Dealing with COVID-19: How to Find Enlightenment During a Pandemic – Part I
Last year I said, “I’m so tired I could spend an entire month at home,” so many times that it became a natural thing. And some of my friends and colleagues also agreed.
They did not only agree; many of them spent holidays doing nothing but resting at home. And then I read on social media that it hadn’t happened just to me, but to many people around the world.
It was like we all got so fed up with how life has been that we decided we needed a break collectively. And in a way, we got it.
In the next lines, I would love to discuss what the COVID-19 has done to our lives, how we ended up here, and where we are headed.
Where Do We Come from?
This world is demanding so much from us. Wait, is it? Or have we fallen into a dynamic where everything must happen now the way we want it or otherwise is not worth it?
It’s no coincidence that man in this century is either tired or anxious all the time. It’s the way our collective lifestyle has evolved.
Everybody is in a hurry to get to work in the morning; we are losing the small beauties of life like:
– Yes, you have to wake up early, but you slept with a roof on top of your head
– You are headed to work, not to chase one
– You can take a sip of your favorite coffee anytime during the day
– You get to offer something of value to the world through your knowledge and expertise, no matter what you work on
– You get to see life around you
But it wasn’t until we all got locked down for three months ago until we started to appreciate those things again.
The first days of lockdown were appreciated to some point. You could stay at home, have a healthy breakfast, even sleep a little more.
Some thought it would last only two weeks, so skipping work for two weeks felt like a vacation! And the ones that had to work from home immediately were enjoying the part where no dress code was needed and having your bed close enough to take a power nap.
It was great until we started to notice that it wasn’t going to be 2 weeks.
And like the anxious creatures we have become, we started to worry about when it was going to end. What is going to happen to us? What if I go out for groceries and get sick?
Then bigger questions started to rise all over the world: Will I lose my job? How will I pay rent? When will I see my family again?
And just like that, we were right where we started. Nothing but fear, anxiety, depression, uncertainty, and hatred.
Don’t get me wrong; this is an unprecedented situation; naturally we feel that way, 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 Everybody Else’s
Notice how we were all scared after the second week. Humans have learned that the future is way too important to focus on the now, but for a moment, our actions as humans, the search for stability, has made us do interesting things to preserve our energy in the present.
We all know somebody who started baking bread, knitting, doing yoga, meditation, drawing, buying plants, reading, studying online, and so on.
Do you think that’s a coincidence? It wasn’t! We can find light in the darkest times, and those things we experienced during the lockdown were our collective way of fighting anxiety and uncertainty. We were focusing on the now because we had little or no control over the future.
When you take care of yourself, you are simultaneously taking care of others. Because if you are preserving your energy and mental stability, you can help others do so, you stop being an anxiety spreader.
People were clapping in their balconies to celebrate the medical personnel’s efforts, playing a musical instrument to animate your neighbors, helping the elders who couldn’t go grocery shopping by themselves, that daily video call with your friends. 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 correct one. We were feeling, vibing, and experiencing this together. And for once in a very long time, we got to see the best of humanity.
When Did Things Go Wrong?
While I was mentoring some people online during the lockdown, I started noticing that by the time they were slowly going back to their routines, the harder it was for them to cope.
Companies had to face a hard reality: the economy wasn’t at its best, and to keep going, they had to let people go.
Restaurants, movie theaters, discotheques, bars, and everyone was suffering almost equally because we were rewriting our reality rules. That now called “new normality.”
We created a cocoon to deal with what was going on outside our homes, but we weren’t ready to deal with this once we got out.
It was like we were Bambi trying to walk for the first time. Suddenly our coping mechanisms turned against us: we were at home but available 24/7 to work, some started smoking again, taking the bus became a paranoid festival, physical contact restrictions were truly harming us.
Not being able to hug each other was probably the most challenging thing. And we are still sorting this out.
But I am here to tell you that there is light, you have the power within you to calm down, and with a cool head and a warm heart, find solutions.
Remember a few lines back, I sometimes said we focus on what we want, and if we don’t get it now, then we believe it’s not worth it? That’s more or less what’s been happening with many people these days.
We want our jobs and routines back because letting go of patterns is hard, and we are living in a historical moment that can’t offer us signs of how the future we have worked so hard for is going to be.
How do you explain to somebody who has lost it all during the pandemic that they should not surrender? How do we make a teacher find comfort in controlling a 45-minute class with 20 children on the same video call?
It’s a matter of finding enlightenment now, not later. We can’t build a new future by just thinking about it, but we can create one by being present now. And 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 brought us here in the first place is placing ourselves as victims instead of survivors. Victimhood makes us choose dangerous coping strategies: work and substance addiction, impostor syndrome, burnout syndrome all over again, guilt, suicidal thoughts, melancholia, and so on.
How to Cope with Covid-19 Now
In my previous posts, I have mentioned what enlightenment is. To refresh that concept, we can see it as a “self-realization,” which is nothing more than being aware of yourself and your surroundings.
Enlightenment is not something that happens overnight. It’s a way of living that demands a lot of practice, a lot of introspection, and questioning.
And of course, like Abraham Maslow explained through his pyramid of human hierarchies, finding enlightenment when your basic needs are not fulfilled may be more challenging.
That’s where my job comes in. I’m here to help you find comfort and to guide you through a journey that may seem impossible, but it is as real as you and me.
Let’s take a recent case study. I have been working with a 29-year-old woman working in advertising. She had already been facing many challenges at work, but she kept moving despite the negativity surrounding her.
During the pandemic, she got fired because her boss couldn’t afford her and other people’s salaries. He chose to preserve his business that may not be perceived as fair by the employees.
If you identify with this story so far, think for a moment: could her boss have done something differently? Was it wrong trying to preserve his company for longer? What would you have done instead?
The woman I have been mentoring felt a depression she had never felt before. It started to affect how she saw herself to the point she believed she wasn’t good at her career.
Work apps weren’t showing many opportunities for her field, so the pressure of making money grew to the point she would spend hours applying for jobs in her field and some she had never worked in before.
Only three answered back, but there were no “positive results,” or so she thought.
Once she understood that she had little control over what was going on outside and started to focus on herself, things began to happen.
She started working as a freelancer. It wasn’t paying much, but enough to keep herself going. Here’s a change of mindset: “this is not the job that pays the best, but at least I am not entirely unemployed.”
Instead of focusing on how many jobs she had missed, she consciously decided to see things the other way around: “I have applied to many jobs indiscriminately for desperation, and three big enterprises considered me for a position. There’s something I’m doing right, but maybe I need to improve something in 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 area that will be beneficial to promoting her CV over others. She decided to focus her energy on learning and to improve her work skills.
Ask Yourself What YOU Can Do for YOURSELF
This woman’s story is still developing while I’m writing these lines. But every week, I see something is starting to glow in her.
Notice how your mood and self-esteem change when your cascade of thoughts makes a flip. It’s not about “lying to yourself,” it’s about playing with the cards you have.
At the moment, you may think the cards you have are useless, but that’s exactly the problem. There is always something you can be doing for yourself. There is always something you can do to begin the path to enlightenment.
Yes, there will be ups and downs, but it’s up to you to face them.
Do not rush, do not lose hope; do not believe it is over. As long as you are breathing, there is light.
Renewal implies looking deep inside you. There are no answers to be found outside, so why waste time and energy on that instead of taking action?
We need to move on from the fear phase to the learning phase because it’s the only way to enter the growth phase, which will eventually take us to enlightenment.
In my next blog, I will gladly describe these phases and go a little further on what we can do after COVID-19.
In the meantime, please be gentle with yourself. If you need help, do not be afraid to ask for it. Do not feel ashamed about it. We all need a little love and guidance in our lives.
This pandemic has been a real nightmare, but when we wake up, are you going to relive this nightmare? Or will you choose to see the little gifts it has left behind and grow from it? It’s your choice.