Updated: Aug 17, 2021
By Henok Pankhurst
Although there is a constant stream of news concerning the problems and hardships brought about by the #Coronavirus, I have also noticed a considerable amount of positive content being shared within my social network. I am grateful for everyone who has given their time and energy towards spreading advice, hope and encouragement in the face of chaos. My intention for this essay is to add to the latter form of communication without trivializing the seriousness of the situation at hand.
It may seem counterintuitive to look at the social distancing, mass disruption, and fear ensuing from a global pandemic as an opportunity for healing and growth. Nevertheless, with change comes opportunity, and we should try to make the most of the new circumstances forced upon us by the virus. Quarantines and lockdowns have increased the amount of time we have at home, so why not spend it enjoying the little things? Let’s read, cook, garden, listen to music, watch films, make art, play games, and connect on a deeper level with those we share our space with. Let’s dedicate our newfound alone time to giving ourselves the care and attention we usually reserve for others. Let’s rest and heal, pray and meditate, each in our own way; and find stillness, so that when this all blows over, we may come out of isolation ready to re-connect, and return to the world with rejuvenated energy. The disruption caused by this virus provides our planet an opportunity for healing as well. The lockdowns simultaneously happening throughout the world have resulted in less cars and airplanes in use, and therefore less pollution. With the impending climate change crisis, the reduction in carbon emissions may help our planet get back into shape, thereby also helping the survival of its inhabitants.
The change to our regular routines is an opportunity to reflect upon our individual roles within society during times of crisis. We must ask ourselves what we can do to help. Ultimately, we all bear the same fundamental responsibility: to reduce the spread and minimize the damage. By following guidelines, we can not only prevent ourselves from getting sick, but can save others from suffering the same fate or worse. However, implementing such preventative measures will only be thoroughly effective if everyone plays their part. By contemplating the interconnected nature of our existence, we can come to understand how our contributions as individuals are a vital piece of the collective action needed to combat our shared predicament. We may also choose to contemplate our blessings instead of our problems. If we have a roof over our heads, food on our table and are in good health, there is perhaps no real need to panic. Let’s not forget to practice gratitude, as it will help us stay grounded in these uncertain times.
#Creativity We can’t control our circumstances; however, we can control how we react to them. For example, when it comes to the disruption of our professional lives, such novel circumstances are an opportunity to practice creative problem solving. If we can no longer go to the office, we may learn to work remotely, and take advantage of the full range of possibilities granted by the internet. Those of us who can no longer work due to the disruption may use this time to learn a new skill or develop a new hobby. Irrespective of what exactly it is we choose to do, let’s act with the intention to create and cultivate new habits. On a side not, for those of us who will be spending more times in front of our screens, let’s remember to use social media and our electronic devices consciously, and take regular breaks. Let’s also be mindful of our privilege, as not everyone has internet access at home.
Throughout history, humans have achieved incredible feats through the power of cooperation, and in this era where we are connected more than ever before, we can once again overcome the challenges we face by acting in each other’s best interests. Let’s be mindful of those who are most vulnerable to the consequences of the pandemic, such as the sick, the elderly and those who have lost their source of income, and take this opportunity to support them in whatever way we can. Let’s practice loving-kindness, check in with one another and share our resources, as the impact of compassion and generosity are oftentimes priceless.
We are currently facing a significant test we must overcome on both an individual and collective level. We are all affected and suffer in our own way. However, how we choose to relate to this crisis will determine whether we build resilience and promote healing or fall prey to panic and despair. Let’s treat this global pandemic as an opportunity to practice contemplation, mindfulness, creativity, gratitude and compassion; so that we may heal and grow during perhaps one of the most challenging periods of our lives.
Henok Pankhurst, Mindfulness Coordinator at UF Mindfulness, BSc in Psychology, University of Florida