Wednesday 1st April, 2020
In the year 156 AD, the Roman Empire was ravaged by a disease known as the Antonine Plague. This awful pandemic had a mortality rate of 2-3% and up to 18 million people lost their lives. Marcus Aurelius, who was Emperor at the time and bravely remained in Rome to care for his people, wrote:
"Bear in mind constantly that all of this has happened before. And all will happen again. The same plot from beginning to end".
We should remember therefore, that the Covid-19 situation is not new in the landscape of human history. And we will get through it.
What is new—at least for many—is a strict set of government-mandated rules around social distancing. Though essential for the safety of all, it can be easy to find yourself sinking into a muddy swamp of loneliness and isolation, especially when there is no clear end date.
The following 10 principles may help to keep your morale strong during such challenging circumstances.
1. Embrace the messiness of your life. Don't attack yourself if the different parts of your world seem to be all over the place. It isn't your fault. Let things be imperfect and have faith that what you need will sprout up from within this fertile soil of chaos. Of course, do what must be done practically—whether changing your mode of business or if you can't, finding out what financial support is available to you—but let yourself act with trust, and with as little tension as possible.
2. Your job right now is to be kind. To others and to yourself. Focus on demonstrating kindness to whoever is around you. And when you do go out, smile at people or make a warm-hearted passing comment.
“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.” - Seneca
3. Consume only enough Covid-19 media content to stay reasonably informed and capable of following government/medical advice. Try to avoid media "drifting" — that is, aimlessly scrolling through articles or posts about Coronavirus on FaceBook, LinkedIn, news websites or other media platforms.
4. Let yourself be a mistake-maker. It's okay! You made mistakes before the era of Covid-19 and you'll make them during it. If you make a wrong decision—financial, social or otherwise—embrace humility and move on quickly.
“If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, ‘He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would have not mentioned these alone.'” - Epictetus
5. Find creative ways of giving to others what you are hoping to receive. If you are missing affection, warmth or attention from others— offer them those same gifts. You can't turn up at their place, but you can use other modes of communication and indirect forms of action to improve their day and help them.
6. Remember that you are only responsible for things under your control. Get very clear on what is and isn't up to you (tell yourself exactly). Then be ruthless in discarding anxious concern for anything except that which is within your ability to influence.
7. Focus on how you are meeting difficulties. Do not dwell on the negative consequences (personal or societal) of the current situation. Instead, direct your full attention to how you are confronting this adversity, and how much it can elevate you to becoming a greater man or woman.
"Whatever anyone does or says, I must be a good man. It is as if an emerald, or gold or purple were always saying, 'Whatever anyone does or says, I must be an emerald and keep my own colour." - Marcus Aurelius
8. Maintain moderation and variety in everything. When we have more time, it's easy to become obsessed with certain activities or to fall into habits of overindulgence. You'll feel better if you move between things and try to hold each one lightly.
9. Do one good thing for an elderly person. The elderly are much more susceptible to becoming sick and tend to be more socially isolated—even before the current situation. If you know or know of an elderly person, make a resolve to send them a card or give them a call to express care.
10. Do more of what uplifts you right now. Treat your heart like a well of nectar. Do more of what adds nectar to the well, and less of what depletes it. It might not make sense intellectually, but follow the positive feeling.
"Whatever lifts the corners of your mouth—trust that." - Rumi