Globally, we are at the highest peak of uncertainty we will see in our lifetimes. We can feel the palpable uneasiness of every single person on the planet.
There is no question our collective mental health is suffering. We were pulled out of our daily lives and told we can go nowhere and see no one. Many of our coping mechanisms: socializing, going to the gym, dining out, and going to parks were abruptly taken away with no good replacement.
Our nervous systems extend outside of our body. Think of the difference between sitting alone in a room and when someone you care about walks in. We can literally feel the other person’s presence through our nervous system. Then, imagine there are 8 billion people on the planet all with nervous systems extending outside our bodies. All of humanity is experiencing some level of anxiety and uncertainty. So many nervous systems in high activation all communicating with each other without talking.
Now imagine something that you know to be true. For example, I know that at this moment I am safe and healthy. This could change in the future, but for this very moment I am safe and healthy.
Teachers of mindfulness would remind us that the present moment is all there is. The present moment is the only constant, but it is also ever changing.
Let’s broaden that understanding to COVID-19. We only have the present moment and that is ever changing. As our circumstances are changing moment by moment, we can acknowledge that this time is different than any other time in our history. Try to not characterize today's problems to a normal day. These are not normal days. Also, remember that COVID-19 is temporary. I do not know how long this will last, but I know it will not last forever.
History will look back on the year of 2020 as the year everything shut down. There was no baseball, no concerts, no crowded beaches in the summer (at least they are not supposed to be crowded), and we couldn't leave our homes for months except to go to the grocery store. We will be held up as pinnacles of strength and endurance, while we will be the only ones who know how hard it really was.
Think back on the 1918 Flu Pandemic. What do you think the mental health of people was during that time? What would you expect they were doing during that time? When I imagine it, I think they were just getting by.
We will get by. There is nothing you need to accomplish. We cannot change what is happening around us. There is only this moment.
Here is a poem about not resisting what is:
by Mark Nepo
I’ve been watching stars
rely on the darkness they
resist. And fish struggle with
and against the current. And
hawks glide faster when their
wings don’t move.
Still I keep retelling what
happens till it comes out
the way I want.
We try so hard to be the
main character when it is
our point of view that
keeps us from the truth.
The sun has its story
that no curtain can stop.
It’s true. The only way beyond
the self is through it. The only
way to listen to what can never
be said is to quiet our need
to steer the plot.
When jarred by life, we might
unravel the story we tell ourselves
and discover the story we are in,
the one that keeps telling us.
Sending loving thoughts for the highest good for all during this time of great transition.
"Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it." - Mary Oliver
I'm Kerry (She/Her/Hers) and I am a licensed therapist, writer & speaker. This is a positive space focused on how to thrive in any situation and the transformative power of suffering.