It’s week four of the coronavirus pandemic quarantine in the Bay Area. To keep my mental health in check, I walk the trails by my house daily and have noticed a shift. People move to the side of the street instead of playing chicken for sidewalk space. Where there once were slight nods of recognition are now smiles and a wave hello. On the trails, we walk at a distance. When we pass one another we acknowledge each other before facing the other direction. Some wear masks. Some don’t. Others exclaim how great it is to see another human being. 

Here in the Bay Area we’ve been on lockdown since March 17, 2020. Since then I’ve noticed a change in people. Some have become hyper vigilant, ready to pounce over the slightest perceived offense. Others are going about their days, making the best with what we’re left with. Then there are those that don’t know what to feel, as the illusion of control crumbles down around them.

All any of us can do is our small part in keeping ourselves healthy and be conscientious of others. The coronavirus is out of our hands from that point. 

According to pandemic psychology, the hoarding mentality is a pretty common means of control. It’s not hard to see why. Many of us function in fear that the other shoe will drop at any moment, that we’ll get hurt some how some way, and in order to avoid a catastrophe we’ll hold tight to anything that can provide relief, even toilet paper. 

When the masses start panicking it creates a domino effect. Chances are, if you’re surrounded by people who panic, you’re likely to panic too. But buying into fear doesn’t make the situation better. Getting mad at others for keeping their cool won’t make the situation easier to deal with. Yes, the threat is very real, and in order to get through the coronavirus pandemic we must take precautions. 

There’s another side to the quarantine that many do not see. With most distractions removed, we are given the opportunity to take a true inventory of our lives and the way we’ve been living day to day. Many of us just go through the motions, believing we have no choice in how to live this thing called life. Staying busy and keeping our calendars at the point of boiling over is a great way to avoid digging deep into our needs and addressing issues that feel out of our control. 

By closing the world, we’ve been handed an opportunity for change. 

We’ve learned to appreciate what we have by the removal of the in-person experience. While it’s fun and healthy to treat yourself, it’s common practice to displace discomfort with shopping, alcohol, overeating, and general American consumerism.

We practice the art of buying more, but the current circumstance begs the question “for what?”

With nowhere to go and nothing to do, the only option is to face ourselves. We are left with a choice of whether to continue drowning ourselves out, or face the person you have become.

Who are you?

Do you like who you are?

Do you like what you do? 

Do you like how you feel?

We’re being forced to slow down. 

America is a country that prides itself on workaholism. We race from one thing to the next, barely stopping to breathe, consumed with entertainment, survival, comfort, and for some, luxuries. We’ve worked hard to get where we are. Now there’s some time to enjoy it. Yes, the coronavirus is threatening our physical and financial health. No doubt that these are troubling times. 

Conversely, we can still fulfill our duties to society while enjoying the time off. You are allowed to be grateful for friends, family, health, a roof over your head, or clean water even when there is suffering.

Pleasure becomes idle when pain is absent.

Many of us get so caught up in work, we forget why we work so hard in the first place. Allow yourself to enjoy the extra time to cultivate relationships with others and yourself. Isn’t that why we fight for our lives?

Depression is a major mental health concern surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Psychologists predict there will be long-term mental health effects due to financial inequality, as well as have adverse effects on children who are in the midst of a world trauma. Staying calm and remembering why life is precious will collectively shrink the stress level, and allow us to be there for our most vulnerable. Just because we can’t physically be together doesn’t mean we can’t be there for each other. 

We’ve been presented a chance to change the course of our lives. Whether it’s in career, home, or self, there’s ample time to reevaluate where we’re headed. I know it can be difficult to think that losing your job can have a silver lining, but repeating the mantra “everything is working for my highest good” will help even if you don’t necessarily believe it.

Mantras move you in directions that benefit you until one day you realize you were right the entire time! What we focus on multiplies, whether positive or negative. We make decisions everyday which we’d like more of. 

We’re being given a chance to reactivate our creativity. With so much time on our hands, many of us are getting to those projects we felt there wasn’t time for previously. Even if you’re not in the mood to be productive, practicing self care in any way is good for the soul.

Be good to yourself.

Revitalize yourself with candle lit baths, home cooked dinners, journaling, family time, and whatever makes you feel good. Getting back to our core selves will indefinitely boost creative energy in the short and long term, as well as keep us mentally stable! 

This is by far not an easy process for anyone. We’re all going through a period of uncertainty leading into the unknown. The only form of control we have is over our own mental health and how we’ll use the time that’s been handed to us. Will we evolve within ourselves, and in turn, as a society?

In all its complicated simplicity, the coronavirus pandemic has sent a message that we might not understand until it’s viewed in hindsight, and there’s a high probability we won’t have this time again. I hope you decide to use yours wisely. 

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