Coping with COVID-19 Isolation
If you have been following my posts, seminars and books, you will have figured out by now that my approach to difficult or different situations is all about changing how we see ourselves in the situation where we are experiencing the discord.
I have been surfing the internet more than usual – we are all on lock-down, and have enjoyed reading many articles on how to cope with isolation.
I will highlight some important techniques that I found online and explain why each one of them is important. The most important thing to remember is that even though we are all human and have certain human needs and traits, we are also individually all different and have different needs and expectations.
Set and keep a routine
Humans are creatures of habit and in most cases if our routine is disturbed we tend to not cope as well as we could. I remember watching a nature show a few years ago in which researchers were training children and chimpanzees to perform simple tasks The human children found it harder to break routine than the chimpanzees!
Some people are used to a rigid routine. Certain jobs require their staff to start work and end work at specific times and to only have breaks at certain time. Some prisoners and ex soldiers have complained about the lack of routine when they are no longer in the institution and some continue with parts of their daily routines in their new lives.
Basic Daily Routine
Try as best as you can to continue with your basic daily routines. Get up and preform your ablutions in the same way that you would normally. If you can, continue to work. If you are working from home, set aside a work space for this and engage with work people as best you can.
If you are religious, stick to your scheduled times of worship and engage with your spiritual friends around that time.
A routine helps us get things done and gives us positive feelings of purpose and achievement.
Exercise seems to be vital for all mammals, not just humans!
I am sure you have seen a dog running on the beach or a horse galloping around a paddock just enjoying the feeling of their bodies moving. We call it being frisky, but they are relishing the exercise!
In lock-down, you can not go to the gym or go for a run around the block, so seek out and do more home based exercise routines. pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, squat jumps, yoga, martial arts routines, online aerobics or pilates classes. There are as many ways to exercise at home as there are forms of exercise!
Exercise releases endorphins – the feel good hormones, it oxygenates our systems, lowers our blood pressure and makes us feel good. Exercise also involves repeating a pattern of structure and forces our awareness away from the drama to the basic actions of controlling our bodies. It forces us to become self aware in the moment.
Conscious action is illustrated by the famous Karate Kid axiom – “wax on, wax off”. Focus on what you are dong in the moment and you will be more productive and feel more secure.
Every response to every situation is dictated by the conscious awareness of ourselves in the situation and our perceived ability to respond to that situation.
The thrust of my stress management seminars is awareness. By creating and focusing our awareness humans have the ability to shift gears!
By focusing our awareness we can tune out the clutter and see things for what they are.
If you are planning a world wide trip, imagine that you are Phileas Fogg with a Mastercard, where would you start?
How would you work your way around a world in lock-down?
This daunting task needs concious awareness to get it off the ground. As you become consciously aware, a number of things happen.
Firstly you would need to be self aware, understand your person limitations and strengths. Second you would need to be aware of your circumstances, assess your resources and then go shopping. Thirdly you would need to take your broad awareness of the trip and zoom in on the next step required to start your journey.
This zooming in and out of situational awareness to personal awareness is what I determine conscious awareness to be – understanding the circumstance and taking charge of the details in a way they suits you.
Conscious awareness empowers you, makes you feel as if you are in charge and that you will thrive in the environment. Conscious awareness lets you see the circumstance, your desired outcome and helps plan your journey to that outcome.
Empathy, being empathetic or being an empath seems to be a new age trend. Don’t be fooled by this, the new age trend is a wonderful expression of and emotive response that is as old as humanity its self and empathy has been observed on other mammals and creatures – dogs saving other creatures in distress, higher mammals like whales and dolphins assisting other creatures, and even sharks or stingrays that seek out help from humans when they are in distress are all signs of empathy.
Another Persons Situation
In essence empathy is the ability to use your imagination to place yourself in another persons situation and feel what they are feeling. This then brings about an active response. The problem with this is it is dependant on your own world view and may in some cases relate more to the empath’s enculturation and emotional state than that of the recipient!
When in doubt, just be kind. Be kind to yourself and be kind to other beings and even things!
Being kind to things is often over looked, but a workman caring for his or her tools, or a person washing their new car all experience a sense of pleasure, purpose and enhanced self worth!
To cultivate empathy you do not have to prostrate yourself before the people that you think are suffering in the world and become their martyr. If you are in a position to help, go for it, but don’t degrade your position for the sake of others in the search for inner peace, it does not work like that.
How do YOU feel?
To cultivate empathy you first need to create and awareness of and an understanding of your own humanity. How do YOU feel as a human being?
To cultivate an understanding of self you should try to expose yourself emotionally to many different circumstances. To do this you do not have to go to the extreme of George Orwell when he dressed himself in rags and went to live with the poor and down trodden of London. His book Down and out in Paris and London details this experience. What you can do is read fiction and in some cases non fiction too about people in different circumstances.
Even works of fantasy such as The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings will serve to build your empathetic response to the world. Watching films or movies will serve this purpose, but are not as effective as reading or listening to audio books. You want to try and engage your imagination and build your own mental pictures of the story. These pictures will be unique to you and will trigger your emotional responses far better than another’s interpretation of the emotions or events. Research has shown that experiencing fictional narratives have a profound impact on people and how they experience their world.
Practising empathy in a non destructive manner gives a person a sense of purpose, satisfaction and well being that will make them more resilient in difficult times.
Plan for the future beyond COVID 19
Nothing in life is permanent. This too shall pass. It is up to you to decide if you are going to come out the other side stronger or weaker!
A great way to manage a difficult present is to plan for the future. The great sages and religions of the world have understood for thousands of years that matter follows thought. This was proved by an unexpected offshoot of quantum physics called the Observer Effect.
Dare to Dream
Dare to dream, let your imagination free and fantasize about what you will be doing when the lock-down ends. I remember hiking in the Drakensberg mountains of South Africa. We would usually spend four days and three nights hiking in the mountains and in difficult times such as being drenched for days by icy mountain rain or pushing on through a snow storm we would motivate each other by talking about what we would do when we were off the mountain – sit by a log fire, cuddle with a romance partner, drink a cold beer or coke, order a giant steak and of course chocolate always featured in these fantasia motivational conversations.
These future plans did not always work out as expected, but they did get us through tough times!
I suggest allocating 30 minutes a day to indulge in your future fantasy. Go on – dare to dream, you never know, it may just work out!
Planning for the future give a person a sense of purpose and allows them to feel powerful or more in charge of a difficult situation. Planning tends to move people from perceived victim-hood to proactive participants.
Meditate and Pray
Taking time to sit quietly somewhere and contemplate yourself and your position in the universe is a great way to keep things in perspective.
A prayer is a process of humbling the self and basking in the glory of your perceived higher power. There is no right or wrong way to pray. The acts of deciding to do it and the surrendering to the process is the trigger that allows us to put all the negative drama, that could be occurring in your space, aside and allows you a window of peace and healing. If you are religious you already have a belief of the greatness of a supreme creator, so make a point of spending some time with that being.
A meditation is an action taken to sit quietly in a safe space and allow yourself to be. Just sit and observe your thoughts and let them be what they are – no judgement, no engagement, just be at one with yourself in the moment.
Both prayer and meditation cultivate what is called mindfulness. A state of being at one with ones self without judgement. This mindful state is natural for humans and can be cultivated with constant practise. It is that serenity that sometimes radiated from religious and spiritual practitioners.
In this different time, I suggest to not pray or meditate for something, just take the time to sit and connect with the higher power of your choosing. If you find it difficult to focus and relax in the moment, then use an online resource to follow a guided relaxation meditation or repeat a pre-recorded prayer in the denomination of your choosing.
Prayer and meditation serve to switch off the clutter and help to cultivate feelings of peace and tranquillity. This can then be combined with the expression of empathy, and planning as discussed above.
Minimise Social Media and COVID 19 News
Social media is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that it allows us to stay in touch with friends and loved ones around the world and can bring our attention to happenings that we would not usually be aware of. It is a curse when it draws all of our attention to base nothings and hyped up occurrences that are designed to hold your attention and waste your time.
Don’t Waste your Time!
How much time do you waste every day on social media?
Is it actually important in your life?
Does social media make you feel happy and empowered or does it trigger feelings of anger, frustration, entitlement and superiority?
A study has revealed that since the year 2000 peoples levels of empathy ave dropped by over 40%. This has been attributed to a combination of things from the advent of mainstream internet and more structures education in a child’s early years.
Social media and constant news assimilation serve to desensitise people to trauma by overwhelming them with it. Social media and News also cultivate inaction in people who have too much of it as it is impossible to respond to trauma viewed on the news. Repeat this and any form of response to adversity in others is reduced.
Be careful of social media and excessive news intake. Use them for your own purposes and your own good. As so on as you feel that you are getting sucked into it, switch off, center yourself and bring your attention back to what you can do right now to enjoy your life.
I hope this helps bring you some clarity in this interesting time and that you will come out of the covid 19 isolation a better, stronger and more self aware human being who is ready to impact on the earth and people around you.
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Craig Cox is a stress management consultant. He is the owner of Woad Stress management CC and lectures to corporate clients and individuals. Craig is passionate about helping people in business and enhancing their personal lives.
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