The coronavirus pandemic has, in very short order, changed our daily lives in unprecedented ways. With closures, cancellations, and quarantines appearing in droves, it is understandable that our levels of fear and anxiety are spiking. It is a surreal moment in time as we watch travel slow, and in some cases cease, and the privileges that we are so used to are temporarily unavailable or nonexistent. Imagining self-isolation has many people in a freefall of lack-mentality and urgency.
And yet, I believe this is a powerful time for all of us. In the face of darkness, we are all being invited to flex the power of our consciousness in a way we never have. To witness the change that we can set forth by choosing love over fear, connection over blame, and peace over panic.
Italy, a country known for its dedication to gathering together, sharing food and drink, and delighting in all things social has been hit the hardest. Citizens throughout major cities have been in various forms of mandated lockdown. And yet, in the city of Siena, neighbors leaned from their open windows to sing together, their beautiful melody heard echoing down the streets. A pandemic threatens not only their culture but their lives, and still, the light of their hearts and the sound of their voices proved stronger. It is a profound testament to the human spirit that our ability to seek to share and connect is without limit. Even in the worst of times. (If you haven’t seen the video, watch here.)
It is an important reminder as those of us in the US begin to face our own experiences of quarantine and self-isolation. How can we put connection and love first?
There is a couple I know, the husband has been exposed, and as a precautionary result, he and his wife are both in quarantine. She is incredibly unhappy, in lockdown in a small apartment with her husband and their two children all day for two weeks. She has been in a persistent mindset of blame, blame at her husband for exposing himself to this disease, for creating this frustrating experience, blaming him for her negative feelings.
While this is not an outrageous response—no one wants to be locked down or isolated in their home—it is a detrimental one. This is a time where we can easily fall prey to our negative thoughts and feelings. This is also why I invite you all to see this time as an incredible opportunity.
It is an opportunity for greater and greater experiences of closeness with our loved ones. It is an opportunity for us to truly see where our consciousness is and to practice, moment-to-moment, choosing a consciousness of joy. Even joy found simply in our health, in the tea that we are sipping, in a laugh we share with our spouse, in a song we sing with our neighbors. (If you are looking for ways to infuse your days at home with goodness and joy, read a blog written around the practice of hygge!) link blog here
Truthfully, no one wants to be cooped up. But, whether you are under quarantine or are self-isolating, know that social distancing is massively important.
Public health officials say social distancing is not meant to induce fear or panic. On the contrary, the goal is to protect people who are healthy by keeping them away from the sick. It is a measure we take not only to protect ourselves but to protect others.
“The best tool we have right now in this response is to give individuals breathing room from one another,” Jason Schwartz, an assistant professor in the department of health policy at the Yale School of Public Health, said. “This is really critical.”
The coronavirus is known to spread from person to person through droplets from a sneeze or cough, which can travel about 6 feet. When healthy people inhale those droplets or get them on their hands and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth, they can become infected, too, continuing the cycle of spread.
And history shows us it works. We learned the importance of social distancing during the 1918 influenza pandemic.
When the first cases of flu were reported in Philadelphia on Sept. 17, 1918, authorities “downplayed their significance and allowed public gatherings to continue,” according to a 2007 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Those public gatherings included a large parade in the city on Sept. 28. By the time officials got wise and began shutting down public spaces and events, it was too late. The virus had spread unchecked through the city, and its hospitals were inundated with nearly 50,000 cases. In the end, 12,000 people in Philadelphia died.
By contrast, this study found that applying social distancing in the city of St. Louis lead to a much different outcome. The first cases in that city were reported on Oct. 5, 1918. Authorities worked quickly, implementing social distancing strategies within just two days. Because of the swift action taken by officials to encourage social distancing, St. Louis experienced only 1,700 deaths.
Normally, we don’t want to distance ourselves from life out of fear. Social connection is a human need and something we all require when facing times of struggle and challenge. This is why I want to encourage you to follow in the footsteps of our Italian friends and seek connection every way you can find it.
How can you lean even deeper into connection with your friends and family even when you can’t physically be together?
Conversely, if you are forced into lockdown together, how can you make the most of it? How can you practice a consciousness of gratitude in every moment?
How can you lift the spirits of everyone you know, right now, today? Is it a thoughtful text? A surprise gift in the mail? A coffee or dinner date over FaceTime?
We are equal to the challenges we are facing. Our hearts and minds were made for this time. Each time fear arises, use it as a signal to shift your consciousness. What can you be grateful for? Who can you serve? Who can you love? What song can you sing?
Share in the comments all of the ways that you are staying connected.