Control, Wisdom, and Compassion: Mindfulness in the Pandemic

By John Linderman

Elm Staff Writer

It seems all our lives have been upended by the COVID-19 pandemic in the past two weeks. All of us have postponed or cancelled trips, flights, and parties that we may have looked forward to for months. College seniors across the country have tentatively lost their graduation and commencement. Life has radically changed, and we find ourselves in self-exile, locked into the world news, riding waves of fear, anxiety, boredom, and ambivalence.

What can be made of all of this? We must dig down into ourselves for the truth, and that lies in mindfulness. It is important to stay in touch with our physical and emotional needs, and here are three reflections to meditate on.

  1. Control

One way we handle sudden change and disorder is with control, albeit over ourselves or others. In “It’s All About Control,” the Association of Psychological Science reports that “If people lack power, they clamor for choice, and if they have an abundance of choice they don’t strive as much for power.”

We have observed this with the widespread panic-buying in grocery stores across the world right now. Since the pandemic is a threat that transcends politics, language, and culture, it has most of us feeling powerless. One way that we have attempted to bring back normalcy in our lives to reassert control.

Take a step back though., What role should control play into our new, quarantined lives? It’s honestly a mixed bag. The panic-buying has been widely critiqued by journalists, most of them citing how harmful it is to less-advantaged people who need goods like toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Similarly, in our own private lives, we should take a step back and breathe before writing down new schedules, workouts, and plans to adhere to.

  1. Wisdom

In the Information Age, there is no shortage of opinion and input, and the pandemic has not been spared. Already there has been a mass influx of false information, some unfortunately peddled out by politicians and people of power. Rumors of cures, false alarms, or theories of bioweapons are taking a direct toll on our collective effort to contain the pandemic.

“As the novel coronavirus spreads across the globe, a wildfire of false and unverified information about the pandemic is following in its wake,” said Janosch Deckler and Zosia Watt of Politico. “Other cases range from warnings over made-up extraordinary measures governments might take to keep people in their homes to false numbers of deaths and the level of preparedness of medical services.”

So far, sources like the World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control and Prevention have been praised for reporting factual information supported by doctors. Amidst the panic and soothsayers, you should only obtain information from reputable sources backed by medical officials. Make sure to read the information at a digestible pace and avoid binging. Calmness and being informed are absolute assets right now.

  1. Compassion

While the pandemic has taken all our lives by storm, remember that nations like China and Japan have been combatting the pandemic for months now. Cities and towns in China have been social distancing for much longer than us and are now starting to report victories for their efforts. We, in turn, should recognize the universality of this issue, and be compassionate towards ourselves and others.

Compassion means thinking twice before bragging about your “corona-cation.” It can also mean promptly staying inside while keeping in contact with your friends and family through phone calls, texting, etc. It also means care and distance to those we many know in our personal lives afflicted by the virus.

Despite the mortality rate being relatively for those under 50, senior citizens and the immunocompromised are at particularly high risk. For all of this, compassion means thinking things through and empathy for everyone. Times are going to be tough for weeks to come, probably months. While we still have each other digitally, this isolation is going to take a mental toll on all of us. Remember that, finally, self-compassion is treating yourself like a friend. Our battle against COVID-19 starts on the personal, individual level. 

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