COVID19 turned the world upside down and it impacted us all in one-way or another. As the owner of Find Hope, a suicide prevention education centre, it is alarming to hear reports such as those coming out of the US where Dr. Mike de Boisblanc, head of trauma at John Muir Medical Center, told ABC7. “We’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.”
There are a lot of people suffering right now as this is the worst global crisis many of us have ever lived through.
I am no stranger to suffering and adversity. Since my father took his own life, and through the help and support of therapy over the years, I find myself with a greater level of balance and perspective. I can see both the negatives and the positives, the shadow and the light. I have learnt that there is always life lessons seeking to emerge out of the darkness.
In this post, I am sharing some lessons that I have learned throughout COVID19.
11 Powerful Lessons That The COVID19 Crisis Has Taught Me
1.You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone
You know the song lyrics, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’? Well, this has never been truer.
Think toilet paper and flour!
In reality, maybe we did know what we had but we never contemplated that we might lose it.
Many of us have been used to living in a world of privilege and luxury; with so much at our fingertips, the sudden scarcity of items which serve our basic needs, really disrupted and caused chaos to our sense of safety and security. I know I felt a sense of unease when all of a sudden, these everyday items were really hard to come by. I had to turn inwards often to soothe my unease.
This crisis has certainly taught me to be thankful for the little things.
2. Practise Gratitude
Gratitude, or appreciation for the good things that happen in life, is an essential part of building happiness. When you’re going through a tough time it can be hard to remember to be grateful for the good stuff, but there are a stack of benefits that can be gained from working gratitude into your everyday life.
When Coronavirus and lock-down first hit Australia, my business, my life’s work and passion was also locked down. I suffered a massive financial hit and felt very down as I felt like I had lost value, purpose and meaning in my day to day life.
Then I started to think about the things in my life that I feel grateful for.
I feel grateful to be living in what I believe to be one of the best countries in the world during this time. We have government financial support and a world class health system covered by Medicare. This provides a basic level of security to all.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been Pollyanna this whole time – far from it (more on this below!).
Is there something, no matter how small, that you feel grateful for? Here are some cool ways you can build a gratitude practice: 20 Ways to Practice Gratitude.
3. Sleep is the new black
We all know there is no shortage of health benefits regarding a good night’s sleep! It reduces stress hormones in the body, helps regulate appetite and boosts the immune system.
That’s great news for me, I am now officially an expert on this point. I spent the best part of 7 weeks sleeping until late and watching Netflix all day. That is because that was the best I could do on some days, and I came to realise – that’s OK!
Try not to beat yourself up for where you are. There are a lot of social media posts putting pressure to achieve something throughout this time but it is totally understandable if you feel like you want or need to sleep more than you usually do.
4. This too shall pass
There have been times throughout lock-down where I have felt a strong sense of helplessness and disappointment, and that is OK too. My journey through therapy taught me how important it is to acknowledge and honour my feelings; it’s 100% OK to feel however I feel.
When we don’t feel our feelings, or when we squash them down using alcohol, food, shopping, or another addiction, we can end up depressed.
So, if you feel sad right now – that’s OK! If you are feeling really angry – that’s OK! If you are feeling anxious right now – that is OK. It is really important to remember that even if you don’t like the emotion you are feeling – it won’t last forever. Feelings come and then they go.
Try checking in with your thoughts and your feelings and remind yourself often, ‘This too shall pass’.
5. Hugs are good for the soul
Hugs reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, lower blood pressure, stress, loneliness, aggression, anxiety and depression. They also boost compassion, trust and the immune system.
I live with my husband, 6 dogs and 1 sheep so thankfully I’m not short of hugs. However, I really miss hugging my friends and family.
You may or may not have someone to hug. If you do, reach out for one. If you don’t, try turning towards your yourself and hold yourself physically by wrapping your arms around yourself, by using something like a weighted blanket, or by energetically ‘holding’ yourself in loving kindness.
6. Slow down and just be
We have been living in an era where the glorification of busy is the norm.
No wonder I spent the first 7 weeks sleeping and watching Netflix – I was burnt out from working too hard.
Since COVID19 lock-down, I have been forced to slow right down. It was hell to begin with, I hated it because I wasn’t used to ‘being’, I was doing too much ‘doing’. After some much needed R&R I have found myself engaging in activities I wouldn’t normally do, and genuinely enjoying them! I never thought I’d say this, but I have even come to love gardening and some (but certainly not all!) house chores!
If you are struggling to slow down or just be, maybe wonder about the core beliefs that are keeping you busy and doing. Sometimes it stems from not feeling enough.
A mantra that you might find useful is:
I am enough. I have enough. I do enough.
7. Cultivate empathy
Due to some wonderful initiatives focusing on depression awareness over the last decade or so, we have a much better understanding than ever before, however, many people don’t know that much about anxiety.
I have heard many people who suffer with anxiety say throughout this time, “welcome to my world”. They feel a sense of relief that the rest of the world is experiencing a portion of what they do on a daily basis. This experience will hopefully lead to more compassion, empathy and greater awareness for people who suffer with anxiety. I know it has for me.
8. Laughter is the best medicine
Laughter therapy is the treatment of anxiety, depression, and other psychological concerns through means of laughter.
As someone who was diagnosed with depression at 22 (but in hindsight I believe I’ve been living with depression since the age of 13), I have to pay attention and work hard to manage my triggers – a big one for me throughout this time was the news.
Watching the news is not good for my mental health. I noticed the more that I watched, the worse I felt. At week 4 of COVID19 lock-down, I switched the news off and started watching my favourite sitcoms. Laughter really is the best medicine, I felt better almost instantly.
Do you have a favourite comedy or sitcom series? Give it a go and see if it the endorphins help you feel better.
9. Self-compassion is a must
There have been times over the last few months where I have felt angry, sad, uninspired and unmotivated. I have cried and I have been catapulted into the grief process as I grieved the loss of my pre-COVID19 life and work. There have been many times where I have sat on my bum, eating and watching Netflix.
Something else I learnt in my therapy over the years is that it is never useful to beat myself up for being where I am. It took me 7 weeks to move towards feeling even slightly productive again.
Be kind to yourself, no matter where you are on this roller-coaster of a journey. Watch your should and shouldn’ts. If a thought starts with a should or a shouldn’t, this is usually the inner critic about to beat you up or demand something from you that might not be aligned with what your true self really needs. Cultivating self-compassion is a great way to combat this. You can find some activities on selfcompassion.org.
10. Passion and purpose are key
Throughout history, there have been many inspirational people who have shown us that even through unimaginable suffering and trauma in life; it is possible to find value, meaning and purpose out of major life crises. Their stories provide us with hope in times of darkness and despair.
As mentioned above, it took me a while to come out the other side of my 7-week COVID19 slump but once I did, my passion for facilitating workshops in suicide prevention was ignited again. Not doing this work every day just reminded me how SO in love with my work I am – it brings me value, meaning and purpose in life.
I think many people throughout this time are questioning what the deeper meaning of this crisis might be for them. If something was seeking to emerge out of this crisis for you, what might it be?
11. The COVID19 world is a giant classroom
There is no denying that there was some pretty scary scenes and situations where COVID19 brought out aggression, greed and the worst in people. Fear, threat and unsafety may have been the driving force underlying some of these behaviours. Any threat, especially for people who have a trauma history, will elicit a fight, flight or freeze response – it is hard to feel safe and secure at a time like this.
We have also seen a lot of good emerge out of this crisis – time to slow down and connect with ourselves and others, and the planet has had some respite from our overuse of its resources.
This crisis has certainly been an experience that no one will ever forget. As awful as COVID19 has been, there are so many powerful lessons we can take away from this time. I have come to see this world we live in as a giant classroom – there are many lessons embedded in each life experience, and COVID19 is no exception.
Re-evaluating our lives and considering what changes will best serve us moving forward is just one of the many things we can take from this.
Are there any changes you might want to make as you move forward throughout this time? What might your next steps be?
Like this article? You might also like 9 Ways to Help You Feel Good Enough In Tough Times.