Last year many of us said, "I'm so tired. I could spend an entire month at home" so many times it became a normal mantra.
Many of us spent our holidays and breaks doing nothing but resting at home. From my friends and family to social media and people around the world, we all got so fed up with life that we collectively decided we needed a break. And, in a way, we got it.
In this article, I would like to discuss with you what the pandemic has done to our lives, how we ended up here, and where we are heading.
WHERE DO WE COME FROM?
This world demands so much for us. Or is it really? Have we just fallen into a dynamic where everything must happen now the way we want it or otherwise it is not worth it?
It is no coincidence that the people from this country are either always tired or anxious. It is the way our collective lifestyles have evolved.
Pre-pandemic, everyone was in a hurry to get to work in the morning. We were losing the small beauties of life such as:
You may have to wake up early but you slept with a roof over your head
You are heading to work but you have work
You can enjoy a sip of coffee anytime during your day
You are able to offer something of value to the world through your knowledge and expertise
You get to experience the life around you
It wasn't until we all got locked down that we stared to appreciate all those small beauties again.
The first days of lockdown were appreciated. We could stay home, have a nice breakfast, and even sleep a little more.
Some of us thought it was only going to last a few weeks so missing work felt like a vacation! Those of us that had to work got to work from home - no dress codes, no commute... freedom.
Those of us with children got to spend a special time with them. We were able to share quality time playing games, being outside, and making memories.
It was great! Until we realized it wasn't going to be "just a few weeks."
And like the anxious creatures we have become, we began to worry about when it was going to end, when things were going to go back to "normal." What was going to happen to us? How do I get groceries and not get sick?
Then bigger questions began to emerge... What will happen to my job? How will I pay rent? When will I see my family and friends again? How do we do this?
Just like that, we were right where we started. Fear, anxiety, depression, uncertainty, and hatred.
Don't get me wrong, this is an unprecedented situation. It's nothing but normal that we feel as we do but can we really do something to change it? Are we passive beings? Will we ever get used to this?
PROTECTING YOUR MIND IS PROTECTING EVERYONE ELSES
Notice how we all become scared after the first few weeks. Humans have learned that the future is way more important than the now. For a moment though, our actions as humans, the search for stability, made us do interesting things to preserve our energy in the present.
We all know someone who starting baking bread, knitting, doing yoga, meditating, drawing, buying plants, reading, studying online, and a myriad of other activities.
Do you that is a coincidence? It wasn't! We are capable of finding light in the darkest of times. The things we encountered during the lockdown was our way of fighting anxiety and uncertainty. We were focusing on the now because we had no idea about the future.
When you take care of yourself, you are simultaneously taking care of others. If you are preserving your energy and your mental stability, you can help others do so. You can stop being an anxiety spreader.
People clapping on their balconies to celebrate the medical personnel's efforts, playing a musical instrument to entertain your neighbors, helping the elderly who couldn't get out to get groceries, those video calls with your friends and family.... all those things were actions that we adopted to protect ourselves. And it worked well because we all did it together.
Don't take it as a distraction. Sure, it is a defense mechanism but a good one. We were feeling, vibing, and experiencing this all together. And for once, in a very long time, we saw the best of humanity.
WHEN DID THINGS GO WRONG?
When I was mentoring people virtually during the lockdown, I began noticing that by the time they were slowly getting back to their routines, it became harder for them to cope.
Companies had to face a hard reality: the economy was stagnant and they had to let people go.
Restaurants, movie theaters, clubs, bars... everyone was suffering almost equally. We were rewriting the rules of our new reality. Our "new normality."
We created a cocoon to deal with what was going on outside of our four walls. We were not ready to deal with it all once we got out.
We were like Bambi trying to walk for the first time on ice. Suddenly our coping mechanism turned against us. We were at home but we were also available to work 24/7. Some of us started smoking again. Taking public transit became anxiety inducing. The lack of physical contact was tearing us apart.
The inability to hug each other was probably the hardest thing. And we are still struggling.
I am here to tell you however, there is light. You have the power within you to calm down. With a cool head and warm heart, we can all find solutions.
A few lines back I mentioned that sometimes we focus on what we want and, if we don't get it, then we believe it's not worth it. That more or less what has been happening with so many of us these days.
We want our jobs back. We want our routines back. Letting go of patterns is hard and we are living in a historical moment that cannot offer us signs of how the future we worked so hard for is going to be.
How do you explain to someone who has lost everything during the pandemic that they should not give up? How do we make a teacher find comfort in controlling an entire classroom virtually?
It is a matter of finding enlightenment now... not later. We can't build a future by thinking about it but we can build one by being present. To do so, we need to take care of ourselves.
It is okay to have unfamiliar feelings and thoughts but getting caught up in the same dynamic that got us here in the first place is letting ourselves become victims instead of survivors. Victimhood makes us choose dangerous coping strategies: work or substance addiction, imposter syndrome, burnout syndrome, guilt, thoughts of suicide, melancholia, and so much more.
HOW TO COPE WITH COVID-9 NOW
Previously, I have asked... What is enlightenment? Enlightenment can be seen as "self-realization" which is nothing more that being aware of yourself and your surroundings.
Enlightenment is not something that happens overnight. It is a lifestyle that demands a lot of practice, introspection, and questioning.
Of course, like Abraham Maslow explained through his pyramid of human hierarchies, finding enlightenment when your basic needs are not met can make it harder.
This is where my job starts. I'm here to help you find comfort and guide you through a journey that may seem impossible but it is as real as you and me.
Let's look at a recent case study - I have been working with an 29 year old adult woman who works in advertising. She had already been facing many challenges at work but she kept moving forward despite the negativity surrounding her.
During the pandemic, she was laid-off because her boss could not afford her and her co-workers salaries. He had to make the decision to preserve his business even though it may not be perceived well by his employees.
If you identify with this story thus far, think for a moment: could her boss have done something different? Was it wrong for him to try to preserve his company? What would you have done?
The aforementioned woman felt a depression she had never felt before. It started to affect the way she saw herself to the point that she began to believe that she was not good at her career.
Job apps and website weren't showing many opportunities in her field. The pressure of making money grew to the point that she would spend hours applying for jobs... in her field and in fields she had never worked in before.
Only three companies answered back. There were no "positive results"... or so she thought.
Once she took a moment to understand that she had little to no control over what was going on outside and started changing the focus to herself, things started to happen.
She started working as a freelancer. It wasn't paying much but it was enough to keep her going. Her mindset changed to "this job does not pay a lot but at least I am not entirely unemployed."
Instead of focusing on all the jobs she may have missed, she consciously decided to see things differently: "I have applied to many jobs indiscriminately out of desperation and three big companies considered me for a position. There is definitely something I am doing right. Maybe I need to improve something inside me instead of waiting for a change to happen outside."
So, with the little money she was making, she managed to save enough to pay for a course in her profession that would be beneficial to highlight on her resume. She decided to focus her energy on learning and improving her skills.
ASK YOURSELF WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOURSELF
This woman's story is still in development while I am writing this but every week I see something starting to grow and glow inside her.
Your mood and self-esteem can change when your cascade of thoughts flip. It is not about "lying to yourself." It is about playing with the cards you have.
At the present moment, you may thing the cards you're playing with are useless. That is exactly the problem. There is always something you can be doing for yourself. There is always something you can do to begin on your path to enlightenment.
There will be ups and downs. It is up to you how you face them.
Do not rush. Do not lose hope. Do not believe it is over. As long as you are breathing, there is always light.
Renewal requires looking deep inside yourself. There are no answers to be found outside. Why waste your time and energy on looking for that instead of taking action?
We need to move on from fear. We need to move on to learning because that is the only way we can grow.... and growing leads to enlightenment.
In my next article, I will describe the phases to enlightenment and look further into what we can do post COVID-19.
In the meantime, please be gentle with yourself. If you need help, do not be afraid to ask for it. Do not be ashamed. We all need love, guidance, and support in our lives.
This pandemic has been a real-life nightmare but, when we wake up, are you going to relive it or are you going to choose to see the gifts it has left behind and grow from it? The choice is yours.