Take back your power. Use curiosity to battle anxiety and discomfort.
One of the most frustrating parts of the current COVID-19 is continuous unknowns. We can’t know what the future looks like because there is so much we still don’t understand. We don’t know when there will be a vaccine or when we can return to a “normal” life. We aren’t clear how many more people will be affected, and we can’t identify who is a carrier, which makes it extremely difficult to predict the course. For two months, we’ve been trying to grab a cloud of invisible smoke.
At times, unknowns make life feel uncertain. Too much uncertainty leaves us feeling fearful and anxious. When life feels eerily unsettled, we can adapt by focusing on what feels predictable. For example, you may not know when you can see your friends in person again, but you can predict that you’ll put on real pants tomorrow. While in a place of uncertainty, we have the predictable and monotonous routine of staying indoors. The shadow side of this predictability leaves us unstimulated and bored. We’re consistently unsatisfied.
Almost two months of a lot of sameness, time feels disorienting. If you’re unemployed or working from home, days start to bleed into one another. Without a change of scenery, every day begins to feel the same. Sunday can look just like Thursday. There’s only so much Netflix, home projects, and walks around the block you can relish in. “Groundhog Day” unites us together, at once both validating and frustrating. We may start feeling increasingly frustrated or irritable.
Without school, the calendar year doesn’t allow families and kids to track progress and fantasize about the promise of summer plans. Without a defined end in sight, we only have a murkiness of our hope and more unanswered questions.
Perhaps you’re safe enough now, but still worried and confused about the future. The rumbling of frustration and itch to get back to life stirs us up. We may protest, rebel, or search for more clues about the future.
In the northern hemisphere, spring is creeping out from just beyond our windows; the sun beckons us to come out and play. The seasons change, the natural world is birthing life in spring. Mother nature mocks us with her moving forward.
As humans, we reach our mental limits. We’ve had about just enough of the people inside the same walls. We crave newness or change. We want what used to feel normal; We want to return to “life.” We want to move with the seasons.
Stuck inside our homes, and inside our minds, we search for reassurance. Old familiarity feels like water to our dehydrated minds. We reminisce about before and fantasize about the future. We’ll do just about anything except sit still. We resist the time of stagnation; we don’t want to hold steady, and as a result, we miss the opportunity inside of it.
If you can meet your basic needs, and there isn’t an immediate danger to your health, there is a privilege in hunkering down and sheltering at home. We can take this pause on life seriously, and use it to our advantage. There are many benefits to time out. Our earth is healing, while the majority of humans take time out. Climate change and slowed: the earth repaired its most massive ozone layer hole. Let us each take the opportunity to heal something in our world.
When life squeezes in an unfamiliar way, grab a microscope. Instead of letting our frustration get the better of us, use this opportunity to reflect and consider what needs updating. What can you actively work to heal personally? If you are healthy and safe and your biggest concern is boredom, and a longing to return to life, use this time out to reflect.
Inside your home, have an inner conversation; Get radically honest with yourself.
What parts of your life could be improved? What part of the structure of our society needs to change? How will you step into that role after COVID-19? While you’re sitting through the pandemic, where can you take more responsibility for yourself and the direction of your life?
Where would you like to redistribute your energy? Has this time helped you organize your perspective and priorities?
Maybe you had more time for home cooking, and you realized you enjoyed it. You might have been surprised that baking bread isn’t that hard, after all.
Maybe you ended up buying less, and feel better about reducing waste and finally have some money in the bank!
Off the grind of day-to-day, perhaps you met neighbors, and now you feel a better sense of community.
Maybe you realized that some things you could go without, and other things were quite essential for your mental health. Or perhaps you noticed you take a lot of your anger out on your partner or kids. Or possibly you see that when you’re bored, you like to check out and binge on food and social media.
Under stress, we feel emotionally squeezed, and many things long-buried away rise to the surface for our review. Instead of focusing on the worries about the struggles, get curious about the message inside.
Amid the chaos of the crisis, we have an opportunity to see the insecurity of our individual and collective foundation. In those moments of confusion and emotional difficulty about still being stuck at home, with life on pause, use this time to your benefit. Deepen your insight, notice your insecurities, and identify where you may need to adjust your agreements.
Post-COVID-19, whatever the world looks like, how might you like your life to be different? As David Hollis writes, “In a rush to return to normalcy, consider what’s worth going back to.” Use this time out to consider how YOU would like to show up in your world.
In the seasons changing, mother earth reassures us that while we’re feeling confused and troubled about the direction forward, life continues. Our outside lives will resume one day, and it will look different than it did before. Let’s not be startled by the unknowns of this crisis- let us try and understand the opportunity inside of it. Consider the privilege- the gift- the potential opening inside this time out. We can use it to reorganize our world and ourselves and consider how we’d like to progress it.