I am seeing signs of people’s impatience from being cooped up because of social distancing measures taken to flatten the COVID-19 curve. Our leaders and health experts are actively discussing how we will relax various stay-at-home orders. On a recent Zoom meeting, friends were fantasizing about the first things they would be doing when they could go out in public. It’s like we have all been stuck in a car on a long trip and are asking, “Are we there yet?”
We know that we aren’t there yet. We also know that we don’t know when this trip will be over. COVID-19 may have peaked in some areas, but a peak is not a signal to resume normal life. We don’t want our efforts to end in more peaks.
So what do we do in the meantime? Be patient with uncertainty. It takes courage to live with unknowing. Here are seven tips for developing patience during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Tip #1: Strive for the healthiest lifestyle you can. Are you getting enough sleep, eating well and staying active? Are you using substance that can wreak havoc on your health, such as smoking, drinking and using drugs? How about your mental health? Consider meditation. (Ten Percent Happier is a great place to start.) Are you doing things that bring you pleasure? Pick an area you want to change, and start small.
Tip # 2: Stay connected. Between the phone and social media, there are many ways to stay connected with others. Someone wrote, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Find people to dance with.
Tip # 3: Live in peace, not fear. COVID-19 is scary, and it is reasonable to occasionally freak out about it. However, fear and worry don’t change a thing and only make things feel worse. Amy Tan wrote, “If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.” Attitude can change everything.
Tip #4 Step away from the ledge. Watching endless news and staying too connected to social media will increase stress. Limit screen time to one or two times a day, and never before bedtime.
Tip # 5: Live in gratitude. There is a Chinese proverb that states, “We count our miseries carefully, and accept our blessings without much thought.” Are you counting your blessings or your troubles?
Tip #6: Serve others. The Dalai Lama said, “”If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” If you are having a low day, helping others can really lift one’s spirit. Call someone, send a note, be extra kind to a housemate, or donate money to any of the many organizations that are desperate for money right now.
Tip # 7 Keep your sense of humor. The English poet, Lord Byron wrote, “Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” In addition to scientifically proven health benefits, humor lightens even the heaviest load.
Developing patience is a practice. It takes diligent commitment, training and time. It is a declaration of intent to stay healthy no matter what. It is medicine without taking drugs. When we dare to live well, we honor ourselves and inspire others to do the same. Daring to live is courage in action. Lao Tzu said, “A man with outward courage dares to die: A man with inward courage dares to live.”
If you want to read more about COVID-19 or other health-related issues, I am also blogging at hepmag.com.