Bird flu. Swine flu. Ebola. Mad Cow Disease. COVID-19. All of these viruses have been causing humanity plenty of problems. But COVID-19 is the first one that’s forced over 2.6 billion people to stay at home. There are varying views on the matter but, at this point, the discussion is almost a moot point.
We’re already in it.
We’ve already lost our heads over toilet paper. We’re fearful of someone coughing near us as we wonder if that invisible cloud of water vapour is just someone choking slightly on a Haribo or if it is actually a miasmic herald of coronavirus woe. Our economies the world over are...well...in a lot of trouble and our jobs are now uncertain. We’re genuinely worried about our loved ones. We wonder what the future holds.
The bubble has officially been burst.
But now more than ever, people need to be reminded to think positively. The media have done a fine job of bombarding us with negativity and fear. We’ve almost been bathing in fright to the point where OCD sufferers have been triggered, we irrationally buy food we know we don’t even like...I will say no more.
So, one day, after a week of watching the news constantly and my mum screaming at me to disinfect my parcels, I needed to take a stand. So I put together the set of principles that are helping me to stay positive, during a pandemic. A Pandemic Positivity Guide. With GIFs.
1. Watch the news, ONCE A DAY.
I would absolutely encourage you, dear reader, do not allow BBC, CNN, Fox, whoever, to blast coronavirus news into your ears for 12 hours a day. Don’t even have it in the background. It’s unhealthy for you and the anxiety is bad for your health. The sound of it, keeps you fully immersed in an atmosphere of uncertainty and anxiety.
We’re not ostriches, we don’t need to bury our heads in the sand, but choose a time in the day that works for you, and watch the latest news updates for half an hour. I watch at around 6pm or I watch when a government official has done their daily address. I’m normally cooking at that point, so I can watch and prepare something delicious to eat. If I’m fasting, I watch to distract from a temporary hunger pang. Then, after that, I’m watching Ertugrul on Netflix.
My colleague watches in the middle of the day because she doesn’t want her morning to start off in misery. Then she can use the afternoon to focus on something else and lift her mood after watching the news. Another colleague tries not to watch the news at all but instead focuses on finding the actual medical research powering all of the things being spouted by the media.
Journal articles and research papers are informing his opinion rather than the panic from mainstream news outlets and endless pictures of empty supermarket shelves.He’s also not given to panic because when you read an article you’re not feeding off the tone of voice or the panicked opinions of people. It’s just you and the information.
Most news channels will be plastered with phrases like “BREAKING NEWS” but that’s just to keep your attention. They’ve gotta make their money too by keeping your eyeballs on the screen.
So please, do yourself a favour. Watch or read it once a day. This also applies to conspiracy theories. Once a day for these too.
2. Do something creative that has nothing to do with making money
In a sea of calls for you to be ‘productive in the pandemic’, this could be hard. But I very recently rediscovered painting-by-numbers. I suck at art so of course, the picture looks pretty gross. But I don’t care. Find something creative that requires you to focus and leave the anxiety behind even temporarily.
It can be knitting, it can be embroidery, woodworking. My sister (she’s a grown-ass adult) loves building lego. So she gets her Hogwarts kit out and builds it all. A good friend of mine does ‘wine colouring’ - the pictures being coloured in are wine-themed and must be done whilst drinking a large glass of wine.
It could be making bread, or pasta. It could be working on a book or learning to garden. You get the point. Creativity has many forms of expression but we need it and we crave it as human beings. It’s one of the few things we have where the beauty is in the journey itself and not the end result. So to stay positive, I’d highly recommend reincorporating creativity back into your life.
Digital nomads who aren’t at home, find the tech version 😉
3. Focus on your health
Whenever a crisis strikes, it’s highly likely that your health drops to the bottom of the priority pile. The need to get that green juice falls by the wayside as you struggle to make sense of an environment that is changing unpredictably. In a pandemic, for example, you may even go as far as to think that health maintenance is a luxury rather than a necessity.
I hear ya.
But our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing is of utmost importance. If we have our health, we have our wealth.
What do you need to be healthy? Do you need to walk for 20 minutes outside in the now very fresh air? Does a tough home workout make you feel on fire? What food makes you feel good? What foods are going to boost your immune system and get you in top fighting form?
This will be different for everyone - I’m obviously food focused so I don’t turn to exercise for the sake of it. By that I mean, I’ll walk for 20 minutes to get to a farmer’s market, I won’t walk just to walk. I won’t lift weights but I’ll carry home a heavy bag of fruit, vegetables and Haribo gummy bears.
Judge me if you dare.
Similarly, what relationships or "situationships" need looking at? That person you thought you couldn’t live without, how do you feel now you’re having to deal with life without them? What about the person that made you chronically anxious? If you don’t have the misfortune of living with them already, you’ve got some breathing space to think now. Do you want that sinking feeling encroaching on your life again? On the flip side, you may be living with someone you wanted to get rid of but actually, they really aren’t that bad.
The point is that we now have a bit more space to really focus on our health or at the very least, aspects of it that really need attention. So I’m focusing on that to reduce stress on my mind and body and further build that positive energy.
What do you do if the health thing isn’t going well?
Gyms are closed. Getting healthy food might be challenging. The urge to comfort eat is overwhelming. The weather might be exceedingly poor so going outside isn’t an option. What happens then?
Also with everybody sharing a similar ‘self-improvement-take-over-the-world-you’re-just-like-Einstein’ kind of vibe, it can make you feel so...meh.
So focus on one thing at a time. Find ways to practice mental fortitude for example via meditation or prayer. Maybe a HIIT workout is a great start if you’re getting back into exercise. Maybe you want to focus on nutrition and your way of doing that is making sure you swallow that immune-boosting shot every morning.
It’s your journey, so do as you see fit.
*Stuffs Haribo Gummy Bear 70% dark chocolate square into mouth*
4. Generate your Gratitude Attitude
We’ve talked about the power of gratitude before and now it is more important than ever. The point is that you focus your attention on the things that are good and say thank you. They can be big things, small things, funny things...it really doesn’t matter. It can be as basic as having lungs that are working and are not being attacked by a pathogen. It’s a moment of reflection in your day that does something really important.
It gives you a balanced perspective.
A balanced perspective takes the good, the bad and the ugly and frames everything with the right level of intensity. It’s what separates the people who say the glass is half full and the people who say the glass is half empty. Yes, there is a lot of bad in this world, and there are undoubtedly things in our lives that are less than ideal. But we always have things to be grateful for.
You can start a gratitude challenge that involves others if you want to stay accountable. You can start a journal, a blog...whatever works for you, go with that. You’ll see your positivity levels rise dramatically over time until it just oozes out of you.
The result? While everyone around battles with sinking into a dark pit of despair, you maintain your sense of hope. Hope is the shield that guards your mental health during pandemics, wars, pain and suffering.
5. Video call the people that you love
This is a super easy one that you’ll likely be doing already. Whatsapp, Skype, Zoom, Google Meet, Houseparty, Facebook, Facetime - we have no shortage of communication mediums. So call your peoples!
Tell them that you love them and you’re grateful for them.
6. Find a TV show with loads of episodes…
Most of us Westerners are not concerned with things like springtime crop-sowing and growing food for the winter which is why now we’re stuck at home, we have plenty of time on our hands. So, in the absence of that, the TV has plenty to offer in terms of blessed distraction.
All you have to do is find a series that’s been running forever, get a snack, and watch a few each day. As previously mentioned, mine is Erturgrul on Netflix, it’s in Turkish and the English subtitles are terrible, but it’s addictive and the show makes me happy. Other qualifying shows include Friends, Grey’s Anatomy, Gossip Girl, NCIS, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The Simpsons. Watch a few each day. It helps the time pass a little and it gives your mind an opportunity to switch off.
If you feel the television is a disgrace to humankind, find a book series and start reading that every day for a couple of hours. It’s all good fun and completely adaptable.I imagine most of you will be doing this already but just in case, I thought I’d include it here.
7. Learn a new skill that will make you more Pandemic-Proof
I can tell you this about COVID-19. In all my years of being on this planet, I have never felt so unprepared. I imagine a lot of us feel that way. This whole situation has forced me to look at my life and see that a lot of it is built on sand with a heavy swirl of consumerism. When the endless flow of consumption stops, so does my life.
My lack of self-sufficiency has shocked me to my core. If Amazon, grocery stores, and ASOS stopped serving my needs, I lost my job and wasn’t able to stay with my parents, I would not even be able to do basic things like eat and build a shelter.
So, I thought about a few skills that I could acquire that might make me more pandemic proof.
Too soon? I think not, learn how to kill bad bacterias, viruses and pathogens before they enter your body and wreck our lives. I didn’t know we had a problem with handwashing but some folks out there clearly do as all public health campaigns have featured this as a skill we don’t have.
Get to it.
A lot of us were travelling abroad when COVID-19 started causing havoc in the streets and in economic markets. If your finances can’t weather the storms of life and get you out of a spot of trouble then there’s a bit of work to do. If you don’t wish to spend life living off the grid and making yourself as detached from financial assets as possible, this needs particular attention.
As a minimum, I’ll be working more on my ‘rainy-coronavirused-day’ pot so if things go wrong my first thought isn’t necessarily to panic about having £32 in my bank account.
For those of you that already have the basics sorted, maybe it’s time to think about investments and asset management. Blockchain, financial trends, emerging markets, property investing...the list goes on. Get those fingers in the pies that interest you on your journey to financial literacy.
Hopefully, you know someone that can get you started on these matters. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions and go from there.
I’d love to learn how to grow my own food supply. Plants for food, plants for medicine. The internet has made me incredibly lazy. My Mum will tell you...if she asked for help in the garden, I’d literally pretend I was deaf. But something as basic as eating is now dependent on whether the grocery store has stock.
What happens when that is not the case?
At present, my track record of keeping plants alive is a disgrace considering how much I love eating them. But I am seriously considering this as a skill I would like to learn. At the very least I can feed myself, but a successful garden growing venture could feed and nurture a lot of people.
It’s also an insanely useful skill.
If you can’t grow things from scratch or you don’t wanna, then maybe learning a bit of foraging skill will help. Now if you commit to gardening this goes hand in hand. But if you need to live off the land in an apocalyptic type situation, at least 75% of western society would eat the wrong kinda plant and give themselves some problems.
There’s no judgement here, as that would be me.
So a little knowledge can’t hurt in my pursuit to pandemic-proof myself.
Again, books and people will help you. Look for Airbnb experiences with people that do this. If you already know how to do this, and it’s not a skill that’s being shared in your area, there’s your new business idea.
Did anyone try to get a hold of facemasks recently? Yep. Did anyone hear about the world shortage of masks? Yep. Okay. How many people can sew?
This is a vital pandemic skill. We all have redundant fabric in our lives that can be repurposed for equipment we need. Home sewing used to be something everybody could do. Now...it’s a hobby we marvel at on Youtube. I think I need to do some studying and get my sewing skills up to a basic level at least.
We get by with a little help from our friends. Who are my neighbours? Am I friends with them enough to feel comfortable asking for help...or toilet paper? Do people know to come to me for help?
We’re far too isolated from one another. We live in communities where someone can die in their house and we don’t know for a week. It’s not okay.
I’m an awkward human being with a fear of rejection. I’m also pretty introverted so this is going to be super hard for me. But I’m thinking if I get caught up in an apocalyptic situation again it’s good to have friends you know and love in as many places as possible. So make more friends in your area and have more people in your life you can love deeply.
After the lockdown of course.
“A jack of all trades is a master of none…” “...but oftentimes better than a master of one.”
Those are the skills I came up with and I may not get to them all but the thought is there. What would yours be? Have a think, make a list, make it fun.
“Keep that chin up, kiddo!”
To conclude, this guide will help you stay uplifted and positive in what is a very miserable situation. Humanity faces one of its greatest challenges in over a century. We must do our bit to face it well, and with courage.
Share this with your peeps and let’s keep the movement going.
All my love,