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Corona Virus: accepting reality

"To find the courage to change what can be changed,

To receive the serenity to accept what can not be changed,

To have the wisdom to make the difference between the two."

Reinhold Niebuhr


"To find the courage to change what can be changed..."

This crisis is a reminder of how little control we really have and this is a truly humbling experience. Anxiety is the perception that there is a loss of control with regards to our lives and it is clear that in the current situation, with the strict reduction in personal freedom and what we have taken for granted for so long, it feels that we are not in control of how and when we will regain some normality.

For example, my teenager children resent very much not feeling in control, especially at a time when they are becoming much more independent so to cater for this need for control we have developed as a family rituals that can help us getting into a routine and give some structure to the day.

As a family we have decided to wake up at the same time as before, share daily house chores like cleaning and cooking, go out for walks, attend virtual gym training, and connect using video with the rest of our family, especially the grand-parents who are much needing interaction times with their children and grand-children. We also have play-time together again, cards or board games, things which had kind of disappeared from our lives. All in all, it made us realise that we have still a great deal of control of how we structure our life day by day. It might not be entirely what we want but it soothes our daily life and brings some psychological safety into our life.

"To receive the serenity to accept what can not be changed..."

But anxiety is also very much about trying to imagine the future and the questions of my children are about : “what about school? What about end exams”? “When will I see my friends?”. I have my own questions and no answers for the time being. What I know however is that anxiety does not live in the here and now and to open the door of the present moment, it simply takes to focus on the breath. I have also shared with the children a simple question which helped me very much during the illness of my wife. When a negative thoughts would come, it was always related to some fear of losing her in the future, I forced to ask myself: “Can I do something about it now?”. If I concluded I could, then I would do what could be done and I would feel better. If I concluded I could not, I would thank the thought for the reminder and let it go. It would come back a few minutes later, or an hour or a day, and I would ask the same question again. If nothing was to be done now, then I would let it go and breathe it out. Overtime, my anxiety reduced strongly independently of how the situation was evolving. So the question is back on use and my children are experimenting with it to find out for themselves if it makes a difference or not in their life. Accepting what cannot be changed is definitively a lesson for them, an early introduction to some of the limitation of our world.

"To have the wisdom to make the difference between the two..."

So the invitation about the present time is to become more aware as to what is happening outside of ourselves and what it does to us. By pausing, slowing down, asking ourselves what is within our control and what is not, we can bring some distance between the situation and ourselves, bring back choice, the true choice as to what we want to influence and what we decide to accept. Reminding ourselves this timeless wisdom will certainly help us better deal and experience the current times.


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