When it comes down to it, life is an exercise in putting together a multitude of components that are part of, or could be part of, our lives. We are constantly trying to piece together the right elements in the right combination to be happy, to make a living, to raise our families, and to become the people we want to be.
I’ve always thought of these as “blocks of life.” We can think of the fundamental blocks that make up our lives—family, job, friends, activities, and outlook—but when we think about what each of these is made of, we find that there are an enormous number of components and potential components that we might incorporate into our lives and many ways that we can organize them that would give our lives different emphases.
A crisis is a great opportunity to get to know ourselves better.
Some may aspire to great ideals, but when faced with a crisis, they revert to fear-driven behaviors, such as hoarding. It can be helpful to examine how we’re assessing the crisis, in terms of its potential impact both on us and on our communities. It’s also tremendously important to assess our own emotional journeys and thought processes when a crisis arises. We can feel worry, anxiety, and fear during a crisis, and those feelings can be overwhelming. They can drive us to engage in activities that we believe will give us some control over the situation. It takes honest and intense introspection and reflection to understand our feelings, how they drive us to certain behaviors, and how we might redirect those feelings into more constructive behaviors.
We’re being advised to stay away from everyone on the planet—everyone except those we live with. We have to spend time with them. We have to spend literally all of our time with them. How can we do this without driving each other nuts?
Living in close quarters in stressful situations is especially challenging. Many of us are faced with new and unfamiliar challenges, such as homeschooling children, working remotely, or making less money. While facing these challenges we are also deprived of many of the outlets for pressure that we have always been able to count on in the past—spending time with friends, going out on the town, or spending the afternoon at a ball game. Spending all of our time in what amounts to a bunker means figuring out how to get along. It means being extremely specific and intentional about what bothers us and how to resolve those irritations without impacting those around us. It means getting to know ourselves in this new reality.
Times like these can feel like a slow car accident. You’re in a skid and you know the crash is coming, but it hasn’t arrived yet.
Reading the news and learning about the severity and extent of the disease—the number of deaths and the impact on the economy—can cause a state of extreme stress and anxiety. Then you go about your day, and you experience all the typical sounds of your house. You see cars going by as if nothing has changed. You run into people you know at the grocery store and chat about your kids and how your families are holding up. You stop and get gas on your way home. Even though circumstances are inexorably changed, so many aspects of our lives feel exactly the same.
Taking care of yourself is not optional.Many of us, when prioritizing our time and assessing our demands and opportunities, put things like exercise, meditation, and communing with nature pretty low on the list. They might feel that they have to take care of tasks that are required or necessary before activities that they might feel are luxuries or are self-indulgent.But self-care is not “time off” or down time. It is a critical part of living a healthy and balanced life.