“My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.” --Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Even during an era of isolation and social distancing, we must not forget that we need each other- now more than ever. I’d like to begin this month’s column by saying how grateful I am for everyone I have in my life. I’m grateful for my health and that no one in my inner circle of family or friends has fallen ill or experienced tragedy from the pandemic or the chaos of the ensuing riots. I’m grateful to all the sung and unsung essential workers. I’m grateful to have adequate food and shelter in an unpredictable economy that is always on the verge of shutting down. Lastly, and most importantly, I have immense gratitude and respect for my own resilience- that despite all the hardships of this last year, or maybe even because of them, I still somehow emerged victorious.
Outwardly, there was no personal victory for me to celebrate in 2020; in fact, it will be remembered as one of the most difficult times in my life, and probably for countless others, too. Nothing significant happened: my financial problems weren’t miraculously solved. I didn’t find the dream job or a wonderful and devoted new lover. I tried, but I didn’t quite achieve all my health goals either, and I still have much work to do on processing and getting rid of the emotional baggage and negative belief systems that I had been carrying before the pandemic.
The isolation of quarantine was not something any of us were prepared for and as a social creature, I felt overwhelmed by the loneliness that came with the fear of a deadly and invisible enemy to protect myself from every time I left my house. But looking a little deeper into the trials of 2020 – I feel amazed that I had the strength and determination to keep moving forward with my dreams. I found the courage to get through days and even weeks by focusing on healing myself - one walk, one cry, one quiet cup of tea at a time.
This unordinary holiday season, most of us will need to deal with a lot of emotions about things that we are helpless about: the CDC has advised against any holiday travel. During this time of year, when we look forward to being social with relatives, friends and our community at large- many are forced this year to be isolated. Ignoring all the abrupt and unpleasant changes simply won’t do- we must accept the change to create a new harmony in this world, and in our hearts through peace, love and joy.
Peace on Earth
“When we come out of this, I hope that we move collectively in the direction where we don’t see the pandemic as a curse, but as an opportunity to reverse climate change, help sustainability, create a world with more peace, social and economic justice, healthier and happier, and joyful.”
– Dr. Deepak Chopra, in “Why do we take existence for granted?”
Health and wellness expert Dr. Deepak Chopra has guided people on understanding the mind-body connection through spiritual means such as meditation, yoga and intentional thinking through his teachings at his ashram, the Chopra Center. According to Chopra:
“Feeling peace in our lives right now by reducing our stress is as important as protecting ourselves from the virus. Panic and stress cause inflammation in our bodies and compromises our immune system. "
Focus on nurturing your body during this time because the signs of stress usually manifest physically and immediately. We might already be holding a lot of stress in our backs and shoulder regions due to pandemic fatigue. If it is possible in your town to schedule a massage, give yourself the gift of getting one weekly or every other week during this time, it might be a bit costly but you’ll find it cures all sorts of other disorders as well, so you deserve this healing. Offer to give your partner consistent massages to build intimacy- the physical connection of touch makes both giving and receiving a massage pleasurable and stress –relieving. Try some form of mental conditioning through physical means by trying yoga, Tai Chi or martial arts, all of which are known to create mental clarity and peace and can be done safely at home via online or Zoom session.
The weather can be a major downer for some, adding to holiday depression. Instead of resisting it try embracing it with a paradigm shift or a new perspective. Scandinavians, who must face long, dark winters, have a saying: “there is no bad weather, just bad clothes.” Friluftsliv is the Nordic concept of being outside no matter what the weather forecast because taking fresh air and being in nature is a form of spiritual healing and daily regeneration. Splurge on a jacket, warm boots, scarves, gloves, etc. Even if you have never done it before during winter, make it a point every day to get outside for a walk and feel the chill on your face- it even kick starts your metabolism to be in the cold for short periods of time.
While the tendency of the holidays is to drink and eat decadent foods, this year, consider scaling back on habits that tend to take away your peace. Alcohol is a depressant, and while it may feel good to indulge in the moment, the next day usually results in low-energy; a noticeable drop in our mood towards ourselves and others, and it can lead to deeper depression and binge eating. Speaking of eating, many of us simply won’t be that busy this year with usual holiday activities such as shopping, traveling, wrapping gifts and making things for holiday parties -even seasonal decorations in most cities have been scaled back or canceled to discourage crowds.
In other words, we won’t be busy burning calories to justify binge eating and drinking, which can wreak havoc on our bodies, causing everything from inflammation in our digestive systems to rapid weight gain, and ultimately, we feel guilty and disappointed in ourselves later on. This year make it a point to allow yourself a small treat every day or one glass of alcohol (it's still a time to celebrate) but don’t keep an excess of sugary desserts or booze around the house – the temptation can be too strong. Try to save drinking for only the big holiday days, and keep track of how much you drink and make sure you set limits and cutoffs. In next month’s article, I will write about ushering in love and joy into our hearts for 2021, no matter what state the world is in.
By: Jyoti Paintel