There are ways to get through anything in life. I don’t say that entirely from my personal experiences, because although like everyone else even though I’ve gone through good times and bad, there are so many hardships I have never had to deal with, and if I am blessed and fortunate enough, I never will. But I have listened to and observed people over the years, some close to me, like my parents who were Holocaust survivors, some mere acquaintances, who have offered lessons in how to get through the toughest of times. I am nowhere near having all of the answers, but to the best of my ability I will try to share some thoughts on how to handle hopelessness and fear. For those dealing with loss or illness it is a different playing field, but for everyone else I write this with the hope that my understanding and outlook will help you in some small way, and if I help just one person, then it was time well spent.
It starts with the acquisition of knowledge. Whether it is on a small personal scale or on a larger one, knowing as many accurate facts as possible will, with the correct approach and perspective, only help you deal with any issue. That means chose your sources wisely and narrowly. This is a medical issue, not a political one. The politics and whatever consequences develop as a result are a matter to be dealt with later. So find the medical sources you believe are trustworthy and try your best to understand what they are saying. I suggest spreading it out a little so as to satisfy yourself that there are no hidden agendas, but once you find those 3 or 4 sources, keep your flow of information narrow and follow their guidance. It will be possible to find 10 different medical sources each day if you look hard enough, but if you do that, regardless of what happens to you physically, the mental impact will likely not be a healthy one. Partially because it means you are spending too much time focusing on things you can’t control.
This brings me to my next point. The issue of control is always an important thing to understand, but even more so in a crisis like the one we are facing today. It is my belief that it is critical to understand how little of what happens is in our control, for once we do that we can focus on the things that we actually can control. We can control our own personal actions. If you are someone who just wants this all to be over and sits there shouting at the TV or crying on Facebook, but at the same time are not practicing social distancing, then you are not properly focused on what you can control. And if you are someone who is angry about how things are being handled by our leaders but litter the parking lots of supermarkets and banks with your masks and gloves, you are definitely not getting it. And yes, there are many reports of this happening. Control your own personal actions and you will be doing your part in helping get things back to normal sooner rather than later. But most of all, and this is where I think mental health issues can be averted, to the best of your ability, control your thoughts and emotions.
I am not a mental health professional. But I am someone who is getting through this with certain mental disciplines and techniques I find to be very helpful. For starters I divide my day into segments. As someone who lives alone there is no one else I live with that depends on me. As with so many things in life, there things about that which are advantageous, and thinks about that which are not. It would be very easy to fall into doing just one thing all day, be it binge watching the news, catching up on all the movies and TV shows I’ve yet to see, interact online, eat, etc. I suggest, for those who have not already done so, to structure your day. As I told someone the other day, if you do mostly one thing during your time stuck at home, that will be who you become. However, by diversifying your efforts, you can actually look back at any individual day and feel that it was actually a good one, even if it is not the ideal one. Do different things, find ways to grow, even develop new hobbies, but more than anything else, think of someone other than yourself.
So there are many out there, particularly parents and healthcare workers that certainly do not need to be told to find someone else to help. That is built into their home life or career. But for those not in that category I share with you that which has been my most useful tool in handling this time. Find at least one person, or more if you are so inclined, and help them. Talk with them, comfort them, show them love and support. Besides having that rewarding feeling that you made a difference in someone’s life by making their day and for all you know, many of their days better, focusing on someone else does something critically important. It stops you from fixating on yourself and your own problems. In a time when many of the things we need to do to fix our problems we are unable to do because of these unforeseen circumstances, if we spend too much of the day focused on that, we are not helping anyone, least of all ourselves. But by finding someone who needs your help, be it practically or emotionally, we have done something to help. A LOT.
Whenever things are bad, personally or collectively, it is human nature to look for someone to blame. I would offer that in a time like this, pointing fingers is a misuse of your energy. Use your energy to keep busy, work on having a positive outlook and contribute in any way you can to help. And if you yourself feel you need help, reach out to someone for support. If you can’t find anyone to talk to, feel free to reach out to me and I will be happy to listen. If you can’t find me online you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck and stay strong.
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