In the midst of a global pandemic, we certainly could benefit from having hope! I am not going to focus on COVID-19 as you can find numerous resources online about that. Instead, I want to look at hope — the very thing that can help us navigate this unprecedented challenge. As I was thinking about how to best encourage and support the readers of this post I came up with an acronym from the word HOPE.
H = Helpful Thoughts and Behaviours. This is a time where we can choose really destructive or detachment-driven options or we can choose helpful, effective thoughts and behaviours. A couple of questions to ask yourself: Is what I’m thinking about helping me? Is it allowing me to be effective in how I navigate the problems I am facing? This doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge and process our feelings — in fact, we have to in order to figure out what we can do otherwise we will stuff the emotions and spend our time in detachment (zoned out/autopilot/staring-eating-acting mindlessly). After we notice our feelings, we can put our brains back ‘online’ by thinking about what we have done/are doing that is helpful. (Excellent article on hacking the brain when it loops with anxiety: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/13/well/mind/a-brain-hack-to-break-the-coronavirus-anxiety-cycle.html)
O = Opportunity. It may seem odd to talk about opportunities when we literally have no control over a global pandemic! Or do we? If we look for the opportunities, we may come up with some of the most amazing and ingenious things. For example, distilleries are making hand sanitizer. Someone created a ventilator valve with their 3-D printer! People with sewing machines are making face masks for our medical personnel. The Canadian government has encouraged people to think outside the box — to get creative and problem solve. As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Whether Plato or Frank Zappa deserves credit for this quote, the meaning is clear: difficult situations bring about ingenious solutions! Crisis will always bring about the worst in us (toilet paper hoarding and stealing all the hand sanitizer from a cancer ward) and it will also bring the best out of us (donating meals to hospital staff and 15 year olds giving away hundreds of sanitation kits to the homeless). What if we looked for opportunities to make this better?
P = Purposeful. Whether you are in 14 days of self-quarantine like I am or just staying at home as we’ve been encouraged to do, it helps if we have a sense of purpose. A wisdom figure wrote, ‘without a vision [purpose] the people perish.’ Purpose gives us a reason to get out of bed and it also brings a sense of satisfaction. Doing something purposeful is not just busying yourself or feeling the need to be (or appear) productive — being purposeful means to use your time, energy and resources in a way that means something. This can include things around your home like spring cleaning, fixing something in need of repair, reading a book, finishing a craft project, organizing a storage room, volunteering to fetch groceries for someone in isolation, write a song, etc. Rather than slipping into the zombie stare of mindless living, determine to do something purposeful. What you do with your time may be work, pleasure or somewhere in between — just choose something with a specific goal in mind. (Oh, and don’t let ‘all or nothing’ thinking keep you from doing anything! Each purposeful thing we do does matter and makes a difference).
E = Effort. One meaning of the word ‘effort’ is “a conscious exertion of power.” What a wonderful concept to be able to exert power when there are so many things presently outside of our control! By putting effort into things, we might actually change some outcomes. During times of war, there is something called ‘the war effort’ which is “the total work done to achieve a particular end” i.e. the end of the war. According to Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English “this is something done by all the people in a country during a time of war.” Can you imagine if all the people in our country put effort into coming against the destruction of the COVID-19 pandemic? ‘All the people’ starts with me, and you, and the next person. If we each put some effort into navigating this time with hope, our world will come through this in the best possible way.
I’ve heard people say this pandemic will change our lives forever — I kind of hope it does. May it make us more kind and loving to each other, more grateful & appreciative, more focused on what really matters, less consumed by money & possessions, less self-absorbed & greedy, less judgmental and divided, and most of all — may it make us better people.