Occasionally, I write about coping strategies for living with chronic illness. For example, a few seasons ago, I penned little life hacks that help me deal with Crohn’s disease. While losses from the pandemic may be easing and transitions to pre-pandemic normalcy seem to be appearing, surely there are still deep needs everywhere. Gentle reminders to trust, ideas to cope and encouragement to persevere are what I feel compelled to offer even now. So as we navigate new realities, I offer these 13 Soulful Shifts to Cope.
13 Soulful Shifts to Better Cope With Pandemic Realities
No matter where this finds you, I want you to know I’m right here. With you. And you are not on the journey alone. When I posted these ideas a year ago, I had no idea what heartache was in store for me and our family.
The virus took one of our own, we suffered through physical and emotional sickness, and we now deal with post-viral issues (fatigue, memory loss, loss of taste, and scent disorders) which affect our mood and outlook.
As I grow older, it feels like indeed suffering belongs and is somehow purposeful to cosmic and eternal purposes. Tears and despair come; moments of numbness arrive too. Yet seeds of hope are scattered everywhere. I look for them and intend to plant my fair share.
At so many junctures these days, I’m not sure about what the next right thing to do is. Are you always sure? So I don’t lean on my own understanding. I pray for discernment and try to remain humbly open. Try to keep allowing reality to be reality and change what I can change. Which is me. In my best moments, the desire blooms to become the fragrance, beauty, and very healing I seek.
My attempts to bring blessing are always imperfect and awkward attempts (apparently it’s a spiritual gift!). But the imperfection can be recycled for good when it is offered to Infinite Goodness. What Divine Mystery and Love are at work in such matters!.
1. Shift Into Gratitude
Counting blessings in a difficult season can be a challenge. A global pandemic and chaotic disruption to all aspects of modern life affect the entire planet. If you continue to feel fear, sadness or confusion, even after many months of the chaos, you are in good company. How does one access gratitude during suffering or despair?
2. Shift Into Heartfulness
Something profound happens when we go beyond our thoughts. When we place our awareness in our hearts and return to the breath. Indeed we are built with the capacity to turn away from fearful chatter and distressing news and go to the silence. To the still, quiet, spaciousness where we meet spirit.
Within the spaciousness, we may slowly begin to sense the beauty of what remains unchanged and pure. With practice and desire, we may come to see that which can never be lost and those treasures which matter most.
3. Seek the Grace for What You Desire
Though it is often tempting during stressful seasons to create distractions, shut down, or repress, I encourage you to be courageous. Take time to feel the pains that disturb you all the way through. The pattern for me personally goes something like this: I fall to my knees and confess I am at the end of my resources and in desperation. I surrender all of it and ask for help. And I request desire, strength, and will to do the next wise thing. Sometimes, desire eludes us, but that void need not paralyze us. For we can always SEEK GRACE to identify our core desire. We can always go deeper into our hearts during times of great disorder or uncertainty.
It’s there where we uncover and discover blessing. And it’s there we can purely receive grace to help us see more clearly what matters.
Sometimes grace comes as a change of mind. And sometimes it is fresh vision to see from a spirit of gratitude. It’s a powerful shift yet may arrive rather gently. (The robin building her nest outside the window? The lovely fragrance of an orange? The notes from a piece by Bach?). Make no mistake…the inner landscape can transform.
While circumstances may remain unchanged or worsen, a fresh set of spiritual eyes can do the impossible. Can bring forth miracles. And can center us in love and gratitude.
4. Cognitively Reframe
One small pivot. What a difference it made a year ago when the national emergency was new, to shift my thinking from “So many shelves at the grocery store are bare as things grow more depressing” to “What a blessing there is still so much food available and that it will be enough.”
The ongoing challenge to shift into gratitude during unsavory chapters. How can we make small shifts–to reject curses and see blessing–even when we simply aren’t feeling it or suffer from fatigue, cynicism or rage?
I wish there were easy answers. As tensions mount, how can we find balance?
5. Identify Your True Identity
You are not your feelings. Or even your thoughts. Don’t push away any feeling or judge yourself for feeling so deeply. Everything is fleeting. Happy feelings are not really even the goal or the gift.
The gift is actually the wondrous miracle to feel at all. To be alive in this moment, fully human, is to feel ALL the feelings. So be extra gentle with yourself as you remember your precious, fragile humanity. Surrender any shame for feeling the sacred gift of feelings. You’re so good. You really are.
6. Acknowledge Your Strength
You can endure more than you think. Humans are strong and resilient. In so many cases, we can feel the depth of grief or fear AND STILL MOVE FORWARD THROUGH THOSE EMOTIONS.
We can dance with broken bones. Or leap while being scared to death. We can offer our brave YES even before we feel ready.
7. Trust What is Trustworthy
Stay open to wonder and mystery. When despair comes, and it’s a struggle for me to recover gratitude, I pray. Often, these prayers are wordless and look more like a surrendered posture. This posture and spiritual practice is always fruitful.
8. Dare to Be Unguarded
Be willing to be vulnerable. When the cynical “life is just too hard” becomes the vulnerable “life is an adventure right now, stretching me, teaching me wildly important lessons,” it isn’t just an attitude tweak or mind game. When an opening occurs in our being, the atmosphere changes too. Providence just may move.
With a less defended posture, we become more teachable. We become more permeable as vessels for new sources of blessing and unexpected help.
9. See the Soul’s Harmony With the Body
Decide to be more intentional about self-care. While this shift may begin in the soul, it has important implications for the body.
For me, personally, discipline for diet and digestive issues are a matter of survival. In fact, what I have learned in the last three years may actually benefit anyone striving to stay healthy during a pandemic.
Remarkably, most of us are not mindful about little harmful habits. Simple practices such as chewing to liquid, eating very slowly, and eating only while relaxed may aid healthy digestion.
Hence, it’s not a good idea to watch the news (with its trauma and tragedy broadcasting dramatically) at meal times.
Better digestion for me means less cramping, less indigestion, and less belly pain. And don’t forget the relationship of digestion to the immune response. Why not give ourselves every chance to fight off infection and disease?
10. Nurture Your Spirit
Carve out spaces in your daily routine for spiritual practice. There are so many beautiful possibilities for quieting the mind, opening the heart, and saying HELLO LOVELY to Presence!
Walking your prayers. You may be tempted to nap more than usual when you feel down. If you are prone to emotional eating, perhaps, you’ll be tempted to overeat. We all have our weak spots.
Make it a priority to move your body in self-kindness; as a gift to your spirit. Runner’s high is apparently a thing…I wouldn’t know! But I CAN say walking has brought more joy and clarity than I can say.
11. Partner With Nature
Let nature sing to you. Depression, anxiety, quarantine, sheltering in place, and social distancing may spell more time indoors for you. Yet nature’s remedy awaits. Explore it with reverence and fresh eyes.
Even gazing at a velvety night sky with its shimmering stars may bring mysterious comfort and healing. No matter how circumstances change, we can be awed by silvery moonlight and reconnect with our cosmic origin.
12. Consider Paradoxes Soulfully
Can suffering become a path to deeper wisdom and love? As long as we keep thinking dualistically in terms of joy and sorrow or right and wrong, we cannot be free to see how these great mysteries belong.
Letting go and becoming an “I don’t know it all” may feel like relinquishing control at a time you desperately crave a measure of it.
Yet that is the time, now is the time, to open those close fists. To let go of control in order to accept MERCY, STRENGTH, GRACE, CREATIVITY and COURAGE. A good pruning and letting go will create more space for those virtues to blossom in the soul.
13. Let Kindness Flood Your Soul
Relentless self-kindness will serve everyone. Putting this into practice is so much more challenging than stringing together these words. So many folks confuse self-indulgence or self-absorption with self-kindness.
It takes excavation work and greater self-awareness to learn self-kindness. While you can reach for help, only you can do this work. While relationship is always required (with nature, with God, with others, with your shadow side), your YES and consent to do the work are essential.
So become your best friend. Talk to you with love. Be gentle and kind with you. Don’t shame you for being human.
Peace to you right where you are.
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