The world has changed beyond recognition in the last couple of weeks. A virus that started in one part of the world has become a global pandemic and countries world wide are in lock down to help save lives and prevent healthcare systems from breaking. For most people this will be an incredibly stressful time. Even if you are not in the group considered vulnerable to this virus yourself, you will know people who are, and you might be one of the millions of people who will have to deal with loss of income and or have businesses that will be struggling to survive. After 3 ½ years of uncertainty and chaos due to Brexit, this could be the one thing that either makes or breaks Britain.
However, some positive things have come from this. For one, it has become evident just how important the NHS is, and maybe this will convince the Conservative government in Westminster that a National Health Service is indeed essential for the country and that it is critically underfunded. It may also give the earth a much needed breather. The ‘establishment’ has shown great unwillingness to make structural changes in order to deal with the climate challenges we are facing, but maybe this lockdown will show us that there are indeed different ways of organising our lives. One of my favourite comments on social media has been that “it’s like the earth has sent us to our rooms to think about our behaviour”.
Being able to see some potential positive outcomes doesn’t necessarily make it easier to cope with the worries and stress this is causing in our private lives though. How do we cope with a complete change in routine, financial or health worries, and keep ourselves sane, healthy and occupied? How can we make this a time that can actually be constructive and give us new pointers for the future? How do we stay well during such challenging times?
For this purpose it is helpful to look at wellbeing on different levels: physical, soul/mental and spiritual wellbeing and below are a few thoughts that might be helpful guides in each area.
Looking after your physical health is essential. It not only ensures you have a strong immune system that can cope with viruses and bugs, it also helps your body cope with the effects of stress. Research has shown that stress can affect us on a cellular level, which in the long run can lead to illness. However, if we have a healthy lifestyle, our cells will not be affected by stress in the same way. There are several components in a healthy lifestyle: getting enough sleep, having a balanced, healthy diet, reducing sugar, alcohol, and caffeine, drinking enough water to keep your body hydrated and eliminate toxins, and getting enough exercise. Most people will have a notion of what these involve and there are many resources online that can help you with the details if need be.
So if you are tempted to deal with this situation by snacking and watching non-stop Netflix, maybe you need to rethink your coping strategies, as this will not help you come out of this time healthy and ready to go again. Reducing tension and bringing awareness to your body through practices such as Eurythmy can also help us maintain an alertness, centredness and presence to help us remain conscious of ourselves and our reactions.
Looking after our inner life is just as important as our physical wellbeing. While we cannot change what is happening in the world right now, how we think and feel about it colours our own reality. Thoughts and feelings are real and through them we create both our present inner climate and our future. Using this time to become more mindful of our habits, practices and thoughts and feelings can help us go through this situation not just coping, but nurturing ourselves on a soul-level. This can be the perfect time for you to finally practise meditation, to learn that craft you always wanted to learn, to explore your creativity, to read, to sing, to reconnect with nature, to …. Even if your physical space is small, your internal world can be infinite and with all external distractions being shut down this could just be the time to explore this world.
When dealing with the stress world changing events like a pandemic can cause it is helpful to start looking at the bigger questions in life. To work with things on a Spiritual level, we need to start looking for purpose and meaning. What currents are running deeper that we aren’t noticing? What are the historical patterns that can help explain what we are experiencing now? How can we make this time purposeful in our lives? What is the meaning of this? Actually, what is the meaning of life?? Is it just to grow up, have a family, be entertained, have all the necessary mod cons and then die? Or is there more to life than what we can see? Is there a larger, unseen reality which we can only reach and experience in our inner life? Having some kind of spiritual or religious belief can be a help in such uncertain times, and can help us get a sense of perspective.
When living with such uncertainty we really have two options: we either let the anxiety and fear of the future overwhelm us, or we work towards cultivating TRUST. Trust in ourselves and our ability to cope and trust that life is generally beneficient and that there may just be forces at work that will help. As the German philosopher Goethe said: “Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself providence moves too.” Let us all use this time to redefine our sense of purpose and invite Providence into our lives.
To end, I would like to share a verse by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. It is a verse for strengthening that can help us through times of challenge.