I know, this might sound pessimistic, but hear me out…
“I hope that this whole COVID-19 thing goes away soon so we can resume our regular lives.”
“I hope this quarantine will be over soon!”
“I hope that things will go back to how they used to be soon.”
You may be thinking or hoping these things. But recently I’ve been pondering the possibility that COVID-19 may actually never go away and we may have to learn to adapt and live with it. It may be like influenza—seasonal, with a recommended shot and a new virus that becomes a part of our lives.
We don’t know when the quarantine will be over, and even when we’re given a specific date, that date keeps getting pushed further and further back. I am seven weeks into quarantine and I am just about to go stir crazy. The bleak reality is things will not go back to how they used to be. Ever. And that makes me feel disheartened, discouraged, and sad.
But when I am able to be mindful and sit with these feelings and thoughts from a non-judgmental place, I am able to see that I was clinging to the past and how things used to be. At the same time, I was being hopeful about the things in the future.
The cause of my suffering: wishing for things to be different than they presently are. I am reminded that this is what mindfulness is all about—being in the present moment.
Living in hope prevents us from living in the present. It stops us from accepting what is, right now. Hope puts us in a perpetual future mindset.
“I’ll be happy when…”
“The moment x changes, then…”
“If only… then…”
How many times have you said, “I’ll be happy when I get a promotion, own a house, buy this fancy car, marry the perfect partner, fill in the blank”? I know I have said these things many times. But that’s like marrying a person for their “potential” instead of accepting them for who they are right now. We all know how that plays out…
I’m not saying that having hope is a “bad” thing, or not to have any hope. Maybe it’s what gets you out of bed each day or helps you stay motivated. Maybe it’s something to look forward to, and if it helps you in some way, then great. It’s great as long as it’s helping you take action and not just keeping you in a waiting state.
A waiting state based on external circumstance, an unforeseeable future date, or potential “something” that may or may not ever happen, is not helpful. Clinging on to this type of hope is not helpful.
What if instead we said…
“I don’t know if this COVID-19 thing will ever really go away, but what can I do right now to make my life feel more normal/regular?”
“This quarantine is still not over. What can I choose to focus on and do right now?”
“This pandemic is literally changing and impacting so many areas of my life. How can I use this opportunity to grow, reassess, learn new things?”
From this shift in mindset, you are empowered. You have clarity, you can make choices, you can act, you can choose—when you accept the situation as it is right now, giving it permission to exist instead of wishing for it to be different. This reduces our resistance, reduces our suffering, and allows us to operate from a mindful place of clarity.
Perhaps we can then cultivate something called “wise hope.”
As Zen teacher Joan Halifax says, “Wise hope is not seeing things unrealistically but rather seeing things as they are, including the truth of suffering—both its existence and our capacity to transform it.”
We can either be frustrated with the current situation, thus suffer, or we can accept it for what it is and focus on what we can do right now.
Personally, I know that if I stay in the “wishing things were different” mindset and after weeks of isolation (and who knows how much longer) I can easily go downhill into oversleeping, laziness, binging Netflix, eating absorbent amounts of ice cream, and not keeping up with self-care.
These things can quickly snowball into decreased mood, increased negativity and anxiety, unproductivity, and even depression. I know how easy it is to slip into that, and I don’t want to go there. Rather, I consciously choose not to go there. It all starts with how I reframe my thoughts through acceptance and then take action.
Hope: “I hope that this whole COVID-19 thing goes away soon so we can resume our regular lives.”
Acceptance & Action: “I don’t know if this COVID-19 thing will ever really go away, but to make my life feel more normal during isolation, the action I’m going to take is to keep my daily routine. That means going to sleep at a reasonable time, setting an alarm even on weekends, getting fresh air and sunlight on my patio, meditating, eating well, stretching/practicing yoga/doing pushups, showering, and prioritizing self-care. I know that even on days I don’t feel like doing these things, I have the power to choose. I can choose to not do these things and feel crappy/unproductive/lazy, or I can choose to continue my daily routine because I know it increases my overall happiness and well-being.”
Hope: “I hope this quarantine will be over soon!”
Acceptance & Action: “Although I hope this quarantine will be over soon, all this extra time is such an opportunity! I can finally start reading that book that has been on my shelf for the last year, take that online course I’ve always wanted to take, make bread from scratch, deep clean my house, and study online marketing! I re-assessed my 2020 goals that I had set out earlier in the year and made a ‘to-do list’ and a ‘want-to-do’ list that I can work toward given the current situation. I have been able to complete some of the things on my ‘want-to-do’ list and it has brought me a lot of joy.”
Hope: “I hope that things will go back to how it used to be soon.”
Acceptance & Action: “Things will not go back to how it used to be. We are always changing and growing because if we are not growing, then we are dying. We see this all the time in nature. A plant never stays static; it is either growing or dying. There is no in-between. So every day I am choosing to live, which means I am choosing to grow. I am taking this time to reflect on what has worked for me in the past, and how to make it better, releasing what hasn’t worked for me and/or changing direction. What a beautiful opportunity to press the RESET button!”
Although this quarantine may be frustrating, boring, lonely, stressful, fill in the blank, it can be an opportunity to reset, transform, grow, change direction, and reinvent yourself. Which will you choose?
About Yurika Vu
Yurika Vu is hosting a free 1 day “Self Love” day where she interviews 5 of the top experts in Self Love! If you struggle with confidence, worthiness, and self acceptance- these short videos teach you simple practical skills you can incorporate right away to start increasing your confidence! Opt into “A Mindful Self Love Day” at https://themindfullifesummit.com/self-love/.