7 ways to be OK when the world around you isn’t
As I write this, I am very aware of the plethora of coronavirus-related mental health advice out there at the moment. On the one hand, we are in isolation and being told that it is hard to be alone; on the other, we are bombarded by opportunities to connect. As an introvert, I find the bombardment more challenging than the isolation.
Yet here I am, offering advice. And I offer it unapologetically because my message hasn’t changed. These times may be exceptional, but our feelings aren’t. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we cannot know the future. But we can learn to be with the unknown and accept it. Anxiety isn't contagious: but it’s in the air. And through mindful awareness, we can begin to notice our anxiety and choose not to react and spread the feeling, but to respond appropriately and constructively.
7 ways to nurture resilience and find peace in hard times
1. Have a meaning
The founder of logotherapy (‘healing through meaning’) was Viktor Frankl, a humanist psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust, spending time in four concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Frankl showed us that people have the potential to thrive in the most appalling conditions when they have a sense of meaning.
At a time when every area of our life feels threatened: our relationships, our finances, even our food, this may sound like a daunting task. But we can all find meaning in life through surprisingly simple activities, interactions and choices.
Frankl suggested three ways to find meaning: by creating or completing something; by experiencing something or someone; by choosing our response to our circumstances. In the end, Frankl said, "we may not be able to choose our situation, but we can choose our attitude to it".
2. Live in the moment
This pandemic has lifted the veil on the illusion of a planned future. Not long ago, we were all quite certain that the events we arranged would happen. Then a microscopic entity came along and showed us we were really making things up: creating false anchors in fictional futures.
Planning soothes our anxiety avoidant minds, but the safest place in a storm of unknowns is the present because here, knowledge rather than speculation prevails. It can be an enormous relief to allow yourself not to plan and but to let today unfurl moment by moment.
3. Be compassionate
Kindness has bloomed in the most unexpected places under lockdown, quite literally saving lives in many cases. Be kind to yourself and those around you and feel your relationships and your resolve strengthen.
4. Be vulnerable
Asking others for help gives them an opportunity to be kind and useful. You’ll both get a little rush of endorphins and instantly feel more connected and meaningful.
5. Practice acceptance
Acceptance is often confused with resignation, tolerance or understanding, but acceptance is so much more powerful and beneficial to our well-being. I don’t want to resign myself to a life of grey days or broken possessions, but I can accept these things when they occur.
Tolerance can conceal buried sadness or anger that can be toxic. And as for understanding, well, stuff happens. There’s no use holding my hands in the air and crying, “My favourite mug! Why, oh why did this happen to me?”. Acceptance means recognising the things we can’t control: the weather, loss, failure, illness, death. I’m not suggesting we treat these painful matters lightly. I am suggesting we choose how we respond to forces that rock us, and allow ourselves to find peaceful acceptance.
As time passes and I pick up more metaphorical flattened seedlings and loads of rain-rinsed sheets, I appreciate just how important acceptance is.
Quietening the chatter of all that is wrong leaves space for birds, raindrops and gratitude.
6. Connect with nature
I would encourage everyone to spend much more time outside, simply noticing things and moving at nature’s pace through natural spaces. But if getting outside isn’t possible at the moment, order some seeds and houseplants. Taking care of another living thing is a wonderful way to feel needed, and the pleasure you’ll get each time a new bud appears is quite extraordinary.
7. Practice gratitude
When so much seems wrong with the world, it’s easiest to allow the negative to dictate our thoughts and conversations. But today’s pains and discomforts will pass. Tomorrow there will be new discomforts and they will pass too. This thought gives me comfort. Quietening the chatter of all that is wrong leaves space for birds, raindrops and gratitude.
I’m grateful to live in a place where nature is my soundtrack and practice Gratitude every day. I do this by posting three things I am grateful for on Lifetime’s Gratitude Practice on Facebook. There are no rules. A newt is as valid as Newton’s laws if it makes the world a happier place.
If I could give you any gift it would be the gift of gratitude - there truly is nothing more fulfilling and comforting than realising that you have what you really need.
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