Lincoln’s famous quote, this too shall pass encourages people to take a view grounded in reality. But what happens next? How can we be useful?
Time marches on. Another oft used quote, and indeed it does. ‘When will things get back to normal?’ people ask. But what is normal anyway?
Normal is probably what you expect. A normal day. A normal person. Really? Does normal really exist? Things are always changing. What can stay the same is the story we attach to, giving us a sense of stability. That has a use, but should not hoodwink us from the reality of impermanence.
Wanting to get back to normal suggests that we can reverse time: ‘go back’. But there is no going back, only forward towards an imagined future. As much as the past is now in the mind, so is the future. In that sense, the future is a blank canvas. What future will you imagine now and take steps to create?
What is your imagined future?
In the media people are making their predictions about the future. How will society shape up? What can we take forward from this period and build upon? There have been some pluses that are well documented and that we have all experienced: an appreciation and love for the people that make the NHS, concern and caring for neighbours, a healthier planet and more. This is not to ignore the suffering.
Life is characterised by suffering. You only need look at the arts to see pain emerging from many masterpieces. As we inevitably move on, adapt to new ways and cultivate new thinking necessary for human growth, people will suffer. Humans always have and always will. The question is, how can we be useful and play a part in easing that suffering?
There is much talk of the mental health fallout of Covid-19. Whilst this realisation allows services to prepare, there is the fundamental issue of a philosophy that separates mind and body. Mental health suggests that this is different to physical health. This cannot be.
There is no divide. I am whole, you are whole. My thoughts and feelings do not happen over there, outside of my body. In fact, my body plays a significant role in both my perceptions and my decisions — the body always participates. Consider the gut feel or the fact that we make different choices dependent upon the stage of the cardiac cycle.
A transformational step forward then, is to consider the whole person and not just body parts or systems. A further step is to take a person-first approach as in strengths-based coaching: see the person before anything else (i.e./ a patient, an athlete, a pupil).
It is the person that suffers depression and anxiety. It is the person who feels back pain, headache and other symptoms. Yet, it is not my back that is in pain; I am. It is not my mind that is depressed, I am. A whole person thinks, perceives and acts all as one — the lived experience. It is this we seek to shape for the better.
I argue then, that we are not going to see a mental health fallout. Instead, there will be a need for services to support, guide and encourage those affected, to re-build their health. Examples include those who are rehabilitating from the impact of the virus and the frontline workers. There will be an advantage of supporting those who now must care for loved ones at home. This can be achieved by providing tools and practices that help them self-care whilst looking after others who in turn need their care.
On being useful
What part can I play? What can I do to contribute to the recovery of society? There are a host of roles we can take that are all based on the best of humanity. We are great at sharing and caring, given the opportunity. That opportunity is now.
Some examples of how you can be useful have already been given. We can choose to look around and see what needs to be done at home, locally and further afield depending upon what you offer. Everyone has strengths and skills that can be used to help others. An often unknown bonus is that in so doing, you boost your own health as well as the person or people you are helping. This is an upward spiral.
As ever, you can take these thoughts and translate them into action in your own way. If you like, share what you do and the effects that it has on you and others. Sharing high point stories impacts positively and encourages others. This way we can build momentum quickly in a desirable direction.
This too shall pass.