With the present being a particularly challenging time in human history where the coronavirus has many people worried and uncertain, there can either be a tendency for irrational behaviour that favours emotion over good decision-making, or for stepping-up and excelling at it.
The examples of great heroism (especially in front line staff), good will, human solidarity and courage, show us there is always a way through, and that people in darkness always find their way to the light.
1. Live in the real
Accept this new reality which has overtaken us. This is a painful transition as we try to hang on to the past, finding such radical change hard to accept. Things we took for granted such as shaking hands, have radically altered. ‘Finding God in all things’ challenges us to find peace in inhabiting this new, unasked for reality. The primary thing therefore is to accept the new reality or ‘new normal’.
2. Face your fears
Though fear and anxiety are normal responses to the current situation, it’s important to not let them take over. Fear is not a good counsellor or guide, taken to its extreme it is crippling and immobilising. It is necessary to act directly against unhelpful forces such as fear that can motivate us to make poor decisions. Be proactive and not to give up, or ‘feel the fear and do the best thing anyway’.
3. Avoid extremes
Extreme situations tend to bring out extreme reactions. You can maybe feel ‘bulletproof’ as a young person or apathetic and demotivated as an older person. In both cases the unhelpful question, ‘what do I care?’ may be driving your actions. In between the two extremes is the space that most of us are called to inhabit. There, we can take all the precautions necessary and find a way of ‘living within the limits’ that has self-care balanced with concern for others. The goal is acceptance of the situation and taking reasonable responsive measures, hopefully being able to find meaning and purpose in this new reality.
4. Focus on the light
One of the central Christian insights is that when darkness is all around, we are called to keep faithful and focused on the light, no matter how dim it seems. Remember the dynamic of the Cross. In moments of darkness and apparent abandonment, God works most powerfully. God is with us in the mess of things. The joy of the Resurrection always follows the anguish of the Cross.
5. Keep yourself in balance
It is really important to anchor yourself so that you don’t get blown about by the winds. It is necessary to keep your eyes on the path, one step at a time, moving steadily on. It’s the image of a journey or pilgrimage where you attend to your feet and trust in the trail. This means getting all the basics right – rest, structure, diet, exercise, appropriate socialising and keeping oneself busy. This is challenging but not impossible. Setting up good habits will see us through. Take it gradually, walk one step at a time, but keep moving.
6. Assess your weak points
It is important to shore up our defences when under attack, remembering that it is our weaknesses or vulnerabilities that are often exploited. This sort of health situation stirs up deep fears in us about lack of control, breakdown of structures, etc. It can easily fuel our existing weaknesses of worry, obsession and extreme behaviours. A useful rule of thumb is to work out what your weak points are and to address those first and use concentrated prayer to bring God’s grace to bear on them.
7. Engage in real prayer
Prayer is a natural response to uncertainty and loss of control. It allows us to be in communication with the divine. It empowers us to act and live without fear. Prayer can be as simple as a conversation or dialogue with the creator, the source of our being. The key is to bring the whole of our selves to God, including all our fears and worries, and ask for help and guidance. Give it all to God, all the fear, worry, and concern. This is not a theory or a concept, it is an experience. Try it and see what happens.
8. Focus on what you can do
While there are many things you clearly cannot do without contravening official guidelines, there are many other things that you can do safely. See this crisis as an opportunity to improve yourself, be a better person and help others. Try to move into gratitude, being thankful for small things. Take a moment at the end of each day to look back and see the moments of light that can only be seen with hindsight and reflection. Developing gratitude is a powerful antidote to negativity and apathy.
9. Act for the greatest good
There is a dilemma in game theory whereby a game is set up such that a lone player gets a small reward for acting selfishly, whereas if all the players cooperate, they get a much greater joint reward. This is exactly the situation that we face now. Acting selfishly by stockpiling and protecting only oneself is a limited strategy. Everyone knows that the only way this will work in the long term is if people cooperate. ‘There is enough food for everyone’ is the mantra from the stores, but only if people act in a restrained and responsible way. This is sobering but true. “Love shows itself in deeds more than words”. The impact of a word, text or prayer for another in these exceptional times cannot be underestimated.
10. Make good decisions