This blog was originally posted on KarmaDharma by TEC member Peter Georgariou

COVID-19. Destabilizing, yes. Grounding, equally yes. How can this be?

At some fundamental level, well beyond the fear for our health, we are grappling with the perceived loss of our freedom. The freedom to come and go as we please. The freedom to do what we want, when we want.

True freedom however is not getting up to go to the movies when we want because we’re bored, it is choosing how we decide to show up when we’re under fire.

Two of the most important of those choices are accepting what is, both inside and outside of us, and focusing our energies on what we control.

On the outside, we need to accept that this is going to take a while and things are far from ideal. Our lives, while they will regain some sense of normalcy somewhere down the road, will never totally be the same. We need to accept the current state of the world and we need to stop wasting time wishing things were different. The only outcome of fighting reality is increasing our sadness and anxiety.

On the inside, at any given time, we are all frazzled to some degree or another. For sure. We all have our moments of hope interspersed with despair. Will I get it? Will a loved one get it? Will I lose my job? Will I find a job? Will my business/organization survive? Will this last forever?

We need to be kind and patient with ourselves as we try and navigate these uncharted waters. The emotional roller coaster is part of the journey. And while difficult, we do not need to fuel the fire.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. 

-Haruki Murakami

Things are hard enough as it is. They only get worse when we spend any amount of time trying to change the immutable. Insert Serenity Prayer here!

Sure, COVID sucks. I get it and agree. It’s here. It isn’t going anywhere for now. So what’s your plan?

As a species, we are on top of the food chain for a reason.  We have out adapted every other species on earth. We developed opposable thumbs and a prefrontal cortex.  I’m pretty sure we can get past COVID. Secondly, Mother Nature is clearly trying to teach us something here. Slow down. Reprioritize. Look at how I benefit when you do. Look at how we are all part of a whole. I am not meant to be subjugated.

That said, there undoubtedly will be collateral damage to this crisis. The economy is the obvious one. As an entrepreneur having watched 70% of my revenue evaporate, I get it. But the bigger one that comes to mind for me is the collective post-traumatic stress stemming from that loss of income, or the loss of human contact and/or the loss of our perceived “normal”.

The flip side of that coin however is Post Traumatic Growth. A concept developed by psychologists Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD.

This is the personal transformation that can occur after a traumatic event in which “people develop new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have and a better understanding of how to live life,” says Tedeschi.

 

It can be measured in these 5 main growth inventory areas:

  1. Appreciation of life
  2. Relationships with others
  3. New possibilities in life
  4. Personal strength
  5. Spiritual change

Source: Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD, Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1996 

We have the choice to determine whether COVID-19 is going to lead to post-traumatic stress or post traumatic growth.

  • We get to choose to be a victim or to take charge.
  • We get to choose to live in fear or act with courage.
  • We get to choose to see dead ends or opportunities for rebirth

These choices are always there for us, but they are even more important to recognize and act upon in times of crisis.

It is just like going to the gym.  We only get stronger because we put stress on our bodies creating micro-tears in our muscles which then rebuild themselves to be even stronger to face future stress. This same strain on our mental and emotional states can and will make us stronger and more resilient if we so choose.

We can be a witness to our thoughts and observe them for what they are, just thoughts. It can be a transformative opportunity to welcome the good, the bad and ugly of how we are handling ourselves. It is from that state of self-awareness and introspection that we find openings for growth and the possibility to choose a different path.

So COVID-19 – a curse or a gift. Your choice. Please choose wisely.

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