Positivity With A Purpose Through Our Global Health Crisis.
If there ever was a time to practice positivity, its NOW during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Research confirms that staying positive can enable your body to better recover and even fight off flu or colds. Social distancing, washing your hands, and not touching your face are THE most effective ways to stay safe and get through these coronavirus times. Yet the research regarding positivity and its relationship to enhancing health dates back to 2002. Managing stress well is shown to “modulate resistance to disease” (Dantzer, 2018). In other words, yes, let’s avoid being unnecessarily exposed to the coronavirus by staying home, and also let’s do what we can to prime our immune system to survive if (or when) we are infected.
I’ve experienced a range of emotional experiences over the past two weeks for sure…as we all have. If you are needing a small booster shot of motivation, this may be your second inoculation — positivity with a purpose. How you manage your stress right now can have a very positive impact on how your immune system will function to protect you in the days, weeks or months to come. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6545920/
In January 2020, Oxford University Press published research on stress and sleep. The study focused on the REM stage of sleep https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article-abstract/43/1/zsz199/5574449 The rats in their study were stimulated with mild versus intense stress and they found that more severe stress reduced quality REM stage of sleep. Yes, folks, our brains are similar to rats. Less stressed… better sleep… better health… better immunity.
So what I’m advocating for here is the sense that we all have to face the stress arising from this new global pandemic COVID-19… We have no choice in that. It’s happening right now… everywhere. But we do have a choice in how we process the avalanche of worrisome information about this pandemic.
We have total control of how we process information and the meaning we make from the information we process… and how we choose to take action based on a growing body of information.
So I’m sure you are asking yourself right now…”Am I a cup half full person or do I tend to gravitate to the negative?” Well, to be honest as humans we do have a natural tendency for the negative. But the brain adapts through our lifespan with some mental gymnastics. Here are some ways you can train yourself to positivity finding some felt purpose in these difficult times.
Develop a positive perspective about the good things you are noticing since COVID-19.
Try to find some purpose in all of this. Finding purpose may be another foundation for moving through stress and forward towards integrating new meaning.
Have you noticed that when you feel purposeful, conviction and clarity follow?
What if all of this COVID-19 was the Earth’s protective measure to get our attention now? With global warming, some significant shift was needed.
We have never experienced anything like COVID-19 in this century. And though these are such frightening and challenging times, full of roller-coaster emotions, I continue to find some calm in seeing this world health crisis through the lens of “Our World is healing itself”.
I think I might have felt a little like this birthing our babies… when in the transition stages of labor, I told myself “I can do this”… “I am strong”. And birthing babies was, I consider to be, one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.
There are so many positive things shifting right now around our world.
There are reports that our ozone layer is healing. Global News reported last Thursday, that a new study from NASA shows the ozone layer is repairing over Antarctica. https://globalnews.ca/news/6734991/ozone-layer-repairing-wind-flows-study/
You only have to look outside to see there are fewer people driving, to know that carbon emissions are going down. And though Italy has been hardest hit by this global health crisis, (although it was false news that dolphins were swimming up the Venice canals), the water in the Venetian Canals is reported to be much clearer now https://globalnews.ca/news/6683226/climate-change-coronavirus/
And following Italy’s lead, there has been a massive shift of collectivism in a number of ways: cheering at 7:00 pm for our health care workers and those on the front line helping those who are fighting for their lives. It’s also seen in corporate caring and global donating to find a vaccine as fast as globally possible.
I have also noticed many of my clients who otherwise were conflicted in their relationships, slowing down because they are social distancing and staying home, and finding a renewed love for each other. Through my experience of couples, I am working via telehealth, I am finding as they are having more time together, sharing tasks, dinners, chores… not to mention washing… just about everything together… many couples are feeling more partnered.
Families may be less stressed because children don’t have activities to get to. They are engaged in free parallel play at home. And schools and universities are working overtime to develop online learning resources to support learning from home. Churches are even putting their services online.
People are kinder as we all face these tough times together.
We are stronger together… and none of us is alone as we face the fears of our mortality and of those we love. I am so proud of our Canadian Government both provincially and federally in the ways we are, step by step, working towards flattening the curve of this virus in Canada. And the ways we as Canadians are acting to stay home and keep up our social distancing practices to do our part to help others be safe.
Please don’t forget about the value of staying positive.
Here is a list of ways to do it.
1. Mine your strengths. When clients face big challenges, I try to remind them of a time in life when they have faced adversity or a big challenge in their past. When you reflect, what of your personal strengths has served you best? When we can identify our strengths from our own high-stress histories, we can hunker down and get through the tough times we face today.
2. Manage your stress. Meditation, exercise, even doing 5 deep-stacked breaths can really be protective. In working with clients who are understandably anxious right now, I find it helpful to frame their emotional experiences in the 7 Stages of Grief outlined by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance. Which stage do you see yourself in right now? Is this a conversation starter? It certainly helps grow self-compassion and compassion for others when we think of our emotional processes in the lens of Stages of Grief.
3. Identify your feelings … be curious…why you feel angry or irritated at things you might not otherwise be bothered by. This can help you talk about your feelings and needs with a trusted friend or partner. Talking always helps because you will realize you are not alone in your feelings. It is normal to feel irritable and you may be in the stage of anger. Honestly, it is stressful that our economy has been so turbulent… and though in the long game, history tells us that the economy always turns around with time. This is a time to connect and talk.
Sharing your feelings brings your stress levels down. You may find yourself in a stage of denial… this is not really happening… it is just the flu… what is all the hysteria about? Hopefully, we are all well past that stage and committed to staying home now.
The goal is to move through the stages to a place of acceptance and integration. “OK. This is happening and here is how I’m going to get through this”… “and this is how my life is going to be better because of it”.
4. If you go out for a walk (if you live in a city where that is possible), eye contact can mean a lot to many. We can’t catch the virus through eye contact from a 6-foot distance. I noticed myself when I would go for my runs, that I was so nervous at first about keeping my 6-foot social distance, I would look at the ground or away from others, I passed when I was running… I started to ask myself “why am I doing that?” Looking up, saying “good morning” and connecting in eye contact has reminded me, how much I love this community and how connected we can all feel in these little gestures even at a distance.
The message here is that together we are all so much stronger.
5. Set up new structures for your day. We can’t control the coronavirus right now until we have a vaccine, but we do have control in managing stress by setting up new health habits… like going for a walk (6 feet apart) or choosing to meditate every morning or setting up a Facetime call with family members you aren’t living with right now. I’ve heard some friends are using Zoom to do yoga classes together. Someone else I know has set up a plan to become super fit. He is structuring his day in doing sit-ups and push-ups every 90 minutes. Small acts create positive changes in your body and in your ability to handle stress and stay healthy for however long this last. Even doing the 7:00 pm routine of standing on your balcony and singing your national anthem or banging your pots and pans to say thank you… thank you health care workers can provide a huge release and remind you that we are all connected in doing our part to win this war.
6. Project you into your future. Embracing a future orientation will feed optimism. It gives you a light to navigate the dark. WE are going to get through this, and all be better for it. Imagine yourself one year from today. What have you changed since last March? How did the coronavirus make you a better person, your relationship better, or your family’s function better? What ways have you changed your work and health routines? How will you pay more attention to your social, familial, and physical environment now that Mother Nature has got your attention? She has certainly got mine!
I can’t believe how happy the small moments make me feel these days… spotting a dove on a walk Sunday… noticing how the light catches the moss on trees in the early morning…I love being in nature… I am so grateful for you right now. Thanks for all that you do! You are strong. Focus on PURPOSE to feel more anchored.
May you, your families, and your communities be safe and be well. We are in this together.