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  • Liz Sterling

Can We Thrive in Tough Times?

This morning I stood atop Machu Picchu in the Andes Mountains of Peru, visited The Bogd Kahhn Palace in Mongolia and floated along the River Thames with the Tower Bridge soaring above. I did all of this on Google Arts & Culture. What a great find!

I couldn’t have imagined ever having enough time to explore all the hidden gems throughout the world but as I sit at home, self-isolating, I’m opening my horizons. How about you? What are you doing to survive these tough times?

There are many online options to fill our days but there’s something more we all must consider during these unprecedented times.

The real issue comes down to our mental health!

What are the thoughts you awaken to in the middle of the night? How are your eating habits? What is your self-talk sound like these days?

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield offers tips for self-isolation during the coronavirus pandemic. Hadfield spent months at a time on the International Space Station. His coronavirus self-isolation tips include understanding the risk, figuring out your objectives, taking note of your constraints, and then taking action.

  1. Understand the actual risk. Inform yourself from credible sources. Discuss with family members your ongoing plans and wishes. Use this as an opportunity to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best and give energy to being strong throughout this pandemic. Honest communication with those you love will open the doors to facing the inevitable future. Author’s note: Recently I put all my affairs in order and conversed with my loved ones about my final wishes. It has given me a very peaceful feeling.

  2. What are your objectives/mission for right now? For today? This week? Look at what you want to get done.

  3. What are your constraints/ obligations? Who’s telling you what you need to do? What are your financial limitations? Stay-at-home orders are a big constraint. Most of us are also trying to limit the number of times we leave the house for groceries and then there’s the constraint of not being able to see many of your friends and family members in person. What can you do to take care of you?

  4. Take Action. Hadfield believes this is the best opportunity to set a plan in motion. Learn to explore, use the internet with all its offerings, join in Zoom programs and classes in far off places you haven’t been able to visit. Last Sunday, I joined friends in Kauai, Hawaii, at their weekly gathering. Tonight I am joining a singing group a thousand miles away.

These ARE tough times. Unprecedented. We are being called upon to meet fear with faith and anxiety with action. My recommendations are simple:

  1. Help others by reaching out. Phone calls, FaceTime, letters, texts, emails, these are ways to stay connected. I joined a group text and we send funny animal YouTube’s to each other. Did you see the one with the dog leaping into leaves? Hysterical. Levity will go a long way during these times.

  2. Buddy Up. I teach at the Levis JCC Sandler Center. Many of my students are home alone. Now, we meet by phone and Zoom but I am encouraging everyone to get a buddy. Send an inspirational thought, a message of hope, an encouraging virtual hug or a good morning wish. Some of my students are beginning a gratitude list. Remember, what you focus on expands and gratitude is a great elixir.

  3. Activate your feel-good feelings. Science has now confirmed the biochemical processes of the happiness hormones. The most important ones are endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. They enhance the immune system. Laughter is good medicine so watch funny movies and sitcoms. Go outside and enjoy the sunshine while drinking in D3 naturally. That will boost your feel good feelings. Pet your pet, eat good food, dance.

  4. Reduce your cortisol (stress) levels. This will help your body function better. Get good rest, exercise, reduce stressful thoughts and learn methods for relaxing including meditation, walking in nature, deep centered breathing techniques. I tell my students, “You can’t choose your first morning thought but you can choose your second one.”Check online for stress reducing practices.

  5. Monitor your media exposure. In other words, limit how much news you receive. If you live with a news junkie, encourage them to wear headphones so you are shielded from excessive exposure. In the interim, listen to soothing or inspiring music.

Right now, we are all in this together. Decisions are being made on a daily basis. First, listen to your gut. Even if more liberal measures for socializing are offered, check in to see if that feels right for you. Take each day as it presents itself. Some days are more productive than others. My friend spent a day in bed and I thought that was great.

Give yourself permission to chill out and relax. Use this time well and maybe something grand will emerge. Moment by moment, day by day, be gentle and kind and tender with yourself.

Call me an optimist, because I believe collectively, we are creating a new trajectory for ourselves, our communities and for our very precious planet. Let’s hope we can look back at these tough times…. and say, We Thrived!

Take A Virtual Museum Tour:British Museum, London

Visit the British Museum its hundreds of artifacts, like the ancient Rosetta Stone, on the museum’s virtual tour.

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul

This museum, which opened its doors in 1969, is one of the most popular in Korea.

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Check out this virtual tour of the museum which includes work from Monet, Cézanne, and Gauguin, to name a few.

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