As the COVID-19 pandemic alters life as we know it across the globe, finding peace and joy can seem elusive in these uncertain times. If you’re struggling, you’re not alone!
Our lives have changed quite dramatically over the last few weeks and months. The uncertainty, pain, and grief that this pandemic is causing can be very difficult for many of us to cope with. While everyone will have a different path to relieving their anxieties, here are a few things that I’ve found helpful and comforting:
First and foremost, humans need each other. We are social beings by nature and human connection has one of the most profound impacts on our wellbeing. In one of the longest running studies on adult life—Harvard’s Study of Adult Development—researchers have revealed that close relationships, and how satisfied people are in their relationships, are the biggest predictors of what keeps people happy and healthy throughout their lives.
For those of us longing to be in close physical proximity to the ones we love, this should come as no surprise. In a time when we need each other the most, “Social Distancing” guidelines discourage close contact. While keeping physically distant is extremely important in preventing the spread of the highly infectious coronavirus, “Social Distancing” does not mean social isolation!
Maintaining healthy relationships is crucial now more than ever. And we’re fortunate to live in a time when physical distance is not a barrier to instant communication. Sure we may need to overcome the awkwardness of a Zoom conference call, as so delightfully represented on SNL’s first at-home edition. But working through that awkwardness will be worth it as we all adjust to our new normal and find new ways of connecting.
A phone call, video chat, or text message are often a tap away. I’ve been enjoying using the Marco Polo app with my family as a way to send each other video messages throughout the day without all of us having to be online at the same time. For live video chats, House Party has been a fun one too as it supports a number of games, like pictionary and trivia, that we can play right on the screen.
What are you thankful for right now? Take a moment to ponder that question. I mean truly, pause. And reflect. Mentally spend some time with what you appreciate. I’ll wait. Seriously, one of the easiest paths to joy is truly acknowledging and feeling gratitude for that which you appreciate. Gratitude can be as simple as appreciating the fact that you’re breathing right now, and focusing your mind on a few breaths—pausing to admire the diligence of your lungs.Perhaps you’re thankful to have a safe, warm home. Or thankful to have found a new favorite show on Netflix to binge watch. For me, as I write this now, the afternoon sun is shining and spilling ever so beautifully through the windows of my home that I can’t help but be thankful for its warming presence and all that it illuminates. Try taking some time to appreciate what’s important to you. Get specific! It may be helpful to write these down and even keep a gratitude journal—something you could always revisit when feeling anxious and in need of a reminder of that which brings you joy. Photo albums are of course based on this concept! But it doesn’t need to be that complicated either. A simple habit of starting or ending your day by listing three things you are truly grateful for can go a long way in cultivating a positive outlook.
On that note, a key component in finding peace and joy is mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness—a practice of focusing on the present moment without judgement. By being mindful of the present moment, I was able to appreciate that afternoon sunlight as I brought my attention to it. Have you ever found yourself to be on autopilot? Perhaps you were browsing social media feeds and ended up spending more time scrolling than you had intended? Try and check-in with yourself more frequently, and feel the world around you with all your senses.
Mundane activities can (and totally should!) be done mindfully. Mindful eating, mindful showers, mindful dish-washing — seriously, this is one of my favorites. The abstract idea of doing a chore is not necessarily a pleasant one to me, but actually doing that chore becomes enjoyable when done mindfully: Feeling the warmth of the water cascading on my hands; listening to the rush from the faucet as the water splashes every which way; smelling the pleasant lavender scent of my dish soap; and visually observing the variety of textures, colors, and sights soapy water can produce all add up to an experience rich with texture.
Living more fully in the present moment connects you to your surroundings in a way that provides that richness. Likewise, focusing on what’s directly in front of you can help pull your mind away from your anxieties and make it easier to appreciate life’s joys.
As many of us look for a meaningful distraction, a number of us rabbits have found ourselves drawn to being creative. We’ve been filling our sketchbooks with doodles, experimenting with new mediums, carving little sculptures, and more. While we’re a creative bunch by nature, I think everyone could benefit from a creative endeavor.There’s real power in being able to express yourself creatively. And the process of creating is rewarding in and of itself. It gives you somewhere to focus your mental energy that aligns with who you are on so many levels. It’s a way to be truly present and mindful as you navigate your medium. There’s comfort and pride in expressing yourself, and peace in losing yourself in the process.
The mind is of course a part of the body. And a surefire way of reducing anxiety is to engage in physical activity. With gyms closed and group sports on hold, many of us may need to resort to some new and creative exercise routines.
Here at Jackrabbit, a few of us have been taking part in a pushup challenge to keep each other motivated. We came across the Zen Pushups Challenge App and found its easy-to-follow schedule to be an encouraging routine. Having my fellow rabbits keep me accountable has certainly given me that extra push to exercise when I otherwise may not have felt like it.
Others at Jackrabbit have found YouTube instructors, like Yoga with Adriene, extremely helpful. For the large number of us with dogs, outdoor walks and games of frisbee have been essential! With the weather finally warming up here in New England, getting outside after weeks of staying indoors will do wonders for us all!
For those of us working from home now, you may find that you have a lot more time on your hands these days. With no commute and limited excursions outside the home, this could be the perfect time to learn something new! There’s truly a wealth of knowledge available to us online and a lot of instructors are offering free lessons now. Learning something new could be just the thing to help energize you with a meaningful distraction that provides a sense of achievement.
We at Jackrabbit are longtime fans of lynda.com and skillshare.com for professional development. These sites have excellent instructors and courses specific to helping us learn technology and skills that have expanded upon our professional skillsets. Learning of course is not limited to the professional realm. Learning a new hobby can be a great stress reliever! It’s a fun way to engage your mind and provide a little “me time” away from life’s other demands. Whether a creative, practical, or purely intellectual pursuit, learning keeps our minds sharp and engaged with profound health benefits.
I need to pause here because the reality is, we are living in unprecedented times. The health and economic crisis this pandemic is causing is a true stressor for us all that can’t be ignored. For those of us fortunate to be able to work from home, we still may be left with feelings of guilt alongside our fears, anxieties, and other discomfort. We’re grieving the loss of our old routines and way of life.
For many of us, the thought of exercising or learning something new may be the furthest thing from our minds. And that’s okay! The psychological weight of the current crisis will affect everyone differently. Go easy on yourself. Allow yourself to have all your feelings and give yourself the time and space to process. Be sure to make time to just rest!
Last but certainly not least, I’d recommend anyone who’s truly having a hard time during this crisis to seek the help of a professional therapist. Talking to a therapist can help ease anxiety and depression while illuminating better ways to cope as we adapt to a new way of life. Access to remote therapy via phone or video chat has never been easier. The validating and empowering experience therapy provides may just be the outlet you need to support your mental and emotional health.
If you’re struggling to find peace and joy in these uncertain times, you’re certainly not alone. As the pandemic crisis began to spread throughout the world, my own anxiety escalated as I tried to make sense of the news I was reading. Safe to say I’ve cut back on my news intake and tried to focus more on my immediate surroundings and the things I can control. These are unprecedented times for sure, but there is a lot to be thankful and hopeful for. Take the time to connect with the people you love. Celebrate the small victories in your life. And take a moment to appreciate the little things. Turns out, these are all ways to find joy and peace any time—before, during, and after a crisis.