Wisdom and Advice for Managing Stress and Fear During Covid-19
It's week two of lock-down and quarantine for most of us, a dramatic global change from the lives we were living just weeks ago. None of us could have imagined that this is how we'd all be spending our days.
My daughter just echoed what I have heard so many adults say; "I just don't feel like I can focus, and I don't know where the day went." I let her know that adults are feeling that way too, but that our work right now is not to be productive eight to ten hours a day. Our work, in times like these, is to go easy on ourselves and draw on our inner strength. This is the time to pause, reflect and bring wisdom, courage and care to ourselves and those around us.
We human beings have survived for thousands of years, helping one another and inspiring each other. We know how to do this. We have, collectively, endured centuries of suffering, and also centuries of joy. Instead of getting caught in collective fear and anxiety, we can remember to take a breath, center ourselves, and shelter calmly and in the spirit of love. Even from our homes, each of us can contribute to the well-being of ourselves, our communities and our world.
I have collected some of the best bits of wisdom on dealing with the isolation, fear and anxiety that many people are feeling during this global Coronavirus pandemic, and compiled it below. May these words of encouragement from some of the best Gurus, teachers, meditators, and grandmothers be of benefit.
I've also assembled a list of teachers and apps offering free meditation or free mindfulness classes you can take right now. Click here for Free Resources to Manage Anxiety and Boredom During the Pandemic.
Words of Wisdom:
1) This pandemic experience is a massive experiment in collective vulnerability. We can be our worst selves when we’re afraid, or our very best, bravest selves. In the context of fear and vulnerability, there is often very little in between because when we are uncertain and afraid our default is self-protection. We don’t have to be scary when we’re scared. Let’s choose awkward, brave, and kind. And let’s choose each other. - Brene Brown
2) No matter how the COVID-19 pandemic resolves itself—something no one can predict—you can personally choose right now to reduce its threat. The superficial part of everyone gets involved in a crisis by staying glued to the news, attaching itself to worst case scenarios, and dwelling on the terrible things other people are going through. None of this behavior puts you in control. It does just the opposite by fueling fear, uncertainty, and insecurity. Looking at updates once a day is more than enough. The rest of the time, remain centered in yourself and keep doing the sensible thing. Positive thinking isn’t enough. Feeling safe and secure is a state of awareness. It exists in us when we reach deeper than the everyday self. The everyday self cannot feel permanently safe. Outside forces loom too large and threatening. This is the time to take up meditation or return to it if you have lapsed. Your goal is to connect with your deeper awareness -- that is the place where security comes from. -Deepak Chopra
3) In this moment we can sit quietly, take a deep breath, and acknowledge our fear and apprehension, our uncertainty and helplessness…and hold all these feelings with a compassionate heart. We can say to our feelings and uncertainty, “Thank you for trying to protect me,” and “I am OK for now.” We can put our fears in the lap of Buddha, Mother Mary, Quan Yin, place them in the hearts of the generations of brave physicians and scientists who tended the world in former epidemics. When we do, we can feel ourselves part of something greater, of generations of survivors in the vast web of history and life, “being carried” as the Ojibwa elders say, “by great winds across the sky.” This is a time of mystery and uncertainty. Take a breath. The veils of separation are parting and the reality of interconnection is apparent to everyone on earth. We have needed this pause, perhaps even needed our isolation to see how much we need one another. - Jack Kornfield
4) This isolation, it binds us together. Get your news just once a day. And then read and elevate yourself. Use this time wisely. Because this too shall pass. - Robert Thurman, Buddhist Monk (and, father of Uma)
5) Human beings can adapt to anything. We can so swiftly adapt to change - if martians landed on Earth today, it would be old news by next Wednesday. Look at how much we have adapted in two weeks! There is no species on this planet that can so quickly adapt to change, nor is there any species more anxious and afraid of change. We humans are a paradox. We're so afraid of change, and yet we're so good at it. We can all think of hard times we have adapted to because we had to, but if we had warning of it, it would have terrified us. - Author Elizabeth Gilbert
6) Everyone’s experience of this quarantine is different. Do not compare. It’s a vastly different experience to be holed up in a tiny apartment vs a big house. Or imagine being homeless! It’s just differently hard for everyone. When I get to the end of my day, I ask one final, “What have I done?” Let my answer be, “I have done love.” Right now is the time we all need to be DOING LOVE. - Jennifer Pastiloff, Yogi and Author
7) Your family is all of humanity, all the animals, all beings on earth. Include them all in your heart. Live with gratitude. What the times ask is a change of consciousness—a shift from the fearful, separate consciousness, the consciousness of us versus them, to the consciousness of connection and interdependence. You are already part of this shift. Now each of you, in your way, is invited to find a freedom of spirit no matter what happens, and carry what's beautiful into the world. - Jack Kornfield
8) As you move through these changing times... be easy on yourself and be easy on one another. You are at the beginning of something new. You are learning a new way of being. You will find that you are working less in the yang modes that you are used to. You will stop working so hard at getting from point A to point B the way you have in the past, but instead, will spend more time experiencing yourself in the whole, and your place in it. Instead of traveling to a goal out there, you will voyage deeper into yourself. Your mother's grandmother knew how to do this. Your ancestors from long ago knew how to do this. They knew the power of the feminine principle... and because you carry their DNA in your body, this wisdom and this way of being is within you. Call on it. Call it up. Invite your ancestors in. As the yang based habits and the decaying institutions on our planet begin to crumble, look up. A breeze is stirring. Feel the sun on your wings. - Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers
9) How do we handle the fear? The fear of getting the virus, the fear of everything closing down? Well, this is an enforced closing down of the busy-ness of the world. Until this happened the world was busy, chaotic and everyone was lost in their minds. It's as if someone said "we need to turn it off." it is enforced stillness, it is really what the world needs, it will be an awakening for many, if we can learn to go beyond the fearful thoughts. What will that take? It will take awareness of what is going on in your mind. It's a different consciousness - awareness can recognize when you are thinking useless thoughts. When you can have the realization that destructive thoughts are going through your mind and making you fearful (fear of losing everything, fear of getting sick, fear of losing your savings...). Your mind is telling you all of these things WILL happen. But it is NOT happening right now - and if it did happen, you would face it. Right now, the problem only exist in your imagination, and the more you think about it, the more these thoughts make you suffer. So with a minimum of awareness, you can look at it and see that all the thoughts are happening to you-- you are at the mercy of the thought and it possesses you -- until the moment that you can ask "why am I making myself suffer by thinking all of this?" It's this unmonitored, repetitive thinking that is projecting, and it not helping me, it is making me suffer...but in reality, I am not suffering right now. And that is freedom. That is free will. We have the delusion that the more we worry and think about problems, that is how we control our lives. You stop it by recognizing the futility and destructive nature of fearful thinking. You will see that a lot of unhappiness is produced by the narratives in your mind, and at that moment you can make a choice to be dragged along by the stream of fearful thinking, or you can bring your attention to it, and say, "No, I don't want to go that way." Meditate and direct your attention away from it. - Eckhart Tolle
10) Take this opportunity to look at yourself, rethink life and death, take care of yourself and others. Take care of your homes, take care of your body. Connect with your spiritual House. When you are taking care of yourselves, you are taking care of everything else. Do not lose the spiritual dimension of this crisis. Have the eagle aspect, that of from above -- and see the whole; see more broadly. There is a social demand in this crisis, but there is also a spiritual demand. The two go hand in hand. You were prepared to go through this crisis. Take your toolbox and use all the tools available to you. You do not help at all being sad and without energy. You help if good things emanate from the Universe now. It is through joy that one resists. Also, when the storm passes, each of you will be very important in the reconstruction of this new world. You need to be well and strong. And, for that, there is no other way than to maintain a beautiful, happy and bright vibration. This has nothing to do with alienation. Allow yourself to take advantage of this time to perform your vision seeking rituals. What world do you want to build for you? For now, this is what you can do: Be serenity in the storm. Calm down, pray every day. Establish a routine to meet the sacred every day. In Shamanism, this is called a Vision Quest. -White Eagle, Hopi11) In this moment of crisis, we should be asking what an economy is for, whether there are limits, how much is enough and whether we are happier with all this stuff. Can we relearn what humanity has known since our very beginnings, that we live in a complex web of relationships in which our very survival and well-being depend upon clean air, water and soil, sunlight (photosynthesis) and the diversity of species of plants and animals that we share this planet with? In this disaster lies an opportunity to reflect and change direction in the hope that if we do, nature will be far more generous than we deserve.
Can we establish a far more modest agenda for ourselves filled with reverence for the rest of creation? Or will we celebrate the passing of the pandemic with an orgy of consumption and a drive to get back to the way things were before the crisis? - David Suzuki, Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist
Bonus Bits of Calm:
--Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. - Victor Frankl, Concentration Camp Survivor and Author
--When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive. -Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh
--Nothing in nature lives for itself. Rivers don't drink their own water. Tress don't eat their own fruit. The sun doesn't shine for itself. A flower's fragrance is not for itself. Living for each other is the rule of nature. - Unknown
Image: Artist Catherine Nelson. Her beautiful earth images/art is also a great way to spend 5 minutes reducing stress. http://www.catherinenelson.com
**Need to purify your air? Saging, or smudging your home with white sage's antimicrobial properties. Sage keeps infectious bacteria, viruses, and fungi at bay. Smudging may also be used as a ritual tool to rid yourself — or your space — of negativity.