This Crisis Needs You To Be Powerful
How You Can Grow And Help Your World Grow, Too, During the Great Global Slowdown
Everyone will have their March 2020 story to tell when this is all over.
We’ve all got different forms of stress to deal with, some of it more immediate, some more based on concerns about our future.
I fall more in the latter category. On my end, I was thrown into a Slow Down at the end of February, and now my plans for April and potential new work have been put on hold.
So this article is more aimed at those who are in a slowdown, more than a speed-up. That said, the information can be helpful for just about anyone.
Ultimately, I want to stress that this is a time for empathy because this is a crisis and in a crisis, there’s no end to the people who are suffering now.
However, as you probably know, the vast majority of us will make it through this. It’s how we make it through that is the question. I hope this post can give you some ideas about how you can maintain and improve your mental health during this unprecedented era of modern history.
Three Ways You Can Grow From This Time
Two sayings have been popping up a lot lately in my awareness. The first is:
“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” ― Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.
When I thought about that, it helped me feel relaxed about just how fast things are happening in the news. It won’t be at this pace forever. I also feel it allows us to recognize we can turn it off when we need to.
The second idea is the connection between crisis and opportunity in Chinese and Japanese. Here in Japan, crisis is kiki and it uses the Chinese characters for “dangerous” and “opportunity”:
Now, the caption there gives away the first lesson I wish to offer you:
I. Keep your sense of humor
Have you ever seen the movie “Life is Beautiful”? In the movie, a gregarious, creative man is able to keep the spirits of his son up while in a concentration camp during World War II. It’s one of the better tributes to the power of the human spirit and how humor is a key element to that.
II. Breath, breath, breath
When I started to take the coronavirus seriously in early March, one of my first thoughts was: People need to breathe more.
You see, last May, I began doing the Wim Hof Method every day and a key component of that is this breathwork exercise.
In my experience and the experience of millions who are using it, this simple 10-minute route does absolute wonders for one’s health, including building one’s immune system (I’ll leave the scientific explanations for others; I’ll just say from direct experience that I’ve never had a year of such good health and active energy.)
Now, that’s just one thing you can do and if you really want to know more about the Wim Hof Method, just do some YouTube searches, download his app, or you can listen to a recent episode of my podcast below.
III. Create a Daily Discipline and Stick To It
Having a regular practice can help one remain grounded during turbulent times.
I go over my idiosyncratic practice in that podcast, but in short, it includes the breathwork, cold showers and a gratitude meditation I’ve come up with.
You are free to design your own practice – there are plenty to choose from – but the key to having a practice is doing it regularly.
I designed mine to suit my needs, and am happy with the results and much of that I think has to do with adding my secret ingredient of gratitude to the Wim Hof Method.
There’s plenty of scientific evidence for how gratitude helps us with things like our mental and physical health and also our self-esteem and our sleep.
In addition, the more I work from a place of gratitude, the better I feel and the more I can find gratitude for almost anything.
Heck, I even ended up feeling grateful to my son for stealing $300 from me! That may seem ludicrous (and, of course, I was upset with him) but what it comes down to is learning to look at life’s challenges as opportunities for growth. In fact, my gratitude mantra that I created is:
Thank you for the Gift of another day. Thank you for the opportunities presented by this Gift.
Now That You Feel Better, Help Someone Out, Would Ya?
Yup, this is the second part of the process. I’ve put them in this order for an important reason.
Call it the Airplane is Going Down Fast Lesson.
What is it that flight attendants tell us during that safety video we all tend to ignore?
“Put on your oxygen mask before helping others.”
I look at this as not only about taking care of one’s physical health, but one’s mental health as well.
But you’ve already done that because you are reading this article in order like a normal human and not like an antelope on Adderall, so now that you are feeling better, it’s time to look around you and see how you can help others through this crisis.
Simply ask yourself: How can I be of Service? Look at the things you are good at and see if they can be used to aid others.
Referring back to myself (raging narcissist, here! Ha ha), because I’m in Japan I can’t exactly help my mother or her neighbor in the U.S. carry their groceries to the car. But I can use the Internet and my communication skills to help, right?
Or I can see if any of my neighbors or family members here in Japan could use help.
One of the flaws in our social system this virus has exposed is our over-reliance on money. What would happen if we started doing more volunteer work?
I know we all have financial responsibilities. But as people who go through the recovery community understand, one of the best ways to life oneself up is to offer help to others.
Again, a win-win.
I love working outside and am fascinated by growing things, so not only am I going to plant some food in my garden in April and Mau, come June I’m going to again volunteer to help my friend and his father-in-law plant rice. After all, why would I want to pass up any opportunity to tread around in the mud all day, chatting with my friend, while wearing a silly hat like this one?:
So it’s really not that hard. Simply ask, “How can I help?” Keep your eyes and ears open and the opportunities will present themselves.
The Final Lesson: WE. Got. This.
It’s funny how when you pay attention to social media, you start seeing certain phrases everywhere. Back in January, I started to use this phrase – We got this – and started seeing it other places, too. It’s a bit odd how memory works; I can’t remember if I wrote it before seeing it or if I saw it somewhere else first. Either way, it feels like a collective consciousness thing, which makes me think it’s something important to take to heart.
Now, I like to put the we in all caps to show that WE is more powerful than me.
However, be careful. Some folks mistakenly think that WE is at war with me, but if you look at the grammar as I have for 15 years as an English teacher, WE is the plural of me, thus WE includes me.
That’s why I started with examples of what you can do for yourself (me) and then moved to how to help others (WE) in this post.
Just recognize that the Collective is not at odds with the Individual when the Individual decides to stop playing the victim and instead actively participates in creating a better world.
Ultimately, while each of us is having our unique situation during this crisis (that’s one of the Rules of Life), one thing we all seem to be facing is fear.
Why? Because we humans don’t know the future and when the future all of the sudden becomes very murky, well, that’s scary.
I addressed this on a podcast a few weeks back but will say that it seems to me this is a time to really get down and dirty, get into our bodies and our hearts and perhaps give our minds, which are modern Culture really loves to promote, a break.
Much as I, too, enjoy digging into the various theories about what the Heck is going on, a lot of media focuses on fear and too much of it can make you sick.
Consider taking a break from your media intake and just remembering that humans and civilizations have been through many challenges before and the ones who best survive are the ones who work together with others with the belief that those actions will lead to a better world than the one that created the crisis in the first place.
In addition, we can’t and won’t stay hidden from the virus forever and there are scientists and computers working hard on developing a vaccine, as well as people creating testing kits and medical supplies.
The short term is going to be challenging, so perhaps start by limiting your media intake and focusing on some of these personal growth disciplines and then getting out there into your community (on-line counts, too, of course!) and seeing what you can do to help out.
Best of luck!