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Finding Happiness in the Midst of the Pandemic

Staying Happy and Healthy in Uncertain Times

My heart is pounding. I can’t help it.

It’s beating wildly, trying to keep pace with the whirlwind of COVID-19 news that’s swirling around us all. How do you stay calm when your world is going crazy?

It’s not that I’m frightened. I’m not. I’m not even particularly worried. It doesn’t even seem real yet.

No. What I am is fascinated and filled with frantic energy and a vague sense of dread. I’m distracted, stressed, and more than a little off-center

The adrenaline rush of these uncertain times has got me checking my iPhone every 60 seconds. I’ve become a news junkie, jittering pointlessly around the house, waiting for the latest newsflash to deliver my next fix.

I know I’m not alone.

I need, we all need, to slow down. We need to find some inner peace in the midst of the storm.

We are not powerless. We have choices. Let’s make them calm, conscious choices that will serve us well and help us make the most of these chaotic times.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Any illusion of control over the events in our lives has been shattered by the events of the last few weeks. Everything is shifting, changing.

In my life, these changes include:

  • Moving my 8-5 office work to my bedroom desk at home.
  • Erasing all activities and events from our family calendar.
  • Extended breaks and online college and high school classes for my kids.
  • No longer being able to visit my father in his senior apartment.

As I look ahead to the summer, I don’t know if I’ll be able to hold a garage sale, let alone a graduation party. That vacation we booked? Will it happen?

No wonder my heart is pounding!

Have you taken your own pulse lately?! It’s time to take a deep breath (or three) and find our new normal.

This Is Surreal

Your whole life, you know a moment like this may come. You wonder how you’ll handle it. You wait for that phone call, that siren, that event that will take you from the life you know onto a new path.

Today, the moment is here. Yet it’s almost impossible to grasp it.

I feel like I woke up inside a movie. Like a movie character, I don’t understand what my role is in the grand scheme of things.

Am I the lead character, destined to overcome all obstacles and make it through to the triumphant (and happy) ending? Or am I a bit player that’s likely to bite the dust?

Talk about a cliffhanger ending! I can’t wait to find out what happens tomorrow.

Looking for Answers

We’ve got our marching orders. Health care professionals have provided a remarkably consistent and simple set of instructions:

  • Wash your hands
  • Practice social distancing
  • If you feel sick, isolate yourself

None of this is hard. We can do this.

The problem is, we have no idea how rough a ride we’re in for. Will this be over in 1 month? 3 months? 6 months? When it is over, will someone we love be missing?

No one really knows how this will play out. We can only make educated guesses and do our best despite our ignorance.

The news is not much help, although they are trying. We are all trying.

So many experts, each with a different opinion. So much speculation, fanning the flames of fear.

What is real? Who is right? What will happen?

My go-to resource has been the Johns Hopkins University Corona Virus Resource Center. It gives me the current statistics without any added emotions.

Yet even this science-based site delivers its information in dramatic reds, greens, and yellows against a bleak black backdrop. Shift to their map of the world and you’ll see violent reds blooming across the globe, signifying outbreaks everywhere.

It looks like the viral equivalent of War of the Worlds. It kind of makes it hard to keep calm and carry on.

Control What You Can (Let the Rest Go)

In crazy times, we crave the comfort of the known. It’s helpful to focus on the facts and the things you can control.

I ask myself, what do I know? Here’s my list.

  • The sun is still shining. The birds are still singing. Spring is on its way.
  • I am not sick. My family is not sick. My friends are not sick. I hope the same is true for you.
  • Not everyone is going to get sick.
  • If we do get sick, the odds are good it will feel like a regular cold. I can handle that.
  • We are unlikely to die from this.
  • I (along with my family, my friends, my community, my state, and my country) am doing everything I can to ensure this virus doesn’t win.
  • Worrying will not change a thing.
  • We can find peace and happiness even in the darkest times.

Take Control of Your Health and Happiness

There are things that we CAN control. Things that will help us stay healthy and happy and give us the peace and serenity we crave.

Let’s commit to doing them.

  • Stay strong by eating well, sleeping enough, and continuing to exercise.
  • Protect yourselves and your community by honoring the new social distancing rules.
  • Connect with family and friends via phone, Skype, or social media.
  • If you’re fortunate and can work remotely, give your job your undiluted focus and best effort.
  • Trust the economy to bounce back as it has so many times before. Resist the urge to panic and make hasty financial decisions. This too shall pass.
  • Make the most of your time at home, sharing meals and activities together.

Make a Plan for Happiness

My personal plan is simple and doable. I hope to get to bed early each night, so I can grab some me-time the next morning while the house is still quiet. I’ll use it to journal or meditate or to enjoy my morning coffee.

After a zero minute commute, I’ll put in a productive day at work. I’ve got my desk setup (a folding table topped with a tablecloth) and ready to go. I’ve also filled my fridge to stave off interruptions from my hungry teen.

My free time will be spent doing things that make me happy. My Happy-Jane list includes walks outside in the fresh spring air, good books, good movies and some competitive games of Catan or Blackjack with my family.

That empty calendar and non-existent commute? They’ll give me a little extra time to devote to projects I’ve been putting off. (Hello, photo albums and basement closet!)

Finally, I’m going to be on the phone more, touching base with family and friends, enjoying the sounds of their voices.

Most of all, I plan on saying “I love you” a lot. Every day.

Take Action

I’ll also be keeping my eyes open for opportunities to give back to those in need.

Giving back is always a win-win. You gain satisfaction and a chance to improve your world. The people you help, well hopefully you’ve solved a problem for them and made their lives better.

A lot of people may need our help as this pandemic unfolds. Let’s be ready to take action and lend a hand.

Here are a few ways you can make an impact:

  • Be compassionate and understanding at work and at home. This is stressful and we all need a little grace.
  • Drop off some food (or toilet paper!) at a local food shelf.
  • Reach out to a senior home in your community. Would their residents appreciate a phone call? Maybe someone reading a book over Skype?
  • Check-in with your neighbors, especially the elderly. Do they need anything? Pick up their mail, walk their dog, or run some errands if they do get sick.
  • Watch someone’s kids while school is out so their parents can continue to work.
  • Talk to the young people in your life. Give them a sounding board when they need it.
  • Do you know someone who is out of work? A donation of a gas card or some groceries or cold hard cash will be very welcome.
  • Want to ensure that little boutique or restaurant you love is still in business when coronavirus fades from view? Consider buying gift cards or ordering deliveries or take-out.

We’ll Get Through This

We can all help in so many ways, giving our time, compassion and money. Let’s connect with and support the people in our community.

When I fall asleep tonight, I’ll sleep better knowing that I’ve done what I can. I’ve made a difference, however small. I have a plan for the days ahead. I can and will be a part of the solution.

When tomorrow comes, I’ll wake up hopeful, my heart beating steady and sure as I face whatever surprises the day brings.

We will get through this. Together.

Be well, my friends.

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Amy Nankivil
1 year ago

Thank you, Jane! This is what we all need to hear more of right now. A smart, sensible and serious assessment of the situation, yet positive ways to navigate our current daily lives. We must be diligent in working to prevent the spread, but that doesn’t mean we can’t connect with others in very meaningful ways.

1 year ago

I am so happy to know more and more of us are preaching from the same pulpit! One of the biggest dangers for each of us is the bottling up of our stresses /concerns – it can affect our immune system too! Keeping the communication lines open and thinking of others is something most of us can do!

Hi Jane – this is all such great advice. I’m not feeling panicked or particularly bothered at this point because I choose not to be. I’m normally a worrier, but it’s pointless to waste time and mental space on something I can’t control, so instead I choose to appreciate what I do have. I love being at home, I love that my mum and MIL are safe and well, and so are my kids and grandgirls. We have power, water, gas, fresh air, sunshine, plenty of fruit and vegies (people haven’t been panic buying those!) and enough toilet paper for now. I’m looking at it as a way to slow down, to step back, to appreciate my blessings and to pray for those who are struggling or stuck overseas.
Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM ?

1 year ago

I’m a nurse so for me it feels like the calm before the storm. I know eventually we’re going to be slammed with very sick people like they have been in other countries so I’m bracing myself for that. It’s really hard not to be anxious to be honest. I’m prepared for the worst, and hope that it doesn’t reach the levels it has overseas. If I do end up in quarantine for 2 weeks I’m well prepared, and will actually enjoy the downtime! Thanks for your positive article