“Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon
These days more than ever, what we thought was going to happen and what actually happens are pretty far apart.
The Coronavirus is all over the news, and many of us are experiencing fear, dread, and the possibility of disruption in our lives.
Trips and events being canceled. Even our way of life may be changing. Our thoughts and expectations for the future are changing, which, for many, is the most distressing thing of all.
How can we approach this new situation with consciousness instead of getting stuck in despair?
Tips for Staying Conscious in the Face of Coronavirus
Remember that life isn’t what we think it’s going to be. Life is what it is.
We get frustrated when we think we know what’s going to happen in our lives. We get attached to our plans, but sometimes it doesn’t happen the way we think it will happen, or maybe not at all.
The thing is, life is always that way. We may not like it because we like to feel in control, but we are not nearly as in control of external factors as we think we are.
We might plan to go to a concert but get appendicitis instead. Our friend might cancel our lunch date. Right now, coronavirus is disrupting a lot of people in a big, joined kind of way. There’s global disruption going on that we all feel.
This is what’s being offered up by the universe. We can see this as all these doors being closed in our face and feel sad and anxious about it, or we can realize that something else is calling for our attention right now. This might mean big changes for the way sickness is handled in our world or the way we each care for our individual health.
We never had control in the first place.
Life’s a gamble. Every decision we make is a gamble. We don’t know what will happen next, and that’s okay. But we don’t see it that way.
Instead, we try to make plans in a world that’s hard to make plans for. Thinking that we know and holding tightly to our plans leads us to a delusional state of control. We’re control freaks!
I’m not suggesting that we don’t make plans, of course. But embracing the unknown means not getting so attached to our plans because this attachment ends up being a source of suffering.
When we let go of the idea that life is supposed to go a certain way, we ease our own suffering. Instead, we can accept the “plot twists” with curiosity. “Oh, it looks like I won’t be doing that after all. Maybe I’ll do it another time. Now I can decide what to do instead.”
There’s nothing new about disruption
This is not the first time a global event has disrupted the lives of many people, and it certainly won’t be the last.
Most of us didn’t live through WWII, but I remember my mother talking about how the war changed her life and the lives of those around her.
There was no sugar or butter. They’d have drives to salvage aluminum and other metals, and there was absolutely no waste if they could help it. Some people had no way to make a living. Many people were homeless, and others would share their food with them.
Illness isn’t new either. The CDC estimates that 56,000 people die each year from the flu, but no one really talks about that. People often die from heart disease or cancer, but because we think of those as known things, we don’t fear them as much (unless we get them).
While pandemics aren’t new to humankind, this particular kind of virus is new because we’ve never experienced this exact strain before. There’s no vaccine yet and none of us have developed an immunity. We don’t know what coronavirus will do or how it will evolve. We don’t know any of that.
Even death isn’t new. Of course, it won’t be fun to get the virus or become deathly ill. It won’t be fun to lose a loved one. But people get ill and die every day.
However, this doesn’t mean we’ll all get deathly ill or that this is the end of humankind. It just means this is new. But not feeling in control and the fear of death are things we tend to have a hard time with.
Remember that change is constant
Throughout history, we’ve been through these ups and downs. These days, we’re used to thinking that things will keep going up and up and up, but things just can’t keep going up forever!
We’ll have some down periods, volatility, and change. The stock market will go up and it will go down. We might think we’re entitled to have a positive return on our stocks and investments, but let’s face it, investing is legal gambling.
We’re in an age where we think we know. We know a lot of things, but there are a lot of things we don’t know and that we can’t control. That’s always been the way of the world.
If this were 50 years ago, we’d be that much less prepared on many levels. The modern age brings about information flow and positives and negatives. We can communicate about the virus and we can fear monger about the virus. There’s nothing good or bad about this. It is simply the reality of the world we live in.
We think our institutions will be forever, that everything will be forever, but that is not the case. More so now than ever, something will need to change if we are to continue to survive on the planet.
Welcome change, and consciously work toward change that benefits all of us.
Focus on what you CAN control
As we watch and observe how this plays out, we can take conscious steps to prevent the spread of the virus without panicking or dissolving into despair.
That might mean staying close to home for a while, being more prudent about our health, or a thousand other things we decide to do differently. Perhaps you buy travel insurance if you make travel plans. Maybe you decide to work from home more often. Keep the pantry stocked. Wash your hands more often and more thoroughly. Think of how you can position yourself to cope with a possible downturn without panicking or hoarding.
But viewing these differences as a loss means we’ll be doing nothing but grieving. If we see this as different (but not better or worse), we can think “Okay, things are different now” and live in peace instead of unnecessary grief.
This is the time for balance. Be aware that yes, there is a real threat, and put that threat in perspective. We face these kinds of threats constantly without panicking.
We can’t control the bigger picture, but we can control ourselves. You can decide whether you want to choose peace and consciousness or panic and unconsciousness.