During a global pandemic, civil unrest, job insecurity, elections underway in America, it is safe to say this would not be the best time to be diagnosed with a serious illness. Still, I was. Just for the record, I am okay due to all the good wishes and on-going support of friends, as well as the healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente. What began for me three months ago as a health challenge, I later named a “health crisis.” Yet, as I went deeper into the self, I realized it is actually a “health opportunity.”
You might be curious to know how I morphed from viewing it as a health challenge, to a health crisis to a health opportunity? Well, it all began with the awareness that I have the power to choose how I respond to life’s unfolding. I believe we become what we think. As scary as that can be at times, the benefits outweigh the concerns. If I can grab those thoughts that truly represent the bigger part of my existence, then I am living my truth. This “health opportunity” reminded me that I have the power within to create what I want and how I envision my life to unfold.
I’m perfecting my yoga these days with a weekly class on Zoom. My professor husband spends hours teaching classes and attending department meetings in front of a screen. And for many people during the Covid-19 crisis, online video chatting has been a lifeline—a way to connect with family and friends.
If there’s one common denominator in the country right now, it’s our new dependence on screens. According to Clockwise, the creator of an online calendar assistant, employees are spending 29 percent more time in online group meetings and 24 percent more time in one-on-one meetings than before the lockdown. And whether you love it or hate it, it’s likely that this trend is not going to go away even after schools and gyms open up and we can travel to see family again.
I personally love it that my favorite yoga teacher now visits me in my living room, even if she’s only on the screen. One of my friends who attended her class reunion online thought it was the best one yet, since every person had a chance to share how they were doing. And one mom wrote that she was thrilled to meet her friends for a Zoom dinner party without having to dress up or hire a babysitter. These are new and creative uses of technology that have changed our lives for the better.
I wasn’t born an optimist.
In fact… quite the opposite.
I was a moody, sullen, often seriously depressed child and young adult.
One night, at age 26, I decided that I was going to find the secret of happiness.
I was at a party in Coconut Grove, Florida, at the waterfront home of a millionaire, surrounded by people seemingly having a great time. I felt like such an outsider amidst the laughing, smiling party-goers. I had never felt so alone.
I wanted to have a great time, I just didn’t know how.
I thought it was something that just “happened” to lucky people.
In that moment, as I stood on the dock overlooking beautiful Biscayne Bay, I promised myself that I would do whatever it took to discover the secret to happiness.
During the next several years I went to therapy, read a lot of books, attended workshops and discovered that most of the time happiness is a choice. Even when really bad stuff is happening!
I found out that I am an HSP – a highly sensitive person and essentially very shy. I had to break through my fear of people and really make an effort to learn how to connect, make small talk, and allow myself to “be seen.”
Identify and let go of emotional baggage from difficult times
Life is full of emotional ups and downs. Sometimes the hardships we experience can be so overwhelming that they leave us stuck with feelings that can hamper our happiness or even harm our health and well-being.
The impact of negative emotions from traumatic and difficult events is a growing concern during the challenging times we now face. One new study, for instance, finds the emotional well-being of most American adults has been “broadly and substantially affected by COVID-19 and the related changes in life and society.”
Emotional distress related to COVID-19 is associated with higher frequency of clinical levels of anxiety, depression, and general life stress, along with lower reported levels of overall happiness, according to the U.S. National Pandemic Emotional Impact Report from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard Medical School.
Prolonged and/or intense negative feelings can have effects long after the events that precipitate them. They can take a toll on emotional, mental, and physical health and compel people to behave in ways that damage their relationships or impact their ability to have healthy, long-lasting bonds.
We are all blessed with access to an infallible source of truth and guidance. If you tune into your feelings – which is the main way the aspect of your your soul that is within you communicates with you – while listening to or reading the news, you can actually feel what is true and right, and what is false and wrong. The problem is that many people have learned not to trust these feelings – to listen to ‘authorities’ rather than to the truth that comes directly from our soul within.
We also all have our soul that is all around us – our higher self.
Our soul is way too big to fit into our body, so some of our soul is within and some is all around us. We are within our soul and our soul is within us. The part of our soul that is all around us is also an infallible source of truth and guidance, and it pops the truth and the loving actions into our mind when we are open to learning about the truth, and about what is in our highest good.
When I see news (I don’t watch it but I do scan it), I tune into my gut feelings and I also tune into my higher self, asking about what is true and what isn’t, and what is loving to me, and I can feel and hear what is true and right.
Permission to Grieve is Granted
This pandemic has stirred up many emotions from hope in seeing our healthcare and essential workers on the front line, to despair for the deaths and rising cases, to fear over loss of employment, to anxiety for handling the daily updates and home situation, to an even more prevalent one – grief.
During the pandemic, I wholeheartedly believe and affirm that grief is a natural emotion people are feeling for various reasons and one that is justified. Right now, the grief I am seeing in my therapy patients ranges from disappointment and sadness to frustration and anger. People are disappointed by having to reschedule events like weddings, sad about not being able to see family members, frustrated by losing out on once-in-a lifetime events, and angry from the lack of control and unfairness of it all.
The biggest grief reactions I am witnessing are connected to the loss of major events, particularly funerals because of the inability for family members to give their loved one the proper goodbye they wanted. While you can hold a memorial at a later date, there are no do-overs for a funeral.
During the pandemic, many people are taking extra care to stay well with measures such as wearing masks in public, maintaining physical distance, and washing their hands frequently. This is also a time when we should be thinking about ways to bolster our immune system to help us fight off not only COVID-19 but also all kinds of illness.
Your immune system protects your body from harmful substances, including viruses, bacteria, fungi, and toxins. It is made up of different organs, cells, and proteins that work together.
Without an immune system, you’d likely be sick all the time — if you lived very long!
The immune system consists of two parts: the innate immune system you are born with, and the adaptive immune system the body develops as it is exposed to microbes over time. These two systems are closely related and work together when a germ or other outside substance triggers an immune response.
Your immune system doesn’t protect you perfectly 100% of the time. Most people gets sick once in a while, even if it is just a common cold or stomach bug. But when you think of all the bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens you’re exposed to every day, it’s evident your immune system is working hard 24/7.
The lockdown that occurred in the face of COVID-19 brings to light something almost everyone overlooked in the past. We are now an indoor species. This was already true before the lockdown. Outdoor work has declined radically since the Industrial Revolution. In the West today we spend on average over 90% of our lives inside, whether in our homes, offices, schools, hotels or restaurants.
This development is contrary to most of human history, which was spent primarily outdoors. Unknown to most people, the boxes we now occupy have a profound impact on our health and well-being. Our physical and social environments conceivably have as much impact on our health as factors more widely recognized, such as genetics, lifestyle, and behavior patterns. Indoors the elements of air and water quality, lighting, temperature, and acoustics can all have a direct impact on such diverse things as respiration, sleep, immunity, and cardiovascular health.