March 20, 2020
Last week a friend asked me why everyone was hoarding.
They are looking for control.
I like to think of this using an analogy. If we say that our individual cities are children, and our country governments are the parents, right now the parents are so completely overwhelmed and confused, they are unable to give us any good guidance. None of us from the top down, have ever been in this experience before.
Personally, I would love it if I got a phone call or an email from my city government that informed me of the time the testing van would be in my neighborhood and when my timeslot was. Then I would know, did I have the virus or did I not? Or had I already had it, and I had antibodies? Then I could proceed with less uncertainty.
But that is not happening. Currently, our governments are completely unprepared for something so new and so virulent.
Most of my clients become stressed when they have either too little boundaries or too many self-imposed rules. Right now we have this bizarre combination of both. We have the lack of guidance I mentioned earlier yet are sitting in the literal boundaries of our homes. Existentially, we want more guidance. Physically, we feel too limited.
So what we are left with is a feeling of complete lack of control over our fate. I don’t need to tell anyone of you how very uncomfortable that is.
There are small ways that we can take control of our own lives. Doing this will help us feel a little more settled and safer. Right now we all just want to feel safe. And for some reason, we all decided that what makes us feel safe is toilet paper.
But seriously, there are things that can help. Focus on what you can control.
Make a schedule, for at least part of the day. Schedule in things you enjoy. Art projects, reaching out to friends, movement. An online class, of which there are so many being offered right now.
Schedule in that glass of wine or whiskey too. Don’t try to be Perfect Habit Person right now, but watch that you don’t devolve into binging on tv until it’s late enough to start drinking every day. Go for the middle ground, and reach out to someone to talk to when you need it. We are all in this together.
Studies have shown that It takes between 18-266 days to create a new habit, with the average being 66 days. Those studies were done in the face of normal life with all of its responsibilities and distractions. I am curious to see if some of us do an experiment of choosing a habit or skill or two that we would like to improve if it would develop more quickly because we have more time to focus on it. It would also be something that is under our control, and so would have that added benefit of psychological soothing.
There may have never been a time before in our living history that so many people across the world have felt the same way at the same time. And while I wish that that same way everyone didn’t feel was uncertain, there are gifts to be found here too. The compassion that I have seen globally is really beautiful. Countries are working together to find answers, so very many teachers are offering their content for free on the Internet so that we have something useful and interesting to do, utility companies are suspending payments so that we get to have lights and water and heat.
This is going to change our world. There isn’t any doubt of that. This is a 'never the same again' event. We usually experience never the same again events as individuals. Perhaps the death of a loved one, a marriage or break up, or a big move. This is a global never the same again event.
I see people changing already. To have something of this magnitude that we have to surrender to, to comply with, is deeply humbling. And from that place of humility I see such love coming forth. I see people being very kind and patient to each other, being polite and their social distancing and respectful and thankful of those who are still working in our communities.
In the US there used to be a television show called Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Mr. Rogers was basically a saint. One of his quotes is:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
There are so many helpers right now.
This quote by Mr. Rogers is such a great example of changing focus. What you focus on creates your reality. It’s tempting right now to read the news think about this all the scary things and go into feeling bad. I am not going to tell you to be cheerful and upbeat.
What I am going to ask is that you try to find freedom from unhappiness. One way to do this is to be more embodied, more in your senses. When people are coached through panic attacks and PTSD, they are asked to name five things they can see, they can hear, they can taste, smell, and they can touch, and by doing that they come more into their senses and their body. They become more grounded.
When we are more grounded, more embodied, we are able to more easily move into a witness state, and then we are able to see what is around us right now, versus being caught up in our mental chatter. This is very valuable. It allows us the space that we need to be able to see what is good right now, and also to see what we can do right now that is in our control.
A family friend who lives in Singapore shared that practicing daily gratitude for small things has helped her manage lockdown stress. In her words:
Your focus becomes your reality. Focus on gratitude for everyday things instead of fear.
Limit your news intake. Find a few neutral sources and check them once a day. Scrolling through alarming articles does not help anyone feel calm.
Take naps, long walks, and look up at the sky.
Make your home a nice space to be in. Rearrange the furniture, clean out that junk drawer, and wash your sheets.
Put some time in on hobbies. Make some things, be it bread, crafts, or handwritten letters.
Stay in touch with your loved ones.
Circling back to gratitude, focus on things within the last 24 hours. If you keep it big and general, you’ll probably run out of things pretty quickly. If you keep it small and specific and hold yourself accountable to recount those things daily, you’ll find yourself going through your day looking for things to be grateful for! And THAT is a shift in focus.
Sending you all love, reassurance, and patience.