My phone is ringing and emails are pouring in from people worldwide who are exhausted from living with the fear, stress, anxiety, boredom, depression, uncertainty and fatigue of COVID-19. We’ve all spent months in our homes. We’re sick of social distancing with a mask. We stand in line to get into the store, try to go the right direction down the aisles and wait six feet apart to check out. Then plexiglass disconnects us from the person ringing up our groceries. Our very identity as social beings has been constrained.
We’re missing all our special events and milestone moments, and we miss hugging friends and family. Individually, each one of these things is a stressor – yet we must confront them all at once.
In addition to those life-altering situations, we now also find ourselves at a tipping point in our understanding of racial injustice. No sentient human can turn away from what has been happening in our country. We are being called to participate in a complete reinvention of our societal behaviors – from the personal to the institutional. While it is gratifying to see positive reform, the process can be overwhelming. The chaos of uncertainty and upheaval is very real and can leave you wondering how we’ll recover from all of this.
And all these events have the power to undermine your physical and mental health – but only if you let them.
There is a better way to live and even thrive. Rather than recoiling in fear and anxiety, why not embrace this period as an exciting time for purposeful change? We all have a wonderful opportunity to courageously move forward in our lives in a focused state of hope and joy.
I’ve come to understand that to live in optimism and gladness requires lifestyle decisions: disconnect from steady streams of bad news; don’t engage in multiplying blame; don’t allow yourself to sink into despair. It’s your choice. Try choosing to be a force for good in the world. For me, it’s checking on my 93-year-old neighbor and doing little chores for her. One client told me she simply does what she can to make a difference: she keeps her birdbaths full; she fosters a dog from the animal shelter and she’s kind even when others are not.
A joyful outlook isn’t wishful thinking; it can permeate everything you do: cleaning out the hall closet or organizing the garage, mastering a challenging phone app to send your friends virtual bouquets. Hope can even be nurtured in the darkest times by creating positive fantasies about the life you want in the future.
Make plans for travel and family reunions in 2021, look for a new RV online, take concrete steps toward new goals. Start living the life you desire now. Hope can be found in planning a garden, planting seeds and harvesting the produce and flowers. Hope can be found in waiting for a house plant to blossom or a rose bud to open in your yard. I’m planning a vegetable garden for the fall and researching which plants will flourish here. This was something I didn’t think I would be able to do, but now I’m determined to grow delicious food.
Another coping skill is to partake of the infinite choices in online learning –everything from Urdu to appliance repair. Another client, who lives alone, was frustrated with her poorly performing vacuum and a repair shop that was shut down. By following along with some videos – and fashioning some tools herself – she managed to fix it. She saved money and gained self-confidence in her abilities to survive on her own. Even I have gone that route and studied bicycle repair, so I now feel better able to manage myself on my long cycling adventures.
Being active is a great way to lift your spirits. Maybe you can do leg lifts sitting in your chair, go for a walk on your patio, hike in the mountains, exercise in the pool or dance around your living room. For me, it’s riding my bike.
Another source of happiness is to seek ways to be of service. Who could you mentor, who would welcome your hard-earned wisdom, even if it’s only by phone for now? Could you help tutor your grandchildren from afar? Volunteer opportunities abound as so many vital non-profits are suffering. Call one up and ask how you might help.
And while you’re at it, seriously search for humor of all kinds – it really is a great healing tool. When’s the last time you had a genuine, gut-shaking belly laugh? Joy really is all around you if you know where to look. Delight can be felt watching hummingbirds flit around a feeder, listening to favorite music that evokes happy memories, savoring the fun of trying new recipes with someone – even if you’re not the cook of the household.
Whenever you do reach a state of joy, stop and notice the physical sensations of elation in your body and remember exactly where you feel them. Using techniques such as hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming, you can learn to actually memorize those feelings of delight and recreate them on demand. You can choose to begin each morning with a mental rehearsal: a step-by-step moving through your day with gladness and gratitude. You plan dental or doctor visits, so why wouldn’t you consciously plan more joyous activities?
Of course, a positive mindset won’t stop the stressors that life presents. This outlook isn’t about wishful thinking, nor is it about denial. Unwanted events will continue to happen – but you get to choose how you respond to them. This idea is about realizing you can cope with the stresses and fears in life and still nurture hope and joy.
Roger Moore is a medical hypnotherapist at Palm Desert Hypnosis and has been offering both in-office and telehealth services for more than 23 years. You can contact Roger at (760) 219.8079 or Roger@HypnosisHealthInfo.com and visit www.PalmDesertHypnosis.com.