I’ve not been part of a global pandemic before.
I recently had a conversation with my partner about how I’ve been through a lifetime of trauma and grief. I birthed two children, almost died twice, was married for over 20 years and then divorced and am currently parenting teenagers. I have post traumatic stress disorder and depression and anxiety from childhood sexual abuse.
I’ve been through some stuff. But I’ve not done the global pandemic before. The thing about this all-encompassing crisis is that there are several underlying themes and feelings and emotions that are similar to having a personal crisis. In the world at large, we are experiencing instability, panic, fear, and uncertainty, to name a few. Those of us who have gone through trauma are familiar with the hypervigilance, worry, and fear that we are now experiencing on a more global scale.
So here’s the deal. I’m not going to give you a bunch of “tips for thriving in lockdown.” You can get that anywhere. Plus these “helpful tips” tend to make me mad right now (I know, totally irrational, but those are feelings for ya). They remind me of platitudes, which I also find repulsive. You know the ones, like “everything happens for a reason” or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I despise these sayings so much that I have a vulgar hand gesture that I do when I hear one – leave a comment on this post or on the Facebook comment section if you want to know more and I’ll pm you with details of what this gesture looks like…just know that you have to have a pretty dark sense of humor right now to appreciate it.
What I am going to do is offer encouragement, a little bit of wisdom, and ways to tap into your own strength, developed over years of difficult situations and experiences.
Our Skills Transfer
A few years ago, I began to see an acupuncturist. I had received some devastating, life-changing news and, in a twisted coincidence, my antidepressants had stopped working around the same time. To say that I was struggling is an understatement.
During one appointment, he placed the needles and stood by the side of the table. “Before I leave the room, I want you to think about something,” he said.
“What’s that?” I asked. Tears had gathered at the corners of my eyes, building up until they overflowed to make tiny puddles in my ear canals.
“You’ve been through a lot of difficult experiences,” he said. “Emotionally challenging. What you might not realize is that you have built a lot of skills to deal with emotional challenges. And guess what?”
“What?” I asked.
“Those skills transfer. I want you to think about how the skills you have already developed can help you in your current situation.”
As word of the coronavirus spread over hours and days and weeks and now months, I have returned to this idea. As we have first canceled overseas travel and then national travel, as we have closed schools and large gatherings, as we have stocked our pantries and restaurants have gone to take out only, and as we have sequestered ourselves in our homes, I have returned to this idea again and again.
Our skills transfer. Here are eleven of these skills that we can draw on during this coronavirus lockdown.
11 Life Skills You Already Have
Resilience – This is a fancy word for bouncing back. If you are still present on the earth, you are resilient, simply because you have survived everything that has happened to you up to this point. Take comfort and gather strength from that. Think about all of the experiences you have survived, from having children to losing jobs to fighting diseases to getting out of terrible relationships, for a few examples. As a friend of mine likes to remind me, “You can do hard things,” to which I reply, “That’s what she said.”
(Yes, this is dangerously close to platitude territory, but she is a really good friend, so I allow it).
Courage – This skill allows us to confront danger or pain head on. Are we scared? Sure. But we’ve been scared before. Our minds and spirits are strong, allowing us to do what needs to be done, no matter what.
Creativity – Now is a great time to play. I have told my kids for years that creativity is the happy result of boredom. Some of us like to play by putting puzzles together, or making blanket forts, or baking, or literally playing games. There are crafts and artistic endeavors and playing with our pets. There’s plenty of playing to be had.
Solitude – I highly recommend short bouts of solitude. Especially since we’re inundated with news and our people – as much as we love them – are in our space. Take a break from the constant influx of stimuli, go off by yourself, and enjoy the quiet.
Movement – Solitude goes well with movement, especially walking. Plus, moving our bodies results in an influx of happy hormones, and we could all use more of that.
Presence – If you’ve ever needed to put fear to rest or talk yourself down or ground yourself, you know what it’s like to be present. One of the best ways we can be emotionally more healthy during this time is to observe the myriad of emotions as they occur. Feel them, say hello, and let them pass. When it comes right down to it, there is only this moment.
Rest – As an introvert, I love it when everything’s canceled. Now is the time to rest! When you come down from the adrenaline and fear of the last days or weeks or months, you’re going to need it.
Artistic Ability – as a trauma survivor, developing my love and practice of art has helped save me. While play in these areas is important (see creativity above), we need to spend time in practice in order to develop our gifts. For a writer like me, this means reading and writing on a regular basis. Whatever your artistic ability, this is a great opportunity to practice.
Resourcefulness – This skill involves making due with what you have and stocking up by taking what you need. Or if you have taken more than you need, giving it away to those who need it. Yeah, I’m talking about toilet paper. In a week or so if the shelves aren’t stocked, I’m going to be begging for some of what I’m not calling, “Butt Gold.”
Building Connection – Sure, we are keeping ourselves at a physical distance for the most part, but in other ways we are closer than ever. My private messaging game is at an all-time high. I’m an introvert who is learning that maybe using the phone to connect with loved ones isn’t so bad. Video chatting is amazing. People in our larger community – our neighbors – really want to help each other.
I am part of a neighborhood group on Facebook, and recently there was a post suggesting that kids could make and decorate shamrocks to hang in the front windows of homes to add a little cheer. Later that day, I was walking in my neighborhood and saw windows with brightly-colored shamrocks, and I felt a little stronger, a little more encouraged, and definitely more connected to our world.
Love – Let’s never, ever forget love. This emotion that’s also a verb is also a skill. We have different ways of giving and receiving love. This pandemic is an incredible opportunity to practice love for ourselves, our people, our communities, and our planet. Let’s not give up on love.