There is no guaranteed playbook for keeping us immune from the cold, cancer and everything else that can maim or kill us. The parable of the second arrow is a well-known story about dealing with suffering more skilfully. It is said that Buddha once asked a student,
‘If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?
If the person is struck by a second arrow, is it even more painful?’
He then went on to explain, ‘In life, we can’t always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first.
This second arrow is optional.’
Getting through one day without being bombarded with the global covid count, mask wars and vaccines x, y, z is impossible if you have even one social media profile. Though difficult to predict and counter-intuitive to desperately hope for, we suck the news up-- all of us-- because deep down we are keen for any glimmer of a hopeful return to travel and some of our collective creature comforts.
Consider that these matters are like the first arrow in the Buddhist parable. Boosting immunity is your second arrow, your reaction to the factors we can't fully control.
There's another sickness that has spread across the planet even more quickly than the coronavirus has...It's a disease of the mind, but it can also affect the heart, nervous system, and every part of the body.
The illness I'm talking about is fear. Fear is a perfectly natural response to the current situation. In fact, I would be worried about you if you weren't experiencing any fear at all. But there's a difference between allowing yourself to feel fear (a natural response designed to help you survive) and feeding into that fear — for example, by obsessing over the latest covid figures, compulsively watching the news, or maniacally soaking up conspiracy theories on social media.
So while it's normal to feel fear, indulging in it can be disempowering. It can make you feel like you have no control over your life — and while, to some extent, that is true, there are things that are within your control. One of those things is your psychological immunity — your resilience in the face of unprecedented chaos.
Building your psychological immunity will alleviate feelings of being swept up in the pandemic of fear, immersed in uncertainty.
It's naive to ever state that stress doesn't affect you. When unpleasant things happen in work or play, a reaction can be scientifically classified as stress, however way you deal with it. Ultimately, how you react either wrecks or builds your physical immunity by reducing the effects of stress on your body.
Here are my tried and true Top 3:
1. Choose Your Focus Wisely
Where attention goes, energy flows. As with the proverbial domino effect, allowing one thought to affect the next, and then the next, and so on.: The inkling of fear cascades into a right mess; much like an inescapable slew of fallen dominoes all lined up before the first one falls. That is, if you allow it. The more you focus on fear, the more afraid you will be.
It's normal to have fears and anxiety, but when you notice them coming up, ask yourself: "Can I do something about this?" If the answer is yes, go ahead and do it! But if the answer is no, you need to let it go.
Often, the realization that it is out of your hands is enough to alleviate the fear, but if it's not, it's best to distract yourself. You may want to focus on something you would like to change or improve, tackle a project, learning a new language or sharpening your skill set with an online class or two, work out, or prepare a fancy feast.
It doesn't really matter which path you choose, the conscious decision to walk will distract yourself from fearful thoughts.
None if it is child's play. Not the pandemic; nor the economic challenges that have become abject realities in our homes and amongst our friend circles, in our hometown, our city, our world...This is all very serious indeed.
By "Play" I mean just that. Take some time out of your day to get in touch with your inner child and play!
Everything feels very serious right now, and it's easy to be affected by the gravity of the situation.
It may be a board game, Foosball, Scrabble, a video game, charades, or even creating origami (a personal favourite)-- anything goes.
I have interviewed about 160 men and women in the last few months, and they shared that every analog or video game old and new-- from pinball and blowing bubbles, to Mortal Kombat, Dixit or Balderdash have helped them through the pandemic with a bit of fun escapism.
Consider it. Whatever you choose, do it.
The important thing is that it gets you into that playful state that, as adults, we often forget to revel in. Playing is a great boost for both psychological and physical immunity — after all, laughter is often the best (and very natural) medicine!
3. Get Enough Sleep; The good kind all night long, or several naps during the day, worst case.
Yes, I said it. Several naps-- It isn't a pipe dream to nap during the day, especially when sleeping through the night becomes an elusive proposition.
"...A daytime nap restores hippocampal function and improves declarative learning," declares Oxford Academic's September 2020 Editor's Choice in Nutrition, Sleep and Time Collection.
Sleep is one of the best ways to build your psychological — and physical — immunity. Getting enough shut-eye gives you greater mental strength in the face of challenges — think about how you cope with a stressful day at work after a good night's sleep, versus when your kid (or worried thoughts are cascading into fallen dominoes) keeps you up all night.
Sleeping also gives the body a chance to repair itself and build physical immunity, so if you feel in need of a nap, give yourself permission to do it.
Sleep, like nutrition and physical activity, is a critical determinant of health and well-being. Sleep loss and untreated sleep disorders influence basic patterns of behavior that negatively affect family health and interpersonal relationships.
A lack of fitful sleep facilitates stress affecting you more stealthily and absolutely...creating the perfect vessel for, yes, you got it: Fear.
Self-care. escapism, the power of sleep...these are all very much in the news a hell of a lot these days. Choose, 1, 2 or all 3. How is your self-talk these days?
ATHENA's Ed. Note: Kristina, our Co-Founder, is based between London and Barcelona-- Spain being a global beacon on siestas and self-care. Psychology and work-life balance are personal passions and thus previous versions of this blog were written in LinkedIn in LetsTalkMelanin. Her workshop series - Digital Sushi 101 - Digital Marketing and Sales Funnels in bite-sized pieces kick off in Feb 2021.