For people whose usual outlets have been suspended:
- Don’t just try to ride this out till things get back to normal. This approach results in simply finding ways to pass the time. This type of superficial engagement in life takes a toll on the spirit and sets us up for boredom, depression and agitation toward others. While the usual outlets that are meaningful may not be available to some of us due to the stay at home order, by simply filling time, we avoid learning what other activities and pursuits will be meaningful for us. It may be something entirely new. Allow priorities to shift. Take this as a discovery process. Be curious.
- Participate in the well-being of others. Many people are naturally finding ways to do this. It is inspiring. Where there are physical limitations to our ability to do so, prayerful engagement is helpful. Surprisingly, studies show that many people who do not believe in a god do engage in a prayerful equivalent. “I’ll be thinking about you.” Even if the other person doesn’t know that you are thinking about them, it is healthy engagement.
There is also some research support to suggest that compassionate engagement with the suffering of others in our own minds and hearts helps us be less burdened. Peeking into the brain, scientists can see that the average person gets sympathetic pain or secondary trauma with awareness of the suffering of others. People trained in Loving Kindness do not. Instead, they have a compassion response. They are not taking on the suffering of others, which allows them to be aware of more suffering without getting unhealthy themselves.
The exercise they do is to give a little silent blessing to those who are suffering. Bless you, may you have peace, may you have relief from your suffering…. Since these are Buddhists, they are not praying for a god to bless people. They are extending a blessing directly from themselves to the suffering person. I think this is helpful. If you are a person who believes in praying to God to bless someone, in addition to that, try extending blessings from yourself. While it may be uncomfortable at first, over time I think you will find it to be self-affirming along with affirming of others. We can even meaningfully extend blessing to ourselves when we notice we are distressed.
- Continue this list with the things that occur to you now as being helpful to your well-being under these circumstances.