Gathering Calm for Uncharted Times

News about Covid-19 is everywhere. It spans from the global to the local. Even if we are fortunate enough not to be sick with it in the present, worry about it can seem to be everywhere we look.

As a counterbalance to this worry, I have been gathering wisdom from several sources – some sent to me by kind friends and family. A good friend connected me with an article written March 17th by Lori Gottlieb, a psychotherapist and contributor to The Atlantic. This resonated with me:

“Of course, it’s normal to feel anxiety right now, and while we need to allow ourselves the space to feel these feelings, we also need to give ourselves the space to let them go.”

I found an echo of this from one of my favorite writers: Maggie Stiefvater. Her modern fantasies are lyrical, and her Twitter and blog are often wryly funny while making trenchant observations. She’s been frank about having OCD and how she deals with it, for instance. On March 12th, she wrote about dealing with the news about Cov-d-19, and though her audience has lots of teens, I find a lot of wisdom for myself in her words:

Maggie Stiefvater @mstiefvater ·Mar 12 

I know a lot of my readers are Freaking the Hell Out™ today, so some internet advice from this OCD author: 

  • set a time for WHEN you allow yourself to read news (i.e. every 6 hours)
  • set a time limit for HOW LONG to read (i.e. 15 minutes)
  • be mindful of negative coping behaviors that feel logical, but are not
  • remember that perceived disaster doesn’t give you permission to perform negative behaviors
  • remind yourself of specific times, if necessary, that giving in to them have made the situation worse overall
  • set up a daily goal unrelated to the news: i.e., finishing that novel you were reading, cleaning your closet
  • set up hopeful long-term plans for much later in the year and when anxious, focus on that minutia instead
  • do all that you can to help the situation personally, and then allow yourself to step out of the information loop until your next scheduled time
  • if necessary, completely opt out and recruit a friend to disseminate necessary news to you
  • sometimes this means putting your phone someplace you cannot get it, or sitting outside with the cat looking wistfully over all the land that will one day be Simba’s

Finally: This list isn’t just relevant to this week; it’s relevant to our entire high-paced, high stakes news cycle. Be informed as you need. Be able to step away for perspective and health.

Establish psychological protocols for yourself now and you’ll use them again later.

P.S. teens, I know it’s especially psychologically difficult because you’re shifting from an understanding that adults are supposed to be informed & want to take care of you.

The news, as a complete animal, doesn’t want to take care of you. It just wants you to engage.

And here is more from Lori Gottlieb: “In being confined to our homes as much as possible, whether alone or together, we have an opportunity to embrace the ordinary—to play board games, cook meals, watch entire TV seasons, read books, take walks, do puzzles, get those art supplies out of the back of the closet, catch up with people we “meant to call” weeks or months ago and make one another laugh—precisely because our busy routines have been disrupted.”

Her article is full of wisdom; I encourage you to read it in full.

This lovely graphic was sent to me by a dear friend, Danila Székely, who is also a life-coach:

Source: Greater Good Science Center; photo & design: Danila Székely

 

Another good friend just today told me about Yo-Yo Ma’s mission to share Songs of Comfort — beautiful music from him and other musicians shared from their homes to ours. Among other places, you can find out more about this on Silkroad Home Sessions. This is a wonderful way to spend some time freed up by moving away from the news.

If you live in the northern hemisphere in a temperate zone, Spring is here. This is true even if you’re in the middle of a blizzard (which I hope you’re not). Where I grew up, March snow is common, and so was the sight of crocuses blooming in the snow, bravely and beautifully. They not only blossomed – they survived. We can be like the crocuses – or at least we can see and be heartened by their beautiful resilience.

Spring is every bit a real and true as Covid-19. And Spring is the triumph of Earth and Life over an adversary far more ancient than this virus. That is worth being mindful of, and worth celebrating.

Wishing you all light and comfort in these uncharted times.

7 thoughts on “Gathering Calm for Uncharted Times

Add yours

  1. Dear Gemma-
    What a thoughtful collection and sane offering!

    I love all here and while I Am not OCD, I am wiser from Maggie’s tips for people who are and her reminder about what so much of the news seeks to do.

    xo
    Danila

    Like

  2. Thank you, Gemma for this lovely respite from the “storm.” It’s filled with much-needed coping strategies. With your permission, I’d like to include a link to this blog for a blog of my own that is bubbling in my head. 🙂

    Like

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