Coping with COVID

Jan 01, 2022

I did not expect to be writing about what Covid taught me. My teenage daughter and I made it 18-months without getting Covid. We took every precaution and were vaccinated when, two-days after a Thanksgiving trip to Boston, we tested positive for Covid-19. Given this may be true for so many others, I thought I would share four tips that helped us cope with Covid – or that may be useful in any other unpredictable, anxiety producing event.

1. Cultivate calm

I’m super big on self-care and doing everything possible to stay calm – morning meditations, daily long walks with my dogs, yoga, journaling, meeting with my coach, and checking in with my therapist. Yet none of that helped when I got Covid. The anxiety was real. So imagine where I might have been without everything I was already doing to stay calm…

A few months ago, I established a morning meditation routine after a conversation with my coach about an overall sense of unsettledness that I was experiencing. Each morning, I tune into my body to determine what I feel like I need. Sometimes, I just breathe, sometimes I repeat a mantra (“I surrender” is a really good one for me), and sometimes I choose a guided meditation from the Insight Timer app.

Morning meditations have helped me to start my day from a place of calm and they have also helped me to be more present for my work and for my clients. Meditating helps me make healthier choices and to return regularly to operating from a place of abundance.

But I hadn’t been closing my days with meditation. In fact, most of my days ended with me, on the couch, watching TV. The onset of Covid had me tossing and turning at night, and going deep into the web with questions like: “Will I ever smell again?” “Will this ringing in my ears ever stop?” “Does my teenager’s asymptomatic Covid mean she can’t get long covid?” And many more. But guess what? Googling that shit makes it worse.

This taught me to now end my days with more meditation. We can’t hear it too many times, we only have the present. When I feel anxious, I’m ruminating over what happened or stressing about what might happen and none of that makes me feel any better. The present makes me feel better.

When you hear that noise in your head and that chaotic buzz in your body, maybe because of Covid or maybe just because – sit in a chair, ground your feet to the earth, and focus your attention on your body. Breathe your energy down and drop the noise and the buzz into the earth. Make space for the fear, and witness it, but try to let go of controlling it.

One of my favorite poems in the world is called, Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. In the poem, she says, “you only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” I repeat that over and over until I feel calm.

2. Take nothing for granted

This is my first experience with the loss of one of my senses and it is disorienting. I’m one of the people for whom Covid meant losing the sense of smell. I fried tofu with garlic, spring onions, shallots, ginger, szechuan pepper, red chilis and black pepper. Smell: zero. Taste: nothing.

Lately, I’ve been practicing trying to smell again, training my brain to remember what things smell like. I’ve chosen a few scents that are strong and familiar to practice with, and more importantly, I’m paying attention and feeling grateful for what is available to me: sight, sound and touch. I notice that as I appreciate those things more, they fill me with a sense of gratitude for what I do have. And the act of working to smell again, grounds me in the present.

Gratitude may seem like an overused word these days, but if we say it alot, it’s because it matters. When we operate from a place of gratitude, we feel calmer and more connected. We stop racing to get what we don’t have, especially when we’re not sure if we will ever have it again. Instead, we appreciate what we do have.

I’m enjoying books and music more. I’m appreciative of what I can’t smell -–- like the stuff I have to pick up when I walk my dogs. Finding the silver lining really works.

3. Connect. Connect. Connect.

Something about having Covid made me stop and take stock of what I do and how I do it. I am a coach and I teach leadership, so depth of connection has always been critical. However, this has made me feel more deeply.

Strong relationships are the strongest predictor of life satisfaction. Feeling connected to each other and to the purpose in our work is far more important than making money or achieving success. During this time, I have noticed the deep and sustained impact that human connection has on my own sense of wellbeing.

Also because I’ve been isolating, the experience of connecting on Zoom has been a gift rather than a fatigue inducing annoyance. I have looked forward to every session with every client and have been touched more deeply by the power of sitting with people who are working to improve the quality of their lives, their leadership and their contributions.

4. "'Hope' is the thing with feathers

In Emily Dickinson’s famous poem, hope is the strong-willed bird that sits in each of us and sings no matter what. More recently, Barack Obama talked about hope not as blind optimism, not as ignoring the enormity of what we are all facing, but as the ability to cultivate courage to remake the world as it should be. I have been grateful for science and I continue to have hope. My case of Covid is mild, because I’m vaccinated and because we have made such progress in the last 18-months, and it gives me hope that we will continue to meet the challenges ahead, no matter how big.

This reflective time has taught me that being calm, grateful and connected provides me the foundation to have hope for a better future. With the people I coach, I often talk about positive emotional attractors. When the leaders with whom I work face even bigger challenges and opportunities, I have them visualize it all going well, and I ask, “what do you see?” and “how do you feel it in your body?” From that place, and with this foundation, we rise to meet the challenges of the day, even those we can’t entirely control, like Covid.


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