Corona-update: How to deal with a second wave?

Linda Blaesing

The ongoing pandemic is a challenge for many of us – financially as well as for our (mental) health.  So, how can we keep (mentally) healthy and maybe even make the best of the ongoing uncertainties that come with the repeatedly increasing numbers of Corona cases in Europe and the world? In this article, I will address two factors related to the second Corona wave at the moment (at least in Europe): (1) the uncertainties about how long this will be going on, how the restrictions will develop and how people will react and (2) the more practical consideration of how to handle the situation.

 

How to deal with uncertainties? – Mindfulness!

Uncertainties, especially in people highly focused on the future, are a source of stress and anxiety. However, the future, by definition, is uncertain. Security is an illusion we like to hold on to. The rising cases of Covid-19 lead to many uncertainties. How will this pandemic develop? Will I lose my job? Will we have to go back into social isolation? Will I have to homeschool my children again? Will my family members get sick? There are many things you could be worried about right now. Dealing with uncertainties has also been a challenge for me. A helping thought for me was: ‘If the future is uncertain, everything is possible.’ (more on helping thoughts in my previous article ‘Mentally healthy despite Corona stress’ or my blog post ‘Why do I love affirmations?’ on Instagram). In the following, I will introduce you to two approaches I found especially helpful in dealing with uncertainties in general and in pandemic times specifically.

Stoicism. My favourite quote by the ancient Greek stoic philosopher Epictetus is: “We must make the best of those things that are in our power, and take the rest as nature gives it.” This is one of the core messages of stoicism – focusing on the things which you can control rather than on things you cannot control, like the future. From now on with every worry you can ask yourself: Can I control this? If you can’t control it, why wasting your energy worrying about it? Will that change anything apart from making you suffer? What can you do in the current moment to live a satisfying and fulfilled life?

The Power of Now. According to Eckhart Tolle, a very influential spiritual teacher, uncertainties come from an identification with your mind, the thinking part of you, which in this case is overly focused on the future. The future is not there yet, and therefore, is an illusion. The only reality is now in the present moment. If the anxiety is there already you can try and sit with it in silence. Look at the stress and anxiety from an observer’s point of view. In the beginning, the emotions might be overwhelming and try to drag you with them. That’s okay. Try to accept this and calmly go back to your observer’s point of view, watch your negative thoughts and emotions, and let them be there. After some time, you will notice that they dissolve and that you can focus your attention on the silence between thoughts, the present moment. If you struggle with that you can ask yourself: ‘What is lacking now?’ or remind yourself to ‘Surrender’ to what is now. There is no way to fight reality. Find what works for you and practice being mindful in the present moment. You could start by doing daily routines like doing the dishes or walking the stairs very consciously, for example.

I highly recommend you to read ‘How to be a Stoic’ by Massimo Pigliucci and ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. If you need a bit of help understanding and implementing the concepts of the ‘Power of Now’ keep an eye on my website and Instagram. I regularly organize book clubs where we support each other in understanding the concepts more in depth. In addition, I recommend to practice (mindfulness) meditation if you are struggling with worries about the uncertainties accompanied by the current situation in your country.

To get started, I can recommend this guided meditation by Sam Harris:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=CN-_zzHpcdM&feature=youtu.be

How to deal with another social isolation? – Self-care!

Have you struggled during the previous social isolation in March 2020? Are you afraid of going back into a similar situation of loneliness, boredom, and maybe even fear, anxiety, or depression? There are some things you can do to deal with the increasing restrictions in a better and healthier way than before.

Look back at the previous social isolation and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What was I struggling with the most? How can I deal with that in a more adaptive way?

Maybe you were struggling with keeping a daily structure. Maybe you struggled with being alone in your house and not being able to see friends and family? How have you dealt with it? Is there another, more adaptive and healthier way to deal with this now? Maybe you can make a planning for the week and talk about it with a friend or colleague via a Zoom call – just an idea, find what works for you!

  • Were there positive side effects of the social isolation? How can I maintain these positive factors?

Maybe during the previous social isolation, you noticed that there were also some nice side effects of having more time for self-care activities like cooking healthy meals, meditating, or reading a book. How can you use these positive side effects even more for your own benefit, make them a daily routine, and integrate them into your daily life, maybe even after Corona? Wouldn’t it be great if you went out of this pandemic a better person than before, closer to your ‘ideal self’? Well, even if it’s just a small step, every step counts!

  • How do I normally (without a pandemic) fulfill my needs? And how can I fulfill them in the adapted circumstances right now?

First, what are your needs and desires? You can think of the Maslow pyramid of needs to get started. Start at the bottom with the physiological needs and work your way up to the top of the pyramid. This could mean healthy cooking and eating, and regular resting like usual, whereas some needs may have to be fulfilled in adapted ways, such as the need for intimacy and physical contact with other people. Masturbation, practicing self-love, and self-compassion, and regular video calls with your loved ones can go a long way here.

It is important to stay flexible and check-in with yourself on a regular basis. How do I feel? Bored? Find some useful activity you can do instead of the ones you can’t do anymore because of the pandemic. Reading, learning a new language, cooking,… the list of things you can still do at home is long. Lonely? Keep talking and seeing (if possible) your friends and family, meditate, and spend quality time with yourself. I mean it! Have the nice coffee dates you’d usually have with your best friend with yourself – and enjoy it! As always, these are just tips from my point of view and my knowledge as a psychologist. If you struggle implementing them or they just don’t fit for you, don’t hesitate to contact me. Psychological coaching sessions can be very beneficial in helping you deal with this pandemic in a healthy way.

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