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Finding Serenity in a Time of Crisis

I hope this newsletter finds you and your family and friends well.  As our world is transforming on a daily basis, to one which we could hardly predict, at the start of the year, it is easy to feel anxious and overwhelmed.

When I chose to train in CBT it was because I had belief in the techniques and tools it provides. I am a big fan of the philosophy of Stoicism and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is born out of Stoicism.  A philosophy of life that Albert Ellis and Aaron T Beck (pioneers of CBT) both cited as the inspiration behind CBT. Stoicism was a school of philosophy from around 3rd century BC.  It has been around a long time!  But that is because its approaches still resonate today, and right now a Stoic attitude is more important than ever.


What has all this got to do with today?

We can all learn a lot from the Stoics.  And in a time like during this pandemic, stoicism will keep you calm and prevent panic.

Take one of my heroes, Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and writer of Meditations.  He recognised that humans are social creatures but we do best and flourish when we co-operate.  Well being locked down definitely requires co-operation.  But there will be some who rebel against this and do foolish things.  Stoics like to think of people who are foolish or disagreeable, as presenting an opportunity for themselves to learn toleration and resilience. Instead of getting angry at their foolish behaviour, they feel pity for them.

During times of restriction remember you can only control your actions, not those around you.  As long as you look after your health that is all you can do and in turn you will be looking after others health.  These other people who break the rules, at this time, are to be given pity, because they know no better.

So, if you go to the supermarket and there are no loo rolls, instead of getting angry, calmly make a suggestion to the store manager to pass up the chain.  Getting angry and not trying to provide a solution is a true waste of energy. At least you can leave the store knowing you have tried to provide a solution. Just don't expect to see the idea implemented.

Stoics embrace being kind to others, in particular people who are disagreeable. The world needs us to be kind right now. 


What can you do?

Is there anything you can do to help during this crisis? Helping the elderly with shopping.  Or volunteer with 'meals on wheels'  to free up the largely younger, but still elderly, volunteer force to self isolate. Keep checking in on elderly isolated neighbours and relatives, by calling them on the phone, and giving them time to talk, they will be increasingly lonely, as this moves into the next phase. 

Don't forget the immune compromised and sick during this time, they should be self isolating, and this may mean they can't shop for themselves.

Think of the self employed low earners.  If you have the financial capacity to keep someone afloat at this time, you could in your own way, be saving someone from destitution.  A client of mine is paying her weekly cleaner, who is a sole bread winner and mother to a young child, to stay at home and look after her child.

Small acts of kindness go a long way.


Getting the Situation into Proportion

Getting things in proportion is vital today.  We are not living in a part of the world where we face life or death from war fighting each other. There are no bombs falling on our heads, no ration cards have been handed out, no nuclear bomb has gone off.


The Scale of Proportion technique


This technique helps the mind get things into proportion and stops things blowing out of proportion.

Envisage a scale from 1-100. 1 = neutral, 100 = the worst thing imaginable e.g. being tortured or murdered.

Feel the emotion of the situation. Where does it feel like it sits on the scale?

Then allow you rational mind to take over and see the situation for what it is.  And rate it according to your rational mind, without emotions.

You will probably see a big jump down the scale between your emotional rating and your rational rating.

Remember this appraisal every time your emotions blow things up to frightening levels.


Routine Calms the Mind

Our minds love knowing what to expect, it loves routine and order.  Well those things are not available right now for most of us.  With a creeping shut down of regular movement and social interactions it's easy to see why the mind is fighting back, trying to seek control, maybe even in denial of change.

Finding a new more curtailed lifestyle routine is going to enable you to be calm and productive.  Starting a new routine, preemptively, is the key to success with this new lifestyle.

We are all in charge of things to a certain degree.  Think about all the things you are in control of. Here are some examples:
  • What time we get up, and go to bed
  • What time we choose to eat and what we choose to eat
  • What we choose to wear
  • Our attitude
  • How we provide care and self love
  • How we choose to relax
  • What exercise we can do from home
The list goes on.

Get a new routine going in advance of any lock down and it won't seem so bad if it happens. 
  • If you can work from home, make that situation as comfortable and ergonomically correct as you can.
  • If you have kids at home, get them into a routine of study, as directed by their school
  • Do your best to establish, collectively, some boundaries and personal space, if you are living with friends
  • Likewise, boundaries and personal space, if you and your partner/family are suddenly home all day, with limited outdoor escapes
  • If you have a car parked outside, it can be a peaceful retreat if any tension builds, and an excellent place to have business calls, if your home is noisy
  • Think outside the box and embrace this to see how you can adapt to change

Exercising at Home

If you have been following events in Italy you will know what being locked down means.  But things are starting to get tougher there.  There was an announcement this Friday, to stop people exercising in parks or public streets. No jogging, running, walking or cycling. No walking the dog further than 200 metres from the house.  Supermarket/pharmacy trips or medical appointments only.

If Italy is 3 weeks ahead in this pandemic, and most other European countries seem to be following their lead in self-isolation, the time to plan how to exercise indoors is now.

For cardiovascular health and a strong immune system the body needs exercise.

While it is still possible to order online and have deliveries, now is the time to order any indoor sports equipment.

I have a great floor cushioned mat to do yoga on and stretching. I am also a big fan of rebounders,  mini trampolines for adults.  You can bounce on that at home anywhere and storage is fairly easy.

Online YouTube exercise tutorials are free. Yoga with Adriene, and countless other exercise regimes, are demonstrated on YouTube.

Learn to dance with a partner at home with YouTube videos, partner dancing is great for the brain and body. Here is a great Swing dance class tutorial.


Last but not least - find time to laugh

A client and I were talking about the importance of laughter during this time the other day, and she recommended some great shows to me, which make her laugh, and I have added to my own list to watch.  Here is our combined list:
  • Kath & Kim
  • It's Bruno
  • Peep Show
  • IT Crowd
  • Friends
  • Frasier
  • Seinfeld
Just sending some funny memes, videos and jokes to friends and family who are feeling depressed can lift the spirits, even if just for a few moments.  We humans are great at looking on the bright side of life when the chips are down.

I hope you look after yourself in the coming months.  Wishing you well.


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