As I write this, I am reminded of a well-known retreat leader who started a 7-day silent retreat with, “I have no plans of what to talk about this week, you each have needs and so I am going to use the emerging curriculum to guide our experience together.” Well, you can imagine the looks that were exchanged by the nearly 250 participants who had made special efforts to be there. They were incredulous that there was no set curriculum for the week, leaving them to wonder if they had done the right thing by being there. Of course, the retreat was a deeply moving experience for each and every one of us and I’m somehow reminded of this as Sydney enters it’s 8th week of lockdown.
The pandemic it seems has an emerging curriculum for each of us, and who knows what it is. What I do know is that we each have something to learn from this experience.
And like every crisis we have to go through it rather than around, so here are some ideas to increase your resilience for this seemingly never-ending pandemic. You may even have heard some of these before, and this time they may take on a whole new meaning as your resilience continues to be tested.
You aren’t alone
Everyone goes through challenging times; they just don’t tend to talk about it. You can be rest assured that your friends, family and colleagues are also having a tough time, perhaps in other ways to how you’re experiencing them.
Take time out regularly to contact a friend, family member or colleague to just talk about how each of you are feeling. See if you can help each other by just listening. Check if they’re looking for advice or potential solutions and if they are, offer what you are comfortable with sharing.
It’s okay to cut yourself some slack
There’s no doubt that you may need space to process all of the emotions you are feeling from time to time. YOU may not even know how to verbalise them and if that’s the case some intense exercise or a cry may be just what you need. There is no rule book on how to behave in pandemic besides adhering to Public Health Orders.
Diarise some time each day to do nothing, so you can use that time how you choose. I have found myself completing the daily Wordsearch and Word Fit Puzzles, other days I have sat out in the sun listening to a podcast. Recognise you’re in a marathon and give yourself breaks along the way, so you can finish.
All things are impermanent
It may feel like this confusion and pain will last forever, that you’ll never be carefree or happy again, but that is not true. Everything in life changes. Nothing is permanent. You can trust that this transition is just that - a change that will eventually settle into a new opportunity.
Often crises help crystallise what’s important. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to dream of a different future and start taking action on it.
It’s okay to let go of things that aren’t serving you
We like to keep the status quo because it makes us feel safe. But, at some point, we have to let go of things such as people and situations that are holding us back from being a better version of ourselves. Though it’s not always easy, it’s a natural part of life.
In some ways the pandemic has quietened the noise of everyday life and it has given us opportunity to reflect and consider what were doing with our lives. Take this as an opportunity to re-evaluate what you want to hold on to and what to let go of.
There is always something to be grateful for
Your life may look grim, but if you choose to, you can find goodness and beauty in your life. You may not have the same life you had two weeks ago, but you have friends and family who love you. And colleagues who care. You can appreciate the beauty of the setting sun. Every life has wondrous things in it, we just have to notice them.
While changes that are forced on you can be traumatic, I have often found that in the fullness of time we can see the gift/opportunity it presented too. I know for myself without those changes I wouldn’t be living in Sydney, working for myself or helping people the way I do. Without them I wouldn’t be who I am today.
It’s okay to say no to negativity
While you surely have friends and family who are loving and supportive, it’s also possible that there are a few 'Negative Nelly’s' in your environment also. Especially now when your resilience is being tested, it’s a good idea to say no to their bids for connection or to limit your exposure to them. When you feel stronger, you can decide if they are someone you want to continue to have a relationship with. But for now, just say no - as nicely as you can.
Remember, we all have our own coping mechanisms to support us at what for many is a scary time. Some coping strategies are healthier than others. As best you can try and stay healthy, rest and recognise that the best gift you can give yourself at the moment is taking one day at a time, with intention.
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