harmful and unhealthy habits. It is not a reason to ignore your responsibilities and stop participating in life. It is about you learning the best way to take care of yourself.
You will have highs and lows. Being self-compassionate includes being self-aware and empathetic. It does not mean you never do anything difficult. Being self-compassionate means being aware of these waves of emotions and learning how to surf them. Take advantage of those high-energy moments and understand that they will end. Be less demanding and judgmental of yourself during your low-energy moments. Those moments will end, too.
There will be days when you repeat your mantra over and over again, and you feel like it is not working. There will be days when you just cannot listen to your partner freaking out. There will be days when you feel like you cannot send a check-in text, or participate in a virtual meeting, or make positive social media posts.
These are the days when you need to extend kindness toward yourself. Find a non-harmful way to help yourself. And if nothing seems to be working, then reach out and get help!
Remember to treat yourself as you would treat your best friend. Do not shirk your responsibilities or engage in harmful behavior. Treat yourself in ways that will help you to overcome your suffering.
Every day you will do your best. And every day, your best is different.
May you live and thrive in interesting times.