Keeping it together in pandemic times
Within the larger crisis, there are multitudes of crises that are also taking place. Some have been set by the pandemic, some have been hastened by it, and some the pandemic just made worse. Given that most of us will contribute best by staying at home, here is a curated list of actions that could prevent, solve, or manage those inner crises or conflicts that can arise because you cannot go anywhere.
“Humor in the gallows.”
This is the kind of humor that originated in medieval Britain when the ones headed for the guillotine would still manage to say something unexpected right before their final moment. One example in particular, was of the one who supposedly looked at the brand new guillotine and asked the executioner: “Is that safe?”
In this crisis, imagine if you did not get that video with people making their own social distancing hula-hoops or people doing pair dancing with themselves in front of the mirror, or the dog who can put on his own face mask (real or not). Humor is not designed to solve the pandemic. It is not designed to solve anything. BUT it makes it more bearable. And we need to bear this so that we can stay home for as long as we need to. Staying at home is the part that we are called to do and that is within our control.
Wayne Maxwell, the Canadian scientist who studies this kind of humor in his research found that humor does help us cope in very stressful times. He also found out that there is no one kind of gallows humor as there is a whole range, so yes, engage in humor but be sensitive. There is nothing wrong with finding humor in tragedy as long as it does not take pleasure in the misery and misfortune of others. There is a difference between finding humor in our shared gallows but laughing at others in their own gallows.
Yes, those chores will be your therapy.
This is not the only necessary and obvious thing to do since you are part of the population affecting the physical space and processes in the household. But in terms of the science of coping with stress, chores are part of the things that you can control and this helps balance the onslaught of primal emotions of fear and anxiety that set in whenever you hear grim updates on the crisis. In your brain, this means the brain part (amygdala) that cannonballs emotions can be met with anti-explosion mattresses from another part of your brain (prefrontal cortex) that is mostly responsible for deliberate work.
I personally have always liked washing the dishes and I like them even more now and find myself cleaning the entire kitchen plus laundry area each time I start. I just found out that indeed, science has looked at washing dishes as a “contemplative” pratice, albeit informal one. And so is cooking. Focus on what you can control because there, you are in the moment. And that moment, you are alive and well and coping.
The studies are already very hard to refute. Mindfulness is when you fundamentally focus on your breath, focus on sounds, and then back to breathing again. Mindfulness is not a “new age” thing that you think your crazy aunt learned in some exotic travel. It has been scientifically studied and really alters the way your brain works. Mindfulness does not make you forget the tragedies but makes you bear them with grace as you learn to accept that the at the core of life is its unpredictability.
Engage in art.
I have always said that we owe a running debt to artists because they help us ride the arrows of time. Artists do not give us windows to escape. They give us reason (and a ladder) to – so we can awaken to new worlds that enable us to have more genuine lives. We would have all decayed into the ditches with our slumbering selves if it were not for meaningful images, dance, music, and literature. Art will not only help us survive this pandemic but it will also see us have inner lives that will help us change our world for the better after this crisis.
“The Art of Being Yourself.”
Homebound, you have no excuse not to build your inner life. If you are, like me, one of those who wrinkle their foreheads and wince at the self-help books that tell you how you can achieve success based on famous wealthy people, you may be most at home instead with this TED Talk by Caroline McHugh. Aside from the out-of-this world jacket she is wearing that I may just try to make myself during this lockdown, she really makes an excellent case to be the best human being you can be without having to use others as pegs for your own success.
The outcome of this crisis, the main one and the ones we experience in our own lives, will be collectively addressed by what we do over and over again. For most of us, it will be what we do over and over while at home. You don’t have to take it from me. Take it from this guru. – Rappler.com