The government, Public Health Agencies, NHS, HSE, businesses and financial services etc. undoubtedly could always do more to be better prepared, and everyone including the media are quick to blame these ‘faceless entities’, anyone and everyone for the current situation along with the perceived inadequate and futile response.
Projecting our own vulnerabilities, helplessness and resignation goes some way to contain our fear. However, the real villain is a faceless virus which as viruses do, source a host to invade and multiply. We are where we are, right here right now. It is the right time therefore, to recognise, tap into and trust in our common humanity. This means collectively supporting and getting behind everyone who is keeping the wheels turning, not least those frontline medical, health and social care staff selflessly, tirelessly risking their own lives to care for the most sick and vulnerable.
Avoid getting get caught up in the so-called and nonetheless viral info-demic of sensationalist headlines, inaccurate, and unreliable information, take control of what you can, follow NHS, Public Health Agency / HSE guidelines (see links below) which will take the burden of frontline staff as well as protect you and your loved ones.
Undoubtedly emotional distancing, catastrophizing and projection are natural emotional, psychological defences summonsed to protect us from the fear and uncertainty of the unseen and unknown. In reality, however, these defences are counter-productive and provide no immunity to COVID-19.
We are in the midst of an unsettling pandemic where tragically many have already lost loved ones, creating understandable anxiety about the uncertainty of the future. However, the human spirit has survived previous pandemics - one as recent as 1918. COVID-19 will inevitably and predictably run its course, and predictably in the future another pandemic awaits. This alerts us mindfully and with humility to the cyclical, predictably unpredictable changing and dynamic nature of human existence – life, joy and despair.
While despair, if personalised can alienate and isolate, compounded in this instance by necessary self-isolation, this adds to suffering. In contrast, by opening our hearts and minds to the fact that everyone suffers, it is what connects, will motivate collective and compassionate action. It is this hard wired drive for belonging which will see us through. Often when faced with life and death scenarios we are forced to re-calibrate, becoming astutely aware of what and who is important, vital to us cultivating compassionate action and behaviours which are invigorating, meaningful life-giving and life-sustaining. Use whatever space and time you have to reach out and connect safely with work colleagues, family, friends and neighbours - these simple small acts of kindness are good for your wellbeing.
Over the coming weeks, our Lead Mindfulness Practitioner will be bringing a mindful awareness to an ever-evolving, fast-changing situation, introducing so-called psychological antibodies - strategies and techniques to protect us from the inevitable emotional impact of COVID-19, by encouraging and enabling everyone to connect and respond with kindness and compassion.
I will end with the words of wisdom of an ancient Eastern contemplative practitioner:
“In the West you say panic, panic everything is out of control. In the East we say relax, everything is out of control!”Control what you can, keep it simple and follow the simple advice which will save lives: keep indoors, keep the recommended social distance, keep washing your hands and as far as is possible keep calm.