Updated: Mar 18
Things have moved fast. A week or two ago most people considered the coronavirus as a problem for China, people stuck on cruise ships, Italy, and the very vulnerable in those countries.
Now we're all being advised to stay at home, work from home, with all the various income, social, business, and mental health issues that such drastic changes can bring.
So what can we do about this, practically? Here are some thoughts that I hope might help you. (By they way, the tee shirt says, in secular terms, pay homage to those who dedicate their lives to help others.)
1. We need to get it in perspective.
The situation is uncertain. But so is every day even in normal times. People get run over by a bus every day. Individuals have heart-attacks, are diagnosed with cancer. People we love die. None of this is knowable in advance, but we tend not to get worried about it because it's normal. Coronavirus is not normal, therefore it is much more visible in our lives, and therefore we magnify the problem in our head.
Try to reflect regularly as a mindfulness practice that all life is inherently uncertain and unpredictable, and that this crisis is just another example of it. In other words, although everything seems to have changed, nothing really has. Life is still impermanent. Good things still happen. Bad things still happen.
2. We don't know science (unless you really do) so don't discuss things as if we do.
Our automatic mind has an unhelpful tendency to always have an opinion about everything and anything. So when the government announces another measure to combat coronavirus, our mind throw up instant, utterly, non-evidence-based views about it.
Generally speaking we know little or nothing about viruses, how they function, how they thrive, and how they die off or become dormant in us as a species. There are world expert scientists working on this for our benefit. Trust them, because we don't have anyone better to trust than people who have dedicated decades of their lives specifically for this purpose.
3. Some of us are politically biased and therefore dismiss some politicians' view on coronavirus.
Don't. They have the science behind them. We don't!
4. The news channels and social media exist to draw us to them. That's their purpose.
It is important to know certain things about the coronavirus crisis. These are:
- how to minimise the likelihood of you getting it. Read it, do it.
- listen properly to each update from the UK and Scottish Governments. Do what they say. Don't dismiss it as over-reaction. They have the science. We don't.
- if you have family abroad, do of course keep up to date with the situation there but don't worry about it. Just ensure your family know the latest updates on what to do and not do.
Otherwise schedule when you will watch the news. No more than twice a day, preferably once. It is not a soap opera, so don't get drawn into it as a story. People will die. Famous people will get the virus. Some people will be stuck abroad. And so on. All these are engrossing stories but they all stoke fear and worry. Don't read these stories. They don't help you. They don't give you new insights. They just drain your energy and gobble up your precious time on corrosive junk.
Instead, draw up a list of what you can do, what is positive and nurturing, healthy and uplifting. Practice mindfulness daily, especially when you get concerned or out of kilter. Read good books. Listen to music that makes you happy. Go for walks - it's allowed - and love the world of nature (of which coronavirus in part so don't blame it - it's just living its way as we are living our way). Make a schedule to keep in touch via Skype, Messenger, What's App with those you love and your friends, maybe a weekly catch up with each of them, if you can't go see them.
5. It's about you, and it's about the harm you can do to others
Don't skimp on doing what the government scientists advise us to do. You don't actually know if you have an underlying condition that makes you vulnerable to this virus. Logically, medical conditions have to arise in people before they are diagnosed, so don't think you're safe. That doesn't mean worry about it. Just treat your body with the respect and seriousness you would do for those you love most.
Also, just because you might be safe even if you get the virus, you may pass it on to others if you don't follow best advice. So be considerate and caring for others by following the advice of government and their experts. Treat your hand-washing, self-isolation, etc as mindfulness practices of kindness to others, and self-care. Make hand-washing a practice, a ritual, done slowly and lovingly, because you are doing it for the benefit of all. This in Buddhist-speak is called Bodhichitta - the wish or aim to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all. You are making your body as pure as possible in order not to harm others. It is a vow of sorts, a vow not to harm others. It is a beautiful thing. Feel all of that when you wash your hands.
Finally, keep practicing so that you remain in control of your automatic mind. It's at times like these that the automatic mind rears up and takes over, so take a step back from the seeming madness and your reaction, and see it coolly, calmly, lovingly as just a temporary problem in a life that has ups and downs. The sun still shines, you are still alive, we have millions of things to be grateful for, and we are part of something incredible called existence, life itself. Remember that, and enjoy it, moment by moment.