Pandemic Hacks: Feel Better, Safer and more in Control

This is part of a series from the World Health Organization

We’re all facing a very tough two or three months right now with the worsening pandemic, economic uncertainty, political messes, winter weather, etc. The COVID-19 vaccines are a light at the end of the tunnel but we’re still deep inside a pretty dark tunnel. Right now it looks like a damn steep climb to get the end and into the light. 

In this free issue of Need to Know: Science and Insight I‘ve collected ideas, tips and ‘hacks’ to help us get through the next few months. Please do share: https://leahy.substack.com\

Focusing on things we can’t control like politics, climate change, the weather and so on leads to anger, frustration and depression. The ancient Greeks recognized that trying to control the uncontrollable, including trying to control the future, was the main source of our misery and unhappiness. 

The Need-to-Know about feeling less helpless and more in control is to avoid dwelling on things we can’t control. There’s research showing that reducing exposure to depressing/negative information — pandemic reports, political shenanigans, crime reports — can help us feel better.

Doom-scrolling’ through negative stories and commentary cultivates what psychologists call “mean world syndrome” and affects how we see others and our feelings of security and optimism about the future. It’s not about ignoring what’s happening in the world but limiting exposure to the bad stuff and actively seeking out the positive. 

Here’s a bit of wisdom that helps me apply the brakes:

‘Your mind is like tofu; it tastes like whatever you marinate it in.’

— Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School, citing his meditation teacher.

Here’s a few tips and ideas I’ve collected from various sources to help get through the next couple of months: 

  • Connect with friends and classmates. Call up a couple this week and try not to talk politics. We need social connectedness to be healthy and happy
  • Look for your life’s bright patches and be grateful to have some. And trust that there will be more to come
  • Go for walks no matter the weather. Find a bit of nature to enjoy, it can make a big difference in how you feel. Go with family and friends or neighbours. Be social but stay 6 feet apart.
  • Learn new stuff. Books, seminars, courses, lectures, hobbies. Anything that helps me stay off-line is what I look for. 

For more go to Need to Know: Science and Insight

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