The consequences of “living safely” during covid-19 is taking a huge toll on mental health. Increased anxiety, poor sleep, impaired digestion, mood swings, poor concentration, irritability, impatience, and lack of motivation are just a few symptoms. Simple things are now overwhelming.
Sure, meditation would be a wise thing to do, better self-care, take breaks, get enough sleep. Easier said than done. For the most part, we KNOW what we NEED to do. But when you are frustrated, angry, upset, bone-tired, anxious, or depressed, it’s so much harder to make the time or muster the motivation.
This may sound crazy, but we need to say YES to all this. YES, it feels like prison. YES, I am ________ (sad, angry, frustrated…), YES, I miss my friends. YES, to all the things that are not in our control. Why? Because saying yes to what is happening reduces our resistance. When we resist what is happening, rather than adapting ways to manage ourselves and our lives, we create more pain and anguish. When we spend our energy resisting, there is less energy available for adapting. Remember,
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.”
— Charles Darwin, British naturalist.
In Buddhism it is called “the second arrow”. The first arrow was an injury we took in battle or in life, let’s say, covid-19, the triggering event. The second arrow is how we go on about how unfair the first arrow was, or how stupid that we got shot by the arrow, and now I can’t do this or that, and I’m getting behind and telling everyone that this wasn’t how things were supposed to be and I’ve got things to do but now I have to do this instead, and it wasn’t my fault and on and on…
Have you ever gotten sick, and then made yourself feel even worse because you are inconveniencing your co-workers or your family, and you try to work, but feel just terrible and then feel worse that you’re not performing? It’s like that. The Buddha explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. And with this second arrow comes the possibility of choice”.
Saying YES is also an act of self-compassion for all that’s happening. It isn’t your fault. You’re doing the best you can. You’ve got 15 balls in the air, perhaps people or little ones depending on you. Too much to do and not enough time, energy, funds, support… This is a time for kindness and self-compassion.
There are a few tools available to all who are reading this to help minimize emotional damage.
- Pause, deepen your breath, carry on. Do this frequently throughout your day.
- Prayer to whomever you wish, even and especially in the midst of chaos, and carry on.
- Turn off the news, take a break from it, play your favorite music, dance, sing.
- Hydrate. We often eat when our body is thirsty. Water your body. It will be nicer to you.
- Half your body weight in ounces is a good approximate to aim for.
- Create a ritual for yourself, tea, a candle, just a few moments, bathe in stillness.
- Nourish supportive relationships. Hit the pause on energy vampires.
- Simplify, do less if you can. Do the most important things. Let the rest go (I can hear some of you now, well yeah Lisa! Why didn’t I think of that? I miss you!)
- Embrace imperfection! We’re in a mess. It may last a bit longer. Let perfection go! It’s an energy vampire.
- Ask for help.
One last thing. You are already doing better than you think you are. You are getting through this. It is hard. It sucks. We want it to be over. But know that we are in a transition and transitions are almost always difficult. Try to simplify, like you would when you are grieving. Do things in little chunks and take micro-breaks. Try to do just one thing at a time. And Mom’s out there, I can hear you now, “Yeah Lisa, come to MY house and try to do just one thing! What the hell do you know”?
I know that you are the strongest creatures on the planet. That is what I know.