This picture of teens sitting on a bench, takes me back to the gifted students I connected with virtually from the Tallahassee/Leon county school district. For three days in May of 2020, using Zoom, I spoke with middle school and high school students on their inner experience of the Covid-19 pandemic—its effect on their lives at home, with friends and school. We talked about losses, worries, disappointments, too much time alone, lack of contact with friends, loads of family time with related stressors, and online school limitations and pluses. They shared their personal stories, and I responded, wanting to offer some hope and encouragement to hang in there, that ultimately “this too will pass.” Some of the ways to get out of a mental and emotional funk that we talked about are remembered below.
Collectively we hoped our global and immediate world would be different by the end of summer. We hoped the virus would no longer be active, that schools would reopen, and socializing would resume. It was hard even in May to keep positive, stay motivated and make choices that invigorated our daily life, and not belittle it. But now, months later, we know—life is not always easy. For most of us, there have been other difficult times that we have endured. But the pandemic has been a whammy attack, bringing up hugely significant health concerns for our loved ones and for our global relations around the world. Many of us have been concerned about safety and stability, employment and family financial stressors, and relationship irritability and volatility. Many have lost what was previously taken for granted. It is hard to look forward with hope and trust there will be better times. Some moments, it is hard to hang on when day after day disappointments and worries persist. However, while all this may be real, we have to catch ourself when we begin down a slide of despair towards depression. We need to become aware of what we are repeating over and over again in our minds. Are they fearful thoughts? Do we focus on our angst and troubles? Are we having catastrophic thinking and stewing on what we have lost? Do we have visions of dismal futures? Do we fret about what could be next? Albert Einstein wrote, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” Can we stop being imprisoned by downbeat beliefs and instead take personal steps necessary to make positive change in our lives?
We are in a time of huge change and evolution both in our society and personally. Nelson Mandela, who endured unimaginable atrocities for decades, said, “I never lose, I either win or learn.” Let’s stop and answer, “what have we learnt during this time?” Each of us is being called “to go the long haul” and “weather this storm.” We are reminded that we are all connected, and what we think, do and say affects one another. Can Mandela’s words inspire us to learn how to make a happier day, today? Can we make a difference in our life and in the lives of those around us? Are we being kind to ourself, and to members of our family? Are we pitching in to take better care of relatives and neighbors? Are we helping or are we complaining? When we have been with family members for too long, do we take a break, go outside and re-group? Are we making choices to focus on lack or focus on what we can do to bring about small yet meaningful change? Instead of defining external events or people who could make us feel better if only they were with us, can we instead ask ourself—what can I do that I enjoy doing? What can I do that makes me happy? What can I do that will make someone else feel better?
Can we make choices to “lace together” (imagine lacing a shoe), positive thoughts, activities, and actions that bring us joy, and “lace” them together with work, online school, or homework the next hour? “Lacing together” is one hour (or smaller period of time) engaging in play/joy/refreshment activities, followed by one hour of diligent effort, focus and work tasks at hand. Then again, the next hour and the next, we can lace together what makes us happy followed by an hour of whatever work needs to be done. We can “lace together” joyous moments with labor and responsibilities so we are no longer overwhelmed or over-burdened. Recognizing and implementing what makes us happy and defining what we can do that is calming and re-energizing, and then doing these things is a choice we can make. If we bring into our awareness what really matters to us, and what is truly essential for us to feel good right now, and then take action in that direction, we have made a positive choice. We have made a positive change.
Be kind to yourself; be kind and compassionate to your family. Your life story is an open book and guess what—you are the author. You do not have to be stuck on the same page day after day. Uplift your perspective. Believe in your strength and stamina. Dr. Martin Luther King wrote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only Light can do that.” Be the Light. In these dark hours, we are called to reach within to our inner Light and live it now.