There's another sickness that has spread across the planet even more quickly than the coronavirus has. It unfortunately will possibly continue to be around for a long time. It's a disease of the mind, but it can also affect the heart, nervous system, and every part of the body.
The illness I'm talking about is fear. Fear is a perfectly natural response to the current situation in the world. In fact, I would be worried about you if you weren't experiencing any fear at all.
But there's a difference between allowing yourself to feel fear (a natural response designed to help you survive) and feeding into that fear — for example, by obsessing over the latest figures, compulsively watching the news, or soaking up conspiracy theories on social media.
So while it's normal to feel fear, indulging in it can be disempowering. It can make you feel like you have no control over your life — and while, to some extent, that is true, there are things that are within your control.
One of those things is your psychological immunity — or resilience in the face of chaos. It also helps to build your physical immunity by reducing the effects of stress on your body.
"Building your psychological immunity will prevent you from getting swept up in the pandemic of fear."
Here are eight ways I've been building my psychological immunity during the COVID-19 crisis.
1. Choose Your Focus Wisely
Where attention goes, energy flows. The more you focus on fear, the more afraid you will be. It's normal to have fears and anxiety, but when you notice them coming up, ask yourself: "Can I do something about this?" If the answer is yes, go ahead and do it! But if the answer is no, you need to let it go.
Often, the realization that it is out of your hands is enough to alleviate the fear, but if it's not, it's best to distract yourself. You may want to focus on something you would like to change or improve, tackle a project, work out, cook a delicious meal, or even watch Netflix! It doesn't really matter, as long as you distract yourself from the fearful thoughts.
A mirror is being held up to all of us now. Suddenly, we can see with startling clarity things to which we were blind before. One of those things is the illusion of control. You may have thought until now that you were in control of your life, but that was never really true. This crisis has shown us the reality that no matter what we might think, control over outcomes is not in our hands.
Therefore, it is better to surrender to what is, and focus on the things you can control rather than those you can't. When you release the need to control every single outcome of your life, you will notice your immunity to fear and anxiety increase.
3. Set Boundaries
The people most likely to affect your psychological immunity are, unsurprisingly, your co-isolators. Being in confinement can quickly lead to personal boundaries being crossed, as different needs and routines crash into one another.
Maybe your roommate wants to stress out over the news all the time, while you prefer to stay calm. In that case, you need to make it clear to them that while it's okay for them to consume as much news as they like, you would prefer it if they didn't share every update with you. Establish your needs with your co-isolators, and allow them to express theirs too. This will help to reduce conflict, because it can damage your psychological immunity.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is one of the best ways to build your psychological — and physical — immunity. Getting enough shut-eye gives your greater mental strength in the face of challenges — think about how your cope with a stressful day at work after a good night's sleep versus when your kid keeps you up all night. Sleeping also gives the body a chance to repair itself and build physical immunity, so if you feel in need of a nap, give yourself permission to go for it!
"focus on the things you can control rather than those you can't"
5. Practice Gratitude
Humans are designed to focus more on negatives than positives.
This ability helped our ancestors survive as it was more important to remember where they last saw a Lion than where they saw a pretty flower.
That makes it easy for us to be infected by the negative thinking of others.
Our moods are also contagious, so how can you keep your vibe high when those around you are losing their marbles? A great way to do this is to practice gratitude. It will retrain your brain to focus on the positives, helping to protect you from negative vibes. You may even infect your co-isolators with some gratitude!
"Playing is a great boost for both psychological and physical immunity"
6. Change Your Self-Talk
What you say to yourself makes all the difference to your mood. Contrary to popular belief, it's our thoughts that cause emotions, and not the other way round. There is indeed a lot to feel pessimistic about right now. I do not deny. But if you are reading this right now and have a roof over your head, food in your fridge, Internet access, and toilet paper in your bathroom (!), you — like me — are one of the lucky ones.
Everything feels very serious right now, and it's easy to be affected by the gravity of the situation. Take some time out of your day to get in touch with your inner child and play! It may be a board game, ping-pong, video game — or perhaps a game you made up yourself! The important thing is that it gets you into that playful state that, as adults, we often forget to inhabit. Playing is a great boost for both psychological and physical immunity — after all, laughter is often the best medicine!
Now more than ever, self-care is an essential practice. Self-care means different things to different people, especially at a time like this. You may find yourself needing things that you wouldn't normally, like an extra-long bath or nap. Perhaps self-care is more proactive for you and might involve working on yourself and your projects.
Ask yourself each day: what do you really need?
Honoring your true needs (and not what you think you should need), and taking time to take care of yourself is one of the best ways to build psychological immunity.