COVID-19 Lessons and Learnings
Just like everyone else, I’ve been working to process how this all seemed to come down so fast. Just a few short weeks ago we were going about our normal days. We heard rumblings of a virus that wasn’t pretty, but wasn’t here yet. Now it is here and life as we know it has drastically changed.
“These are the days that must happen to you.” - Walt Whitman
Just like everyone else, I’ve been working to get my thoughts around what has happened. Working to process how this all seemed to come down so fast. Just a few short weeks ago we were going about our normal days, hearing rumblings of this virus that wasn’t pretty, but wasn’t here. We certainly didn’t imagine the sweeping school and work closures, the massive layoffs, economic volatility, and the mandatory “social distancing” turned full-on “stay-at-home” order that has now become our norm.
The playing field has suddenly, sweepingly, been leveled. Aside from the essential personnel, we have all gone home and stayed home, as if we have been given a collective human species-wide time out. This is a huge shake up from what was considered normal life just a couple weeks ago, and that takes time to process. And this is a pandemic! Let’s take a moment to honor that this is a fucking scary time for us, and if you are feeling fearful or depressed or insane with staying at home and trying to hold it all together, that’s all normal and totally OK. But it’s not OK to stay exclusively in that dark place. As Healthy Women Leaders, it is up to us to take a stand and look at what we can learn from this situation? Why is this happening? What is it teach us?
First, let’s look at just a few of the good things that are rising up:
- The everyday heroes abound! Doctors and nurses, grocery store employees, police officers, restaurant workers and delivery people - these superstars don’t get to Netflix and Chill like us. They are out on the front lines keeping things moving so that we are taken care of and have a more comfortable day-to-day. Kudos to you, people!
- The meaning of home has been strengthened. What a blessing to have a safe and secure home - a roof over your head. A place to keep your food, your supplies, your people. This is the place that you have chosen for yourself, for your family. It's not perfect but it's yours, and when the shit hits the fan, this is where you can hunker down. Don’t forget to be grateful for that.
- The massive consumption of non-food items has been forcibly slowed with the new Amazon regulations that have arisen. This highlights the materialism that we have accepted as the norm in this country. Now that the things you want are not available to you tomorrow or within a couple days, do you still even want it? Can you honestly look at what you NEED vs what you WANT, and use that gifted pause to reconsider what you actually purchase?
- Pollution levels across the globe are on the decline, and ancillary benefits to the earth are starting to take shape. In China and other highly-populated areas, the air is clearer and more breathable than it has been in years. Side note: Let’s not let the irony escape us that something that impedes how we breathe is simultaneously bringing a breath of fresh air to the world. Canals in Venice are clear and animals have begun to re-enter areas that they haven't been in for years. This shows us that if we humans have step back even just this tiny bit, Mother Nature will naturally step back in. This planet is totally capable of healing itself if we give it a chance.
- We are spending time together with our immediate family that our rush-rush-rush go-go-go schedules simply don’t allow for. Now there are no more commutes, no extra curricular activities, no public meetings, no outside plans that have you rushing from here to there. And this extra time together is not limited to just the group you are locked down with - this also extends to more and lengthier phone calls and video calls (vs just quick texts) to the family/friends that you are not with.
This is a short list of ever-growing silver linings that you can find when you start to look for them, but for those who have lost their jobs, are actively sick or mourning the loss of a loved one or otherwise suffering: I realize that you do not have the luxury of thinking about these benefits right now. My heart and prayers go out to you with the utmost respect for your experience. But to those of us who are blessed enough to be healthy, to have enough resources, and be free of grief (which is most of us), this is your call to not let fear or worry take you over. Do not let it consume you. This is where we are now. It’s time to stop resisting what is already here and instead, look towards how we can adapt.
Here is what I recommend:
- Don’t postpone your joy - Thinking: “When this is over I’ll…” or “I can't wait for things to be back to normal!” is a natural reaction, but it means you are not living in the present moment. Ekhart Tolle says: “Accept - then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it… This will miraculously transform your whole life.” Try to find enjoyment in what you are doing right here, right now, even if it’s helping your angry teenger learn to attend virtual school or trying to keep your 3 year old from climbing the walls. As with all of the big life events, when we look back in retrospect there is a clarity about why things happened the way they did, what it taught you or lead you to. These things are never apparent when you are living through them. Amp up your trust that there is a reason for this all to be happening, and it will free you up to enjoy more of what you are doing right now.
- You have been granted permission, at the highest level, to SLOW DOWN. To pause. To take a breath, to center yourself, to gather your thoughts before you proceed. So use this time! Go outside with your people. Exercise. Paint, create, be positive. Play a game, color, be silly. Breath the fresh air and feel the sunshine on your face. Let nature stop you in your tracks with her staggering beauty. Be present. Enjoy the things that those who are sick with this virus wish they could do. Be thankful for what you do have and don’t waste time focusing on what you don’t have. This too shall pass, and on the other side of it, what do you want to show for this time? A lengthy downward spiral into uncertainty and fear? Or will you have done something positive and productive like loving your family more, learning a new skill, expressing more gratitude for your health, deepening your meditation practice, or trying yoga? Here’s a suggestion - why not audit Yale’s most popular course of all time for free online? Spoiler alert: it’s about finding real, lasting happiness - and what better than that right now?
- You have a real, direct opportunity to help other people from the comfort and safety of your own home. When you think about it, that’s what we are really doing here - helping one another. We are trying to stop the spread of a sickness that is especially hard for certain, specific populations. And in this case, we are given the rare opportunity to do something by doing nothing. What! How cool is that? So park it on the couch, sister, grab your remote and congratulate yourself for doing the right thing.
- Health + wellness are more important than ever: Mental, physical, spiritual health are of the utmost importance right now. Anything you can do to boost your immunity, like getting good rest, working out, eating well, taking anti-inflammatory boosters (like turmeric, ashwagandha, etc) are a good idea. Meditation, mindfulness, and finding simple joys are especially key right now to reduce stress, which weakens the immune system. Practicing self-care has never been more valuable (and arguably, easier, based on all the freebies that are out there through therapy/counseling sessions, yoga, home workouts, great music, etc) plus all the extra time you’ve got to actually do it. This is some serious brain power and skill share coming at you. Take advantage before our usual “pay to play” culture is reinstated.
- For those of us that are lucky enough to still have jobs - look at the finances that you might have gained. In my home we’ve cut out the following bills: preschool, babysitting, drum lessons, house cleaning, gas money, gym fees, yoga fees. That is a significant amount of money that has been re-infused into our budget.
- However, if your stress is around money, there are lots of options for financial help. Here in Colorado The Women’s Foundation of Colorado has set up a great list of resources that can help. If you don’t live in Colorado, start digging into what your home state may offer. And for those of you who qualify for the government kick-back, that should be coming your way soon too.
One cautionary note - one of the key pillars of self care that we teach at Healthy Women Leaders is to watch what you take in. This is key here - the world is pumping negatively-charged news at us with an incredible ferocity. It’s on media outlets across the globe, Coronavirus charts, figures, warnings that are almost always dressed in doom and gloom, with “Click me! Click me! Information you NEED TO KNOW” urgency. Social media is (and this is nothing new) fraught with inconsistencies, polarized viewpoints, alternate agendas and much of the information blasted at you is simply not true. It feels daunting to me to even try to keep up with what is what. So turn it off, or at the very least intentionally curate what you consume. You are not an open book for anyone to write their thoughts in. Protect your brain space and your heart space as the most holy ground that you have. You will feel better when you throttle the flow of news that you are taking in.
In conclusion, I repeat my invitation, my encouragement, to look at the good that is out there. In some ways, it's louder than ever. And more so than looking for the good, BE THE GOOD. Share good news, or better yet, CREATE good news. People are scared - reassure them. People are grieving - console them. People are sick - heal them, even if it's just with kind words or holding space for them in your heart. Treat yourself with the same kindness you would share with others.
Honor/respect the rules and regulations that are out there now. Stay home, do your part. That could help countless people in ways that you will never know. Let that potential be enough.
Now is the time to act as the best/highest/healthiest version of yourself. It’s OK to have to have a bad day, it's OK to be scared, but time-box those negative emotions and certainly don’t let that kind of energy become your driving force. Set good intentions and believe in the good that is wrapped up in this pandemic. Now more than ever we are really and truly ONE people, and what we do as individuals matters greatly to the whole. This is, perhaps, the most valuable lesson that we need to carry forward with us when this is over to affect ongoing, deeply positive change.