My husband calls me a catastrophist, because I always think about the worst case scenarios. “What can go wrong,” I often wonder, no matter what the situation might be.
I blame my anxieties on a series of unexpected events: a pulmonary embolism, peripheral neuropathy, a flawed medical system that nearly failed me, years of infertility, a lay-off weeks after announcing my first pregnancy, a physical assault against my husband, the collapse of our company and my mom’s recent near death experience.
In the midst of those moments my life felt so dark that I begged the universe for light. At the time I thought the pain and mental anguish would break me, but thanks to hedonic adaptation I now view each terrible experience as a blessing of sorts.
As each horrific event comes to an end I learn to recognize all that is good and important in the world. When an unfortunate event occurs I feel angry, sad and broken, but when the dust settles I find a better, wiser, stronger version of myself waiting to move on.
Coronavirus: Out of the Darkness
As I reflect on the coronavirus I feel the same renewed hope that I’ve felt with each of these unexpected events in my life. Rather than focusing on all of the negative aspects of the coronavirus outbreak I hope that our temporarily altered lifestyles can lead us to new strengths.
What we can learn about ourselves? How can we use this moment in time to create a more positive future?
With our very notion of safety and security in question can we learn to see the world in a whole new light? Here are a few ideas to focus on:
Focus on Your Mind and Body
Our world moves at a dizzying pace. We have so many things to do and people to see that we rarely stop to sit and focus on our thoughts and minds.
Spare a few minutes to sit in a quiet spot where you can focus on your breathing. The world may feel overwhelming right now, but that’s why it’s more important than ever to take the time to calm your mind and body.
Try your best to focus on the people and things you are grateful for. You don’t need to start a gratitude journal or list out three things every day.
Simply mention one good thing at the dinner table or before you go to bed. Try to share these things out loud so your partner and other loved ones can hear them too.
Take time to go outside if you can. Walk around your yard, have dinner on your front stoop or simply sit beside an open window.
Exercise any way that you can. Go for a walk if you can maintain a six foot distance from others. Try indoor yoga or other workout videos.
Take the time to connect with your body and feel well both mentally and physically.
Connect With Others
Our lives are always so rushed and busy. We have plans to meet coworkers for happy hour and then drag our kids to sporting events all weekend.
With our schedules cleared we have plenty of time to be together with our immediate family members, so now is the time to pull out that old stack of board games, pop some popcorn and start playing.
Find your favorite bedtime stories and make time to read them to your children. Cook pancakes together on Saturday morning, since you don’t have to rush off to an event, and play out in the yard in the late evening.
If you live alone call a friend. We are all sharing this common experience. Ask questions and forge new connections. “How are you feeling about this? Is this a difficult time for you?” or just “I’m thinking about you. How are you doing?” These conversations suddenly feel much deeper than the ones we’ve previously shared.
Touch base with people you haven’t seen in awhile. Send emails to see how your friends and family are feeling. While coronavirus keeps us physically apart we can still learn to make our emotional connections stronger.
Pursue Your Passions
Right now we can’t go to happy hour, the movies or visit with friends. Our ever busy, over-flowing calendars suddenly look very clear.
Don’t waste these precious moments watching Netflix all day. Take this quiet, reflective time to pursue a passion. Thanks to the power of the Internet you can learn to paint, draw or do any number of things.
Reflect on your favorite memories and moments as a child. What do you want to explore? What have you always wanted to do? Do you have a few spare minutes to pursue that passion now?
Teach Your Children to Entertain Themselves
So many parents feel overwhelmed by school closings. What on earth will they do with their kids all day? My advice: teach your children to entertain themselves.
Let your children explore their creative sides. Pull that old box of blocks from the basement and ask your kids to build race tracks, grocery stores and castles. Grab an old deck of cards and encourage them to start a game of go fish, war, solitaire, hearts, poker or gin rummy.
Give your kids a pad of paper and pencils and encourage them to draw, play tic-tac-toe or write elaborate stories. Kids can create unbelievably inventive games with very few tools. Provide them with a a pair of dice from an old, worn-out board game and see what they can do.
Now is the time to give your kids access to your extra sheets and towels. Let them build elaborate forts where they can hide from imaginary dragons. Allow them to line up the kitchen chairs so they can pretend to fly a plane or drive a car.
Allow them to be kids the way you were when you were a child. Give them the freedom to make a mess and boost their imaginations. Encourage older kids to pursue their passions and learn something new too.
Learn to Cook
Many of us think about cooking as a chore. Exhausted from a long and tiring day we dread walking over to the kitchen counter to prepare a meal. We lack the energy and inspiration to cook, so instead we trudge off to a local restaurant for dinner or call our favorite take out number.
During this coronavirus outbreak take the time to reconsider your outlook on eating. There is nothing wrong with eating breakfast for dinner or slapping cheese between two pieces of bread. If everyone is fed you have succeeded in your task.
If you truly hate cooking try to make it more fun by including other members of your family. Ask your kids to measure the ingredients or your partner to clean the pots and pans while you flip those flapjacks. Turn on tunes in the kitchen and rock out to your favorite songs or tune in to your favorite podcast rather than standing stiffly in front of the stove.
Spend a few minutes a day learning to prepare a meal that can feed you and your family. The added bonus: cutting back on food expenses won’t make you a millionaire, but it is a ridiculously easy way to save money.
Learn to Conserve
As we try to limit our trips to the grocery store we are eating every morsel of food in our fridge. My husband and I are making cognizant efforts to feed our kids the oldest fruit in the fridge first; cutting out the moldy parts while happily eating the rest.
Every night we stare into the refrigerator and figure out how to concoct dinner with the ingredients we have on hand. We’ve come up with all sorts of odd combinations, but no one has complained about it. We eat leftovers and enjoy not cooking on the nights when we can simply heat things up.
My children are rationing their sweets. They can eat one piece of chocolate and that’s it. The words, “I wish I could have more,” no longer echo in my ear after dinner.
Our use of cloth towels has increased as we keep that giant roll of paper towels off to the side untouched. I spend a lot more time thinking about what we consume and how often. I hope we remember these ideals when we can return to the stores on a regular basis.
Right now we waste one pound of food per day. I hope this will help us waste less food
Review Your Finances
Take this time to review your finances. Look through your credit card statements and figure out what you could cut without feeling a pinch. Then dig deeper and see what other items you could live without.
If you don’t have an emergency fund try to figure out how you could create one. When the coronavirus passes what can you do to cut costs or earn extra money?
If you have the time and mental capacity consider hosting a family financial meeting. Set goals to create greater financial stability, so monetary fears don’t ravage you during a crisis.
Although I keep close tabs on my finances this virus has caused me to review my family’s own income and expenses. Waste always creeps up. Now is the time to look for ways to trim it from your budget.
After all, you can’t spend any money on expensive adventures for the foreseeable future.
Clear Your Clutter
Purge your house of unwanted belongings and make a promise that you won’t fill it all up again after the virus is over.
Look around your house and calculate all of the time and money you have spent accumulating your possessions. Teach yourself to stop buying stuff you don’t need.
Recognize that you can live your best life without a lot of money. When the stores reopen don’t rush to buy a whole bunch of stuff. Reflect on how well you can live your life right now without a ton of new purchases.
Remember This Time
When life gets back to normal try to remember this time. Write down your thoughts and feelings if you can, so you can look back on them. If you feel anxious about money search for new ways to save. If you feel isolated look for new ways to form relationships or forge deeper ones with those you already know. If you are bored look for new ways to excite your mind. Make a deeper connection to your mind and body.
My hope is that we don’t just return to our former sense of normal. I hope that we learn a lot about ourselves during this time and eventually become wiser, smarter and stronger.