The point is to tread the grey zone and find ways to build a better life in tough circumstances. It is not about turning every moment into a joyous occasion (although we can), it is more about finding respite from the moments that may overwhelm us with sadness, anxiety, anger, jealousy, fear, or hatred.
There are plenty of articles, videos, infographics, et al circling the internet advising us about how we can be productive even in the middle of a crisis whilst staying home amid lockdowns and quarantine. The circumstances are dire, and all the leaders of the world in all fields are doing the best they can to ensure the human race makes it out as unscathed as possible. As individuals, many of us are doing everything in our power to keep each other afloat — by making donations to help those less fortunate and to further the reaches of scientific research; by using our artistic talents to keep the world entertained and feeling upbeat; by using our technical talents to create virtual platforms for people to interact and keep each other updated about their wellbeing and safety, or by simply sticking to social distancing if nothing else. In that sense, we are all heroes.
But real heroes are not without vulnerabilities, right? We are all vulnerable too. Across the world, each one of us is struggling with some form of fear, grief, frustration, agitation, panic, and/or restlessness. The reasons are aplenty. The question is, what is creating this sense of discomfort? While there are many ways of answering this question, one of the things that I personally hold accountable is the fast-paced lifestyles that we have grown accustomed to. We are constantly running — literally and metaphorically. Plus we have become so inflexible to change that we would rather complain than adapt. We have become used to receiving everything at the touch of a finger, so now when we are required to lift that finger and get things done in real life, we seem to be missing the virtual world we (don’t) live in. Seldom have we given ourselves the opportunity to sit back and slow down, leave the screens behind. Seldom have we tried to discover the things we could do as a family, the conversations that we could have as a family. Many of you might say that there never arose a need for it. I would counter that with a heavy “why?”
On the flip side, nature seems to be having a gala time. For the first time in a century has she been able to breathe easy. Various animals have reclaimed the territories they once roamed free in. The air quality in many cities has improved. The plants and animals are rejoicing (even if momentarily) being free from human interference. Guess their dreams are coming true!
So, what’s so bad about all this?
The bad is that in order to focus on everything that’s going right or everything that is improving, we are compelled to turn a blind eye to everything that’s deteriorating. It’s like a coin toss — you can only have one face up at a time with negligible chances of the coin being carried away by a bird in its flight, or it landing on its edge, or falling down the drain, or vanishing into thin air… you get the point.
As responsible global citizens, it is the duty of each one of us to be far-sighted while being mindful of short-term engagements. Long have we struggled to establish sustainable development and almost failed miserably on each iteration. As such, let us consider this another opportunity to become better creatures — for each other and for the world in general.
For starters, let us begin by understanding the gravity of the prevailing situation as opposed to panicking about it. The COVID19 crisis is a health crisis brought about by a highly contagious strain of the coronavirus (the virus which is commonly associated with causing flu in humans). It originated in the city of Wuhan in China in late 2019 and has since spread globally with the WHO declaring it a pandemic (that is, a global health crisis). People, once infected may or may not show any symptoms. The common symptoms include a sore throat, cough, breathlessness, fever, and runny nose, however, the severity of the condition depends upon other factors like age and pre-existing medical conditions. The worst part is, being a new strain there is no cure yet and we don’t know for sure where it came from. But the good news is that we have all hands on deck in terms of research to find the cause and the cure.
What does this mean for you and me? Bad news is that nobody is immune to it. If you come in contact with the virus, you will get infected. The good news is, it can be prevented. This means that we need to be cautious in our daily activities and indulge in good hygiene practices along with social distancing in order to avoid being infected by the virus. This also means that we need to be responsible enough to follow the restrictions and guidelines that our governments have declared for our own benefit — if you have been asked to stay at home or stay put wherever you are, instead of complaining just comply.
Another important aspect of being responsible global citizens is to honestly report if you develop symptoms mentioned in the WHO reports but call first and alert medical professionals instead of simply turning up to a hospital or a medical facility unannounced and put everyone around you at risk. We need to understand that we are all responsible for not just ourselves but everyone around more so now than ever. Secondly, don’t lie or try to hide or worse, skip quarantine. These measures have been taken for your benefit and the benefit of all mankind, please don’t be so reckless. I recently came across an article reporting how students returning to India took paracetamol tablets to bring down their body temperatures to avoid being quarantined. Another article reported people deliberately jumping quarantine and traveling to crowded cities. This is not a joke! While we may be creating and sharing jokes and memes across social media platforms to try and lighten the situation, this is not a joke. You ought to understand that if you’re not experiencing any major discomfort upon being infected with COVID19, you might end up passing the virus onto someone who may not survive the disease! So, stay put and honestly cooperate with the authorities. Be the hero you always dreamt of being for now’s your chance. Also, all of the medical supplies that you may be using like masks, etc need to be disposed off properly so make sure you are following official guidelines and not just mindlessly throwing them away just like that. Let us not create another crisis in trying to mitigate one. Lastly, do not engage in panic buying or hoarding of essential commodities, the governments around the world have repeatedly ensured that there will not be a shortage if we buy properly. If we are panic buying or hoarding, many of these essentials will not reach those who need them more than we do.
And now to focus on the lighter side of the situation — making the best of this time that we’ve got to spend at home. By the time this post is published, many of us have gotten fed up with eating, sleeping, and binge-watching day in and day out. However, with almost the whole world at home, we may feel a sense of collective laziness “when everyone else is home doing nothing, why should I be the one working out or doing something productive?” To be honest, it is okay to feel like not doing anything. What is not okay though, is letting that feeling linger on and get the best of us. So let go of that laziness and find ways to be productive.
Practice good sleep hygiene. No matter what you do the whole day, do not use your bed for anything else but sleeping. Check your posture regularly. Don’t slouch on the couch the whole day or you’ll hurt your back. Respect your body and engage in some form of physical activity for at least half an hour every single day, even if that means walking to and fro while talking on the phone. Engage your mind and keep it occupied by solving puzzles or playing games like chess that provide a challenge to your brain, or better still learn a new language! Build healthy self-esteem and resilience with the help of gratitude journaling. Check-in with your peers, friends, and relatives regularly and hear them out if they are struggling emotionally. Nurture a healthy spirit of sportsmanship by playing board games with the family or even a game of charades or better still, make your own games! Once every day, allow yourself to become comfortable with stillness by engaging in a 15-minutes’ meditation. Give your eyes a break from all the digital strain by shutting off all screens and instead curling up with a book. Discover new music or explore spirituality. Take up a new topic and engage in an informed debate on it with your friends or family. Challenge yourself to become an early riser by waking up 10 minutes earlier every day till you reach your desired target. Learn a new skill online instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media. Talk to your parents or grandparents and encourage them to share funny stories of their (or your) childhood. Try your hand at gardening. Treat this time as a gift but don’t go overboard in trying to bring about all changes at once — you have plenty of time to take one step a time. Allow yourself to breathe and grow.
I personally have a newfound love for history. I had never imagined myself reconciling with the subject, but after reading up some of the history books I have at home, I realized that history and politics ain’t that bad. In fact, the reading matter related to these subjects has refreshed my perspective on the world. And since it’s spring, I have found joy in waking up to an orchestra of birds each morning. I get excited when the petit bee-eaters pay a visit to our balcony in search of food and shelter, or when squirrels play a game of chase up and down the trees. But most of all, as I sit in my balcony through the day to read, I feel a subtle comfort in the little proximity I share with nature — being greeted by a cool breeze and basking in the sunshine that charges me up with purpose and creativity, all this while the sound of our neighbor’s wind-chimes provides a soothing background score. Though I must admit my day is not entirely as joyous when I end up losing in a game of chess to my friend, but I’m learning the ropes and getting better with each passing day. This also reminds me that the lemon and chili seeds I sowed the other day haven’t shown any signs of germination yet (is it the case of the watched pot that never boils? Should I focus on other things instead of keeping an eye on them? Maybe I should).
I have learned that gratitude and a healthy amount of optimism go a long way in how I look at the world and how I behave. I am grateful for everything that I have and I am grateful that everything I have is enough. I am hopeful that we will find our way out of this crisis soon, and I am hopeful that all of us will utilize our rationality and intelligence to do our best in cooperating with the authorities, maintaining good personal hygiene, keeping up with social distancing, and fostering a better relationship with each other.