As India and the world pass through one of the worst public health crises in history, we sincerely hope and pray this finds you and your loved ones safe. This is unquestionably one of the most difficult times most of us have ever seen, and our hearts go out to those whose lives have been devastated by this pandemic.
How do we maintain our emotional equilibrium during times like these? Here are four things that might help:
1. Accept what you are feeling: It is normal to feel unsettled and anxious at a time like this. Many of us tend to feel somewhat guilty that we are not as ‘strong’ as we would like to be, but real strength often has little to do with our emotions in the moment.
“It is OK not to feel OK” when things are difficult. Strong emotions can be daunting and feel overwhelming, but as psychologists point out, observing emotions, naming them and talking about them with a trusted friend, counsellor or loved one is perhaps one of the best ways of working through them. Once you observe, name and talk about an overwhelming emotion, it will loosen its grip on you and you will feel much more in control of things.
2. Take positive actions, however small: As someone once said very wisely, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” Sometimes all we can do is put one foot in front of another, but that is enough. We don’t need to know the whole future, all we need to know is the next thing that needs to be done, and then do it. Emotions tend to follow behaviour, and positive actions, however small, can help us to feel surprisingly calmer and stronger. If we keep moving forward, we will eventually ‘come out of hell’.
3. Be there for others: It’s not easy to know what to say to someone who is grieving or in deep crisis. But it is always possible to be there for others in ways that mean something to them. One of the best ways to truly be there for others is simply by being genuinely available to listen to them. The ability to listen with the intent to understand and not judge is the most precious gift we can give another. Being there for others in their hour of need is, many times, the best way of helping ourselves, too.
4. Remember, even this will pass: Former President of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Martin Seligman, points out that far too often, we tend to think of our problems as being permanent and pervasive. It is important to remember that however permanent this crisis may look, it will pass. And though the virus looks pervasive and omnipresent, it is not. We are certainly going through the worst of it at the moment but its spread will lessen and the calamity will eventually end.
As author E.B. White (1899 – 1985) once wrote to a discouraged young man…
“Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society – things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. … Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. … Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.”
With warm regards,
Janaki and Mahesh