The very nature of waves indicates a repetitive pattern. Some can be bigger or rougher than others. Some can destroy cities while some barely wash away footsteps or manage to scratch sandcastles on the beach, all while being in motion constantly.
The essence of life is movement, change and growth, if we see it that way. That there will be good and bad times, calm and crisis, seamless smooth days interrupted by stress, troughs and crests, rise and fall, and health and sickness, is a fact.
As far as the Covid 19 pandemic is concerned, we are not out of the weeds yet. With the positive news of vaccination, data indicating reduction in death toll and reports of buses and trains resuming services, and malls opening up, many assumed otherwise. For a year, most people held on and respected lockdowns, social distancing and regulations announced by health and governing departments. News of a second wave has rattled many. Historically speaking, we have survived several waves (read years) and faces of crisis such as war, cholera, polio myelitis, small pox, terrorism and more.
With the news of possible consecutive waves, some of us are understandably thrown off with our desperate hope of “life getting back to normal” threatened once again. Chats are buzzing with conjecture and speculation with an underlying anxiety and brewing frustration hard to miss. There are a few things I would like to share, with a confession of not having aced them at all, but certainly aiming for them with all the muscle I have got.
There are three key things that can help us cope with repetitive crisis:
Acceptance of reality: As a defence to the challenges and obstacles facing us, we perpetually reject reality. “If only” being the prefix of many of our internal dialogues, rejecting what is, and fantasising about what could/should/must be, leads us to feel a gamut of negative emotions. To effectively cope, we need just the opposite. Accepting and embracing reality helps us focus on “what” instead of “why” and allows us to weigh our best options moving forward. Whether it is a first-time crisis or second or consecutive ones, acceptance helps us set the stage for coping and persisting.
Pain versus pleasure principle: Suffering is neither easy nor welcome. We function out of the pain avoidance (at all costs) principle. Furthermore, we “must” experience pleasure, joy and cheer as a natural consequence of our existence. If we can balance our need to feel pleasure over pain, learn to associate suffering and pain to certain lessons, gains and growth, coping can become easier.
Conscious cognition: Our self-talk about crisis, especially when tough times are prolonged or repeated, makes it harder to accept, overcome and persist, compounding the pain. Our mental-talk takes us into the past and throws us into the future, with negative emotions bursting out of us. Centering our presence, being aware of the present, and mindful of our words to ourselves, focusing on the problem to solve in the moment, identifying irrationalities and striving to be resilient can help us cope. Presence helps us positively and constructively engage with the problem, emotions and even people to solve and resolve issues.
Covid 19 has shaken up everyone. Some have grown out of their limited perceptions of life and suffering, and some have dug their feet deeper into their usual means. Some have connected with universal suffering and manifested a tremendous amount of consciousness, empathy, compassion, collaboration, responsibility and generosity. Some chose to acknowledge “life is too short” and prioritise their own comfort zones. Either way, suffering, when accepted, teaches what we are willing to learn and walk away with. Our attitude in engaging with one or more challenges will define our experience of them.