The Inside Job That Won’t Go Away

My moods have been roller coastering through this coronavirus crisis, and I’m finding the effort to maintain my optimism hard to maintain. My morale can shift multiple times in a day. Despite dispensing a lot of semi-useful advice on the professional blog, I’d be lying if I said I had my collective s#!t together. This is when being a “highly sensitive person” (or equivalent) has a tremendous downside. Today I’m going to talk to myself and try to remind myself of ways to think constructively in the midst of constant turmoil. Maybe my reminders to myself will help you.

Do Positive/Constructive Things for Yourself

During one of my previous bad cases of depression, I decided to make sure I did one positive thing for myself to improve my life. It had to be a deliberate act, not something obvious like getting dressed or taking a shower. It meant buying a book or reading something I liked or writing something I knew I wanted to write just to get myself in the habit. Doing one good thing for myself per day reinforced the following notions:

  • My life was worth living if I was doing something worthwhile with it.
  • I was worth doing good things for.
  • If I didn’t do anything good for myself, I couldn’t count on anyone else to do so, either.
  • The constructive thing could be added to other constructive things to make something greater than the sum of the parts.

Fake It Until You Make It

This morning my positive action was add a song I liked to my iTunes mix and start playing it. The song (“December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” by The Four Seasons) because it reminded me of some good times I had with my family in my childhood. I didn’t immediately get 100% better, but I got my mind in the right gear to start think constructively in other directions. Sometimes I just need that extra little spark to get the inner pilot light lit.

Recall Lessons from My Reading

“What good are all those pushups if you can’t even lift a bloody log?”
–Alfred to Bruce Wayne, Batman Begins

I am obviously not Bruce Wayne. I am, however, a regular reader of philosophy. One philosophy I’ve been a regular reader of is Stoicism, which is one of several schools of thought that emphasizes: “I can’t control the circumstances around me, but I can control my reactions to them.” Well, that sounds great in theory. What about in practice? In reality, I have not been doing a good job of practicing what I read or even profess to believe. My inner pessimist has a fatalistic outlook on this whole crisis, and quite frankly he needs to go sit in the corner and shut up.

  • Do I have any control over what the government does in this situation? No.
  • Do I have any control over what other people do in reaction to this situation? No.
  • Do I have any control over how long this situation will last? No.
  • Do I have any control over whether I get the virus? Somewhat, by staying home as much as possible, washing my hands, etc.?

Okay, then. It’s time to start focusing on the thing(s) I have control over.

Spend My Time Constructively

As of now, I have multiple things I should or can do:

  • My day job, since I’m still able to work from home.
  • Take walks away from people to get exercise and work off stress.
  • Learn to play the piano/keyboard I have in my office.
  • Use the time to write a couple stories I have in mind.
  • Play music that makes me happy.
  • Buy and eat food that’s good for me.
  • Read books on my to-read list.
  • Get a sufficient amount of restful sleep.
  • Continue not drinking alcohol for my mental and physical health.
  • Keep in touch with my family and friends and offer or accept support as needed.
  • Be of some help to others (as appropriate).
  • Avoid consumption of the news in large batches.
  • Do some constructive fantasizing/planning for life after the virus.
  • Assume/remind myself daily that, “This, too, shall pass,” and that there WILL be life after this mess concludes.

I cannot guarantee that any or all of these things will help. I can testify to the fact that many of them have not helped; thus the up-and-down moods. But as Superman said to Lois Lane, “I have to try, damn it. I have to do something.” So, I’ll keep trying to do what I can for myself. You do for you, and maybe a bunch of us might come out of this mess a little better than we were before.

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