“Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it.” — Buddha
It’s Monday morning and here in Illinois, we are beginning our fifth week of stay-at-home orders and social distancing. It is gray and cold, and the wind is literally howling. The word ‘bleak’ comes to mind. It’s a good morning for a little inspiration, so challenge accepted!
After a little bit of thought, here are ten blessings that I recognize on this otherwise bleak Monday morning:
- I am inside. No kidding – the wind is howling and it is 35 degrees. I am on my couch with blanket and a cat as I write this. Blessed, indeed!
- I have nowhere to go. Normally at this point, I’d welcome a place to go, but see #1. It is also a blessing to have to stay home.
- I have recognized that lack of time is not really an excuse for why certain things are never done (cleaning out closets, for example), and this leaves me free to discover what my real reason for procrastinating is. Truth and clarity are blessings, too, right?
- I have accepted that certain projects (cleaning out closets, for example) don’t inspire me and I am likely to continue procrastinating. Acceptance is a beautiful thing.
- I have learned to effortlessly use Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Marco Polo to stay in touch with family and friends. In some cases, we’ve talked more since the quarantine began than we did before. Win-win!
- I have come to appreciate the simple act of running errands. Everything from grocery store runs to Home Depot – these little “chores” are so taken for granted, and while maybe they are not “blessings”, I am ready to embrace them again.
- Conversely, I also appreciate being able to order anything from groceries, garden soil, and tonight’s dinner online. I have discovered services like Instacart (that I will continue to use when life gets busy), and local restaurants that have already become favorites. We are blessed to have all these options even when isolated.
- I am picking up old hobbies again, which has been fun. To have a stretch of uninterrupted time to make a mess with craft supplies, sewing, or painting is a total luxury. Do we really need a pandemic to allow ourselves this time? Lesson (and blessings) learned.
- Ditto with cooking. I like to bake and have found some fun desserts to make (like Umm Ali, which I will make again today). It has also been strangely entertaining to play Chopped with what is in the pantry. Creativity, no matter where it is found, is a blessing!
- Without the structure and busyness of a typical day, I have learned to listen to myself and as much as possible give myself what I need to manage this difficult time. This valuable lesson has been the greatest of blessings and worth the isolation and stress of the past four weeks.
Without a doubt, this time has been strange and unsettling. But as Buddha so wisely said, there are blessings in every situation, including this one. The challenge will be to remember these lessons when this stay-at-home time has passed.
“The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety.” –Deepak Chopra
It’s our third week of social distancing and shelter at home. On family group chats, we joke about changing from our day sweatpants to our night sweatpants and how many jigsaw puzzles we’ve done. Yet while we laugh at our imposed laziness, there is a sense of malaise that cannot be ignored. These are scary times.
Anxiety and Imagination
For better or worse, we humans are blessed with imagination. We can create elaborate realities that pass the time as pleasant daydreams, but just as easily we can imagine scenarios that leave us breathless with fear and anxiety.
As the news about coronavirus becomes more grim, and as we realize the ramifications of no work, few face-to-face social interactions, and the possibility of serious illness, it is easy to see why so many imagine the worst and become anxious these days.
Imagine a Better Outcome
But we don’t have to do this. Imagination used in its best form can create a reality that is much more hopeful and optimistic. Here are five ways to release the anxiety and tap into a more positive use of imagination:
- Breathe slowly and deeply when anxiety hits. Focus on feeling your breath entering and nourishing your body and spirit. If you can’t control your breathing, try using a breathing or meditation app to help you visually regulate inhaling and exhaling. Practice it regularly, and use this time to imagine the feeling of being safe and loved. When I was young and feeling anxious, I used to imagine myself sleeping in the palm of God’s hand – totally cared for and safe. That image is one that stays with me now.
- Take stock of what you have and be grateful. Whenever I feel anxious about money or my future, I remind myself that the universe is an abundant place with plenty for everyone. I have a roof over my head, clothes to wear, and food to eat. For today, I have everything I need (and most of what I want). Acknowledging this, and being grateful for it, relaxes my mind and allows me to imagine abundance rather than lack.
- Put things in order. An anxious mind is is cluttered with scary images and fears, and this disorder is often reflected in the space around you. To regain control of your mind, take back control of your space. Make the bed, put something back where it belongs, clean out a small drawer, or organize a shelf. These small acts of physical order can help put a mind at ease and free up mental space for positive imagination to work.
- Go outside. Set aside an hour to walk or go for a run in nature. Work in the garden, rake up dead grass (the order thing again), or plant a garden. Fresh air and activity do wonders to clear negative energy and help you imagine new possibilities. It is hard to feel anxious when the sun is on your face and birds are singing around you.
- Create a vision board. Once you have calmed your mind, creating a vision board is a fun way to use your imagination to design a better outcome to whatever the situation. Use old magazines and a notebook or one of the vision board apps that are available and collect images of the outcomes you desire. The pictures should reflect not just the things you want, but the feelings that are invoked when you think of your ideal outcome. Keep it fluid and update it often to start using your imagination more productively.
Imagination is a wonderful tool to help us create and escape the everyday. But when we imagine the worst that can happen, anxiety is the result. These days of isolation and uncertainty are scary. By harnessing the imagination, we can release our anxiety and create new possibilities for the future.