The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our very important need right now

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It is August 2020. A year before, it was August 2019. Not very complicated to comprehend, right? But I am pretty sure that the current situation we are in right now was 100% beyond the comprehension of a human mind, exactly a year before.

Yet, here we are.

It was March 11, 2020, when the WHO (World Health Organization) declared that the novel corona-virus (COVID-19) is a global pandemic. It was no more an epidemic or an outbreak because over the past two weeks China saw its number of cases increasing 13 times while the number of countries with cases increased 3 times. The pandemic is not only a health emergency; it’s also a social and economic emergency. Due to the non- pharmaceutical interventions like social distancing people are getting affected to a greater extent due to a sense of isolation. Economies aren’t doing that well- in the month of August UK declared that its economy has suffered its biggest slump in a period of 11 years due to the corona-virus lock down between April and June. The economy of the UK shrank 20.4% in relation to first 3 months of the year 2020. One of the most badly affected industries is Travel and tourism industry.

Times are such that everyone wants to go out and rejuvenate themselves by taking a vacation. Paradoxically that’s the exact thing we can’t do right now. The COVID-19 is jeopardizing our very important need right now.

Want to but Can’t

Every single human being who is alive right now and trying to survive the current times is struggling in his/her unique ways. Everyone wants to take a break. Everyone wants to be able to go outside without bothering about the likelihood of getting infected with the virus. Everyone wants to be able to eliminate the physical distance between us. Everyone wants to be able to take a vacation without giving it a second thought. But it is not possible especially if we want to come alive out of the pandemic, especially if we want to refrain ourselves from worsening the situation. People working from home are dealing with their own kind of struggles- there doesn’t seem to be any fixed working hours. Companies are thinking that since people are at home doing nothing much should be made to work as much as possible. Mental health problems are on the rise. All the healthcare and front line workers are suffering with varied psychological issues including increased anxiety, depressive symptoms, insomnia, etc. It would not be wrong to assert that everyone wants to fulfill a very important need i.e. a vacation to escape from all the stress. Unfortunately, we can’t. As much as we want to we cannot and we shouldn’t. The pandemic is taking a toll on all of us.

Now what?

Nature doesn’t like complying with our conveniences. In life, there are things that we control and the things that we don’t. The pandemic is something which we can’t go back in time and change. It’s here now and its effect on every aspect of our lives is also here. So, there is no point in cribbing about it. It’s out of our hands. But what we do control is how wisely we are responding to the situation by following the guidelines provided by authentic sources and people.

It is true we can’t book a ticket and land on any part of any country (due to health reasons and travel restrictions) in order to rejuvenate ourselves. The methods have now changed, at least for a while. But that shouldn’t mean we can’t have a sense of adventure. We can. All we need is a little shift in our perception.

  1. Make little things count

While all of our big plans are on hold we should be perceptive enough to focus on little things. Being grateful of every little event that is happening every single day can help us seek our own sense of adventure. Call a friend. Ask how he or she is. Go down the memory lane while talking. Revisit all the good memories. Will it be bad enough to call it a little adventure?

2. Take occasional breaks at home only

It is quite plausible to get bored of staying at home most of the time. So, take a break. Promise yourself to work 5 or 6 days a week and give yourself a break for the whole day. Don’t do anything that involves work. Just give yourself some ‘me time’ (I know it sounds easier than done but with practice we can surely get better).

3. Do something you’ve been delaying for a long time

It is not wise and smart to let your brain be completely free because that gives birth to a whole set of new problems. That is why it is advisable to keep ourselves busy (and I don’t mean too busy). So, figure out something you have been delaying for quite a long time and do it (if it can be done at home). That just might compensate for that vacation you had planned.

We, humans, are a lot more resilient than we think. We know how to survive the worst of the situations. We are already surviving the current situation. A lot has been put on hold but it is not permanent. Everything is transitory.

We need to re-define the “How are you?” question

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Friend: Hi.

You: Hello.

Friend: How are you?

You: I am good. How are you?

Friend: I am good too.

(The biggest and most meaningful conversation just ended).

I am pretty sure this sounds familiar. Happens with me. Probably happens with you too.

We are living in the modern world of meaningless conversations and small talks. It is like everything is superficial. We might have some good intention behind asking our friends or loved ones how they are. It is necessary that we ask them. But in the midst of a noble intention sometimes we don’t realize that we are not very observant of what we are asking and what our closed ones are replying. Sometimes or I should say most of the time (in this modern world) we don’t see the pattern in our repeated questions and answers. That is why it is high time that we re-define the “How are you?” question.

“How are you” shouldn’t always be about work

How many times you ask someone how they are and you literally mean ‘how is your work’ or ‘how is your  internship/job going’  or ‘how’s studies going at the university’ or ‘how many online courses have you done during the COVID-19 pandemic’? Again, sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I know it is going to sound cliche and you probably have heard it many times before- work is just a part of life, it is not the life. We don’t try to understand that may be someone out there doesn’t want us to ask how their professional life is going. Maybe they want us to ask them how they are doing besides their work. It’s like we have made up our lives totally about professional success. We constantly identify ourselves with the kind of work we do, our professional accomplishments, etc. as if life ends and begins with mere work. The next time you ask someone about their life make sure you don’t just make it about work. Be kind and humble enough to be a little bit observant. You might make their day better. 

“How are you” is also about- how are you regulating your emotions and what can I do to help if they are unregulated at this point of time

Everyone struggles. While it may be true that some people have to struggle a lot more than others, still, the bottom line is: we all struggle. It is inevitable. With different kinds of challenges and obstacles come different emotions: anger, frustration, sadness, disgust, happiness, envy, jealously, pleasure, etc. Sadly, we are very ignorant when it comes to understanding people’s varied emotions. We don’t care enough to ask how they are regulating their emotions. And so, extending a hand for help never crosses our minds. It is possible that such ignorance is unintentional and we aren’t aware of such little things. Nevertheless, it is high time that we help our loved ones in regulating their emotions- even if they ask for our help or not.

If you’re okay with their “I am fine” replies, stop asking your “how are you” question

How are you?” “I am fine.” Done. Trust me, nobody is fine. There is always something going on in everybody’s life. It’s just that some people hide it better than the others. Our problem is that we let it go if someone says he or she is fine. I think a little push is what we need so that we create a comfortable environment for our closed ones to be able to share things with us. I don’t think we should be very quick in jumping on to another question whenever someone says they are fine. It is like we are all doing a formality by asking our superfluous the “How are you?” question.  

It is easy to ask “How are you?”. But it is very difficult to bear with the real story behind that question.

Writing Gratitude Diary for 30 days as a challenge

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Gratitude and well-being

‘Gratitude’ has become a very common word these days. I see everybody writing or talking about it. In a way it makes me feel good because gratitude has many benefits and seeing people taking it seriously gives me a relief that they will be all right. However, it becomes bothersome when people merely talk about it but never act upon it. Probably it is because they don’t understand it well enough– they think they do but actually they don’t. I just hope I am wrong.

I can speak for myself when it comes to not fully understanding what gratitude is all about. Thankfully life found numerous ways to make me wise. Martin Seligman, a leading psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania is a pioneer in the field of positive psychology. Before the emergence of positive psychology, psychology was all about mental illnesses, flaws and shortcomings in people’s personalities. And Professor Seligman changed it. He wanted to promote the idea that we all have strengths within us and to live a happy, satisfied life filled with meaning it is very important that we focus on our strengths and not just weaknesses.

There are many studies on gratitude & well-being. One of the interesting ones is when researchers asked respondents or participants to do one of the three exercises. One group of participants was asked to write down 5 things they were grateful for each week for around 10 weeks. The other group was asked to write things that were negative and they weren’t grateful for (for 10 weeks). The last of the three groups was made to write about neutral events (neither positive nor negative) taking place in their lives for 10 weeks. It was found at the end of 10 weeks that people who took out some time to write gratitude diary continuously recorded being 25% happier than the ones who didn’t.

Sounds interesting, right? Well, it would be better if you also take out some time every day to just reflect upon the things that made you happy and write them down.

Gratitude diary and me

My experience with writing a gratitude diary consecutively for 30 days was a different experience altogether.

  1. Honestly, I dreaded writing gratitude diary. But my commitment surpassed it.

The challenge I undertook to write 3 things I was grateful for during my day wasn’t easy. It was because I didn’t feel writing it at all. Sometimes I was feeling very sleepy that I just wanted to sleep on it. Sometimes my hands couldn’t manage to write properly and I just wanted to write a single word and get done with it. I literally dreaded it. In spite of all the laziness I did it. And I am glad that I did because I was committed to it. When I decided to undertake the challenge I was very much sure that I would not be able to it. But I proved myself wrong. My unwillingness to write few good words that made my day felt short in front of my commitment to stay stick to a 30 day challenge.

2. I was seeking pearls within an ocean of sorrows, sadness and disappointments.

There were days when I was sitting on my chair thinking very hard about 3 good things that I was grateful for. All I could think of was negative chain of events, boredom, frustration, helplessness, etc. Such moments made me realize that happiness isn’t always readily available. Many times we have to take some extra efforts to find or create it. Our days get so bad that all we think of is negativity. And that is okay. But not always. A single cup of coffee or tea with your loved ones or even all by yourself is enough to bring a smile on your face. Like I said, you can find pearls deep within an ocean of sorrows, sadness and disappointments; if you try hard enough.

Even though writing gratitude diary some days didn’t feel very appealing and I felt very lazy, I know very well (through empirical studies as mentioned above) that it is very crucial. I am not saying that by writing down 3 or 5 things that made you happy before going to bed is going to make you the happiest person on this earth. Trust me, that’s not what I am suggesting. There is no causation but co-relation. What I am saying is that human brain responds to gratitude and by practicing it regularly we can teach ourselves to be more optimistic and thus at least a little bit happier than before.

I am working full time. Yet my work has zero economic value.

Before I begin I must warn you that you might find my blog post boring and not relevant. But if you care enough to read it you are probably going to get an idea about something that you haven’t experienced before.

So, bear with me.

Currently, I am unemployed. I completed my bachelors degree three years ago. Although I have a post graduate diploma, I haven’t gotten myself into a master’s programme yet. Almost every friend of mine is done with a master’s degree. Some are working. They are earning money while I, on the other hand, have only earned 5000 in my life so far during an internship. There is no comparison or jealousy here. And I know very well that grass is always greener on the other side. My point is that I am here telling my story. Just mine.

 I wake up at 5 am five days a week. I freshen up and make a cup of coffee for myself. I retire to my study room and try drinking  coffee mindfully. After that I meditate (but I suck at focusing my mind so it is still a road under construction). After doing a couple of small chores I go back to my study room and do some of my personal work including studying. Two to three times a week I go out to get milk by my bicycle (with full protection, in case you’re wondering). After having my breakfast I start up with the household chores. Yes, I study and do household work. Yet my ‘physical work’ has no economic worth. It takes about 3-3:30 hours to get done with all the household work including dusting, brooming, moping, washing utensils and cleaning bathroom that I have been doing alongside my mother for the past 4 months now. In the evening, there are certain tasks that are needed to be done and they also consume some of my time. In the midst of all this I manage to do my own work (requiring mental energy), maintain my social life and take some time out for myself.

There are certain things that I am realising through my experiences and I want to throw some light on some of the realizations.

Household chores are no joke. Never belittle them

I used to think ‘mental labor’ can be really exhausting. Truth be told, it is still true. But after familiarizing myself with ‘physical labor’ I have come to believe that doing household work is no lesser than studying a textbook or writing a term paper. It is a job where you can never take a day off from. It is always with you- 24*7, all 365 days a year. There is so much of non-economic value but the economic worth is a big zero. No matter how hot or cold it is you have to do all the basic work that is needed to be done during a day. It’s like your mind is constantly busy with one thing or the other. So, it is my urge to you that you never belittle the work.

Frustration is of no help

It is important that I don’t suppress my emotions and say that “I am frustrated“. I do that. But many times I let my emotions control me and so, snap out at people. That’s when I realize my frustration is getting out of my hands and I need to understand that it is not helping me in any way at all. Even though sometimes I hate doing it, I tell myself that there is no other choice. It doesn’t always make me feel better every time but it’s worth a shot.

Getting better at time management

In spite of all the frustration and hate, I must say I am getting better at managing my time. I wasn’t very good at time management and struggled to get things done and have a non anxious life. But I can see that it is changing now. I am becoming better at managing things that are important during my day. Whilst I believe I have a scope of improving a lot in the future I am pretty much satisfied with my time management skills.

Yes, I am working full time at my home. I am not getting paid. I am old enough to be earning or at least have a master’s degree. And all this is not in my favor right now. Nevertheless, I am grateful for my life and family every single day. During this time (and I mean COVID-19) if I am safe, my family is safe and we have enough money to have a decent life I don’t think anything else should matter way too much.