I flew out of my parents’ nest and stepped out of India in my early twenties. Like many of us who leave their families and settle in a different country, I too always had a worry in my mind as to whether all was well at home. But what I am experiencing now is something that I had never gone through in close to three decades in the United States.
On a regular basis, there is an avalanche of bad news updates related to COVID that are so unnerving. They are about people in and outside the family, friends, acquaintances, or those individuals I have heard about through common connections. Every time I talk to family and friends, our conversations center around just one topic.
Unlike last year when the first wave of Coronavirus hit the country, the mental frame is totally different. People at that time indulged in new hobbies and did creative stuff during the lockdown. This year, they are too swamped with sadness, fear, and uncertainty to motivate themselves to do anything new. It’s an emotional mayhem that the country is submerged in.
Trying to be positive
“Be positive” was the mantra both my father and mother had taught my brother and me as we grew up. I have never better understood the importance of positivity than I do at this time. Just recently, the news of a 95-year-old woman from Rajkot took the Internet by storm. Diagnosed of COVID and with an oxygen mask over her face, she was grooving to Garba at the hospital. It was indeed an inspiration and transpired hope for millions who are battling with the disease and are feeling helpless.
Although I am physically not present in that environment, I can totally imagine myself in the situation. The United States last year had gone through a similar scenario with COVID at its peak. People in India are anxious and stressed, and we have to accept the reality of the situation. One cannot pretend that the crisis does not exist and be overly optimistic. But in the midst of these challenging times, one has to harness the power of positivity and find the routes that give peace of mind. It is imperative to discover the coping mechanisms to combat the stress and maintain composure.
There is something else beyond watching and reading the news
It is important to keep oneself abreast with all what is happening around. However, if you remain constantly worried and overwhelmed and if happenings around you are affecting your ability to sleep well at night, this is a red flag. You need to take a break from reading and watching COVID-related news and divert your attention to something else. A better alternative is to read a book or watch a film that sends a positive message. Listening to relaxing music and practicing meditation can calm the senses.
Sharing thoughts eases the mind
It is very important to reach out to others and not keep your emotions bottled up. If there is no one at home that you can talk to, pick up the phone and call someone you are close to. Once you share the bothersome thoughts, you will shed that weight off your chest, and your mind will feel much lighter. By having an open conversation with your loved ones, you can also help others. The person you are talking to may also be looking for an outlet to let go of his or her emotions, and in the process, you will both be benefitting one another.
Spreading humanitarian vibes
The entire country is on the same boat, and we are seeking for the storm to end. We need to forget all differences, unite in spirit, and spread positivity. Being unified as one will garner mental strength. It was very encouraging to read a piece of news about religious leaders from diverse faiths who came together in Kerala for a joint online prayer to overcome COVID.
Every step in the right direction counts at this hour. Just recently, my yoga teacher from India was narrating to me how he was trying to help the community in his own little ways. Due to the COVID lockdown, he has not been able to go to the institution he works at. So every evening, he has been conducting free online sessions and teaching breathing exercises that might come in handy if one falls ill.
Social media has been flooded with people seeking help, and there are others who are sharing valuable COVID related information. It is of course important to be cautious and check the authenticity of the source. For those who are social media users, one tiny step could be to amplify the requests and the information about aid that is available.
We need to have patience and compassion in generous measures
Our patience can be easily tested when life is like a rollercoaster ride. With people staying at home all the time, it is possible to get on each other’s nerves. It is easier said than done, but even if it requires considerable effort, we have to try our utmost best and have patience for each other.
It is a big challenge, especially for the elderly who feel helpless and vulnerable. Therefore it is important to be extra kind and compassionate towards them.
A strategy that would work best to maintain sanity is not to sweat the small things! As dramatic as it may sound, a good idea is to keep a gratitude journal to express thanks for anything that we are blessed with in our lives at this time. Practicing gratitude is definitely the path to happiness.
Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” has always struck a chord with me. To summarize, the lyrics emphasize that there are people dying and that by caring enough for the living, we can make the world a better place for the entire human race. This is a song which is very appropriate at this time.
As per the tenets of Taoism, compassion, frugality, and humility are the three treasures that make us human. These are the virtues we need to imbibe because they are the keys to establishing our mental well-being during this pandemic. There are dark clouds on the horizon, but we will not have stormy weather forever. As hard as it seems, we need those grains of patience till sunshine graces the path and we see brighter and sunnier days ahead!
(This article was featured in Women’s Web )