Observations & meditations on modern life
Coffee Mornings & Coronavirus
This morning I took two small humans out for a catch up treat breakfast before school and, of course, Coronavirus made it into the conversation as they were asked by a neighbouring table whether they were simply having breakfast before school, or whether school had been cancelled altogether. In the last week, the virus has crept its way into so many conversations that it struck me how much headspace this pandemic is taking up across the board; conversation at the moment is riddled with an underlying tone of health anxiety everywhere you go.
So what can we do about it? Well, as far as covid-19 is concerned, I’m not the go-to place for information. However as far as the anxiety is concerned, here’s a little food for thought…
There are a thousand things I could write about, but what I want to really hone in on is the importance of living in the present because anxiety has a tendency to send us off on an uncomfortable time travelling ride (something that Buddhists call the “monkey mind” which I find quite endearing). Our imaginations are extraordinarily powerful, and when fight or flight kicks in, we start living a reality which isn’t actually happening but we start to believe that it is.
We can convince ourselves of anything, and what we often forget is that we do have the ability to choose what to convince ourselves of. So if you are the kind of person that will be scrolling every news channel for every piece of alarming Coronavirus news, recognise that. Recognise that there’s a part of you that is sabotaging your ability to stay calm by exposing you to so much that of course it’s going to take its toll on you. If you recognise that in yourself then spend some time consciously going through the things in the present that you can be grateful and happy about, then that anxious character within you won’t be able to gain so much momentum and throw you into a whirlwind of nerve-driven action because that’s precisely the sort of action that we want to avoid. Let’s be real, a decision made out of fear is not a decision made out of well thought out logic and reason.
We’re not built to make decisions from a fearful place. In fact, no animal can make a decision when in a fearful place. We go into survival mode, and at that point, we forget that “living” and “surviving” is not the same thing and it is just not worth being in survival mode unless you really need to be. A gazelle running away from a lion is not going to make a logical decision about how and where to run, it’ll make a decision based purely on instinct and adrenaline, and this doesn’t always go too well. When we’re making important decisions we want to be making those decisions without the fear factor involved, and the fact that we’re not actually being chased by a lion really helps.
The most important thing that I could possibly say at a time like this is to stay in the present. Deal with things as they come, and only as they come. Put one foot in front of the other and do your everyday to the best of your ability; nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t do you or anybody else any good to live in a manner in which fear is dictating your actions based on an event that hasn’t happened to you. Anxiety is exhausting, don’t deplete your energy stocks – keep your energy for when you need it. Don’t stock up on toilet roll, stock up on steadiness. Stock up on your ability to deal with things as they come. Stock up on your ability to be kind to your neighbour without fear.
Let’s not fuel this bug with anxiety-driven poor choices. Let’s kill it with calmness.
If you are struggling with health anxiety, here are a few tips I would encourage you to take on board:
Engage with your loved ones, play games, have FUN. The world is not all doom and gloom, even with the Coronavirus in it. More on the importance of fun and games here:
Probably the most valuable piece of information I could give you, and of course intrinsically linked to the above. Headspace and Calm are both fantastic apps and definitely worth having to start building this skill. Mindfulness is more powerful than you think, and really builds a connection between our emotional and physical selves which is vital to wellbeing. Netflix have done a series on the mind and I would highly recommend the Mindfulness episode if you find yourself to be curious about why this practise has taken off in such a big way, and rightly so. (The whole series is excellent for those interested in some lightly packaged information and advice on the mind in general).
Limit your exposure to the news.
If you know that you’re the kind of person that is highly sensitive to news that could trigger health anxiety, don’t expose yourself to it. Yes, you do still need to know some information out there – everybody does – but change your means of getting it. Ask someone you trust to give you the information that you need (protocols, hygiene information, and anything that would affect your daily life) and be kind to yourself, don’t continue to go after the trigger to the part of you that is worried. You will have a way to find out what you need to know, so limit it to just that.
Practice the behaviour you want to see in the world. This isn’t just for health-anxiety but rather a general principle of mine across the board. What you put out into the world will eventually come back to you, so put out what you want to get back.
If you want more to cast an eye over, related blog posts are:
You can also find relevant posts in my Instagram story highlights. Just head over to https://www.instagram.com/anjali.s.mitter/ and select the topic that you’d like to know more about. I would recommend: