“You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself and the storm will pass”.
When stressful situations occur, our minds tend to wander in a thousand directions leading to more anxiety and stress. The coronavirus pandemic is one such situation. It has left many people feeling anxious, angry, confused and afraid.
At this point, we don’t know what will happen next. And because of this, it becomes extremely important for us to turn inward and find ways to help us stay centred in the midst of the storm.
I asked a few people living in Nairobi to let me in on some of the strategies they use to help them stay grounded in times of heightened anxieties. Here’s what they revealed.
We tend to worry about things that have already happened (the past) and things that are about to happen (the future). Since I discovered meditation, my life strategy has always been to take a breath and focus on the present moment- this is really what meditation is. It helps you silence the thoughts, calm your mind and accept the present moment without judging it. My daily meditation practice has got me through a lot, and this will be no exception.
I choose not to focus on the problem at hand which is totally beyond anybody's control
Better to look at how best to utilize the time by sharing with kids/family/friends. I avoid discussing the subject totally as it's very unhealthy. I avoid watching/listening to the news or engaging on WhatsApp groups…they don't add any value at all…this is beyond any person so keeping my sanity is important”.
I educate myself
Mass hysteria is cheap. And I never buy into it. That is not to say I am not taking this situation seriously, I am. I have taken the necessary steps to educate myself. The facts on how this virus spreads are very clear and I have taken the time to learn them: How does it spread? What are the necessary precautions I can take to stay safe? What can I do to protect others? Is there anything I can do to help? If so what? This is all I need to know. The rest is just noise.
My spirituality keeps me grounded
My spirituality keeps me grounded. At times like these, there is so much inspiration I draw from the bible. My current go-to verse is: “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world”.
I look at life as a continuous struggle against crises and the utilization of the opportunities they bring
Dr Willy Mutunga
Life is the unity of opposites. I look at it as a continuous struggle against crises and the utilization of the opportunities they bring.
If the virus keeps one indoors it presents so many opportunities as a basis of survival...In my case, these are meditation, yoga, prayer, exercise, reading and writing. And if there is no survival, there will, at least, be a record of what I did (because of my writing).
I take care of myself knowing there is only so much I can do
I have a natural tendency of going against the stream without provoking others or becoming arrogant. I have never liked going with the masses. One thing I never do is panic. I just take care of myself knowing there is only so much I can do - which is often very little to be honest. I seldom lose control and always stay alert.
I go back to what I can control which is my reaction
A lot of things that happen in the world are beyond my control. I didn’t ask for coronavirus but the reality is it's here. And so I go back to what I can control which is how I choose to react to what is happening. And this is harder than it sounds. You have to be very deliberate about it or else you will be bulldozed by other people opinions.
I disconnect from social media
I have disconnected from social media, at least for a while. And have made it clear in my WhatsApp groups that I will not entertain unverified nonsense. There is a lot of misinformation out there and many people are just feeding the fear and causing unnecessary panic. I believe information is necessary, misinformation is not.
I rest in the assurance that I have divine protection and what will be will be
As a pilot in the making and having studied Human Performance and stress mitigation strategies, I would say conditioning myself to relax and think rationally at the onset of a stressful situation is key. Maintaining general physical fitness and emotional and mental well being are preambles to this. As a Christian, I study the Bible and spend time every day in prayer and meditation. Ultimately, knowing that everything comes to pass and that my days in this world are in God’s hand, I rest in the assurance that I have divine protection and what will be will be.
I reach out to my support system
I reach out to people I love and trust. Talking to them helps me feel more grounded. I find that sharing my thoughts and anxieties with them helps me reduce stress. And we know that together, we will get through this.
I focus on gratitude
I am focusing on the good things that are happening in my life- because there are always good thing happening there- for sure. I have a gratitude journal that I use to rejoice the fact that I am alive every single day, and that’s just the beginning. There are so many more things to be grateful for than there are to worry about.
I repeatedly tell myself that all is well
Listening to my favourite motivational speakers puts things into perspective for me. Also, with God being my source, I focus on the end game and I know things will be ok. I also tell myself "all is well" repeatedly. I got this from The 3 idiots movie.
I take care of myself
I meditate, I work out in the morning and evening, I talk to my sister and I read and watch a lot of scientific journals and programmes.
I focus on things that give me joy
I love comedy. I love going for walks. I love to read. And when things seem really bad, those are some of the things I focus on - things that feed my soul and give me joy.
Prayer and faith have always done it for me
I've found myself strangely calm during this whole coronavirus fiasco. Prayer and faith have always done it for me. I have my moments of fear but I find my way back to prayer and I feel calm. I was in a supermarket today and didn't have the slightest urge to pile my trolley with tissue paper.
I rely on scientific facts to make informed decisions
A lot of the information doing the rounds (especially on social media) is not based on any science. I try as much as possible to filter this out and focus on what the experts are disseminating. Unfortunately, some of the misinformation we get in the form of directives comes from our leaders.
It’s self-care for me
I was surprised to see people mass buying hand sanitizers last minute because that's literally my life every day. Taking care of oneself should be a basic requirement.
I engage in activities that help me expend mental energy
I get the facts around the situation and write them down. This helps me get ‘the issue’ out of my head find solutions. I also talk to people I trust to get their perspectives and views on what they are doing or would do. And of course, there’s meditation, prayer for calm and clarity. I also find doing a physical activity like ‘ Color me calm’, organizing/ tidying up or washing help me to expend/ release the (mental) energy.