by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
I recently felt frustrated by my efforts to practice social distancing and isolation to keep others safe when I looked around to see that many aren’t taking these same precautions.
Our community and country are divided on the issue of wearing face masks as a way to protect others from the risk of getting Covid-19.
There has been a striking difference between those who continue social distancing versus those opting for family holiday gatherings. There are dramatically differing political views and varied approaches to protecting others that stem from completely opposing perspectives. I noticed how this prompted my aggravation and how this could easily lead to becoming angry and stressed.
A friend pointed out that anger toward those who don’t take the pandemic seriously is a righteous kind of anger because it’s about justice and equal care for all. I agree.
But I also sometimes feel my anger toward those with opposing opinions about the pandemic risk treads a fine line toward my becoming disparaging and judgmental. This kind of negative thinking can harm your well-being because it causes stress. Stress causes mental and physical anguish.
As I continue praying about this during my daily Buddhist chanting routine, I’m awakened to the importance of forging respect for the life of every living being regardless of opposing ideologies. I work to steer my thoughts away from a ‘them versus us’ mentality.
As I let go of anything I have no control over, I release negative energy from my heart. I focus instead on what I can do; continue social distancing to protect my elder mother, myself, and others. I focus on how I can positively contribute to the situation. This change of heart helps me cope with my stress.
And it leads me to keep looking for a silver lining in pandemic life.
When I refocus my energy toward the positive within any situation, I become more capable of enduring difficulties with a more cheerful spirit. Doing this inner work is meaningful for me because when I feel better, I treat others better. When I can treat others better, we all feel better.
This long year of social distance and isolation has motivated my practice of gratitude. During this incredibly challenging year, I have learned to develop my sense of appreciation no matter what. I find that actively seeking things, people, and circumstances to appreciate is good for my mood and significantly impacts my day.
If we had gone through this pandemic crisis 20 years ago, the impact of our isolation would have been so much worse. I’m thankful this pandemic didn’t happen until 2020 because now we have the fortune of technology as a way to connect.
Fuel For Deeper Spiritual Practice
Another thing about this quarantine life that I am grateful for is that the stress of this situation has fueled my Buddhist practice of daily chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. I’ve begun using my spiritual practice to go inward for deeper work, reflection, and rejuvenation.
Whether you use prayer, meditation, yoga, exercise, reading, or a combination of these, carving out spiritual time for yourself has a positive impact. Self-care effort is an antidote to the frenzied habit of being constantly busy. It also counters the negative aspects of our excessive social media activities.
Center Yourself On Positivity
Speaking of gratitude, another thing that helps me navigate the challenges of pandemic life is to list three things I appreciate each morning and again each evening. This practice helps me center myself on positivity, regardless of what’s happening around me or in the world. It also raises my life state no matter what my obstacles may be.
Use Restrictions As Creative Fuel
I’m learning to put a favorable twist on social restrictions, too. Limitations push me to look for a new way to do things outside my typical habits or routine. These challenges provide an opportunity to spark innovative thinking, which research proves is good for mind, body, and spirit.
We can’t visit our elders or family members because we don’t want to risk getting or spreading the Covid-19 virus. This constraint has prompted us to find other ways to connect, like visiting elder relatives through the window while using a phone call to speak. When I took Mom to visit my nearly 90-year-old aunt, we stood outside her window singing Merry Christmas via a phone call to my cousin, who was inside with my aunt.
The quarantine has also prompted us to use FaceTime and Zoom for family holiday activities, write holiday cards and letters, and send old-fashioned thank you cards. The calm of writing holiday cards and thank-you letters and the joy we send through these messages bring us a boost in our mood, too.
Transform Old Traditions With A New Approach
These social barriers have provided us with new ways to revisit nostalgic traditions like driving separately to see holiday light decorations while social distancing to protect those at risk. Or parking in front of holiday light displays while chatting with loved ones by phone or FaceTime to share the moment.
Since our family opted for a family Zoom instead of a face-to-face gathering on Christmas, I created videos and photos of my elder Mom’s gift-receiving process. I posted these photos and videos on Google drive for the rest of my family to enjoy. You could do the same or upload the videos and photos onto another cloud service like Amazon, YouTube, or Vimeo! This frees us to focus on heart-to-heart connections during our family Zoom without the distraction of opening holiday gifts.
Online videos and photos can become treasured collections, along with recording legacy stories by your elders for future preservation. Create a digital movie that may be shared online with a simple link (and stored on an external hard drive for use during a future event once the pandemic is behind us).
More Nature Connection
Pandemic 2020 has motivated my nature connection. Nature immersion has become an even more meaningful treasure as well as spiritual and physical replenishment. Plus, it’s free!
My nature walks always inspire my creativity. I often take nature photos and create my products from these, along with positive affirmation statements. I've also written a photo essay series featuring my nature photos here. My nature visits have inspired me to create nature calendars. You can find these and many more of my nature-inspired products here. Nature inspires me to write poetry, blogs, and even dabble in a bit of painting and seasonal projects like leaf art!
Boredom Propels Movement!
The lack of structure from quarantine life has brought boredom, but this has sparked a greater interest in getting more exercise. Exercise outdoors in secluded parks and neighborhoods and even online for changing it up on rainy, snowy, cold days has broken up the boredom of seeing the same walls through work and personal life.
The benefits of exercise decrease stress and regulate hormonal balance. Exercise lowers stress hormone production and boosts physical, mental, and creative energy. So, thank you, Pandemic 2020, for the motivation to get up and move!
Games For Staying Sharp & Quality Downtime
Another perk of pandemic life has been finding new things to keep us both social and cognitively sharp. Game playing has become a way for more quality-based social connection for my elder Mom and myself during this shutdown. As an online business owner, games have also forced me to take much-needed technology and social media breaks and get some quality downtime.
Learning new games pushes us to develop our cognitive skills and grow new neurological pathways. Isn't this way better than becoming a useless couch potato?
I hope these ideas have given you something to appreciate in this challenging year. Leave a comment letting me know. Explore and offer your answers to these questions:
What has the pandemic caused you to appreciate?
What advice do you have for someone to see the silver lining in the pandemic?
How can you use the difficulty of pandemic life as fuel for creativity, gratitude, or connection?
What ideas do you have to improve your quarantine brain?
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by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
If I could go back in time to speak to myself in my youth, or, if there’s one thing I could say to those remaining after I’m gone, the message would be, “Don’t waste your time being afraid.”
Fear has been the one internal opponent that has slowed me down, held me back, or blocked my ideas and actions. Not external obstacles or misfortunes, but this inner voice of anxiety.
In the past 2 years, I’ve started living Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice to do something everyday that scares me. I’ve learned it’s liberating to challenge myself to experience new things, ideas or experiences, or go for higher, different goals as a way to grow my courage overall.
But I’ve also learned that getting to the root of fear is hugely important.
The inner energy of my intent or feeling while taking action makes a powerful impact on the outcome.
It is important to act. Yes, do that.
But go deeper. Look at that fear. Deal with that emotion. Get to the core of it. Spell it out. Analyze it. Ask yourself what you’re afraid of.
Once you get to the root of that fear and dissect it, you find clarity. When you see clearly what your fear is based on, you can use reason to counter each fear.
Let’s use an example:
I’m launching my new online business. This new venture requires that I learn things I’ve never done. That alone has caused me fear.
But when I look at that fear through the lens of reason, I find it’s absolutely reasonable to feel fear simply because this is a new experience for me. Things we haven’t challenged before often naturally make us anxious.
This helps me see my fear as normal for my situation. This viewpoint relaxes me and diminishes my fear. I feel calmer and a bit proud that I’m pushing myself into new things and beyond my comfort zone.
One way to decrease fear is to acknowledge your courage in taking on new endeavors, in pushing yourself to feel the fear and take action anyway. It’s important to take a moment to celebrate that kind of victory. Celebrations of personal accomplishment are also a strong deterrent to feeling fearful!
As a new entrepreneur, and a highly sensitive person with OCD tendencies, I have many things that make me feel anxious. I start a cascade of inner questions to myself:
As a new business owner, the stress can seem relentless and unending. But by getting all my worries in focus in front of me, I can begin to break things down into a clear plan with my critical priorities mapped out.
I'm learning that having all my fears written down allows me a chance to face each one and brainstorm a solution for it. Next, I brainstorm ideas for a contingency plan in case my first solution doesn't work or something else happens to derail it. Sometimes this process enlightens me to a need to re-prioritize or shift my plans to accommodate additional issues and/or time.
Keeping my daily plan and inner intent in line with these priorities allows my mind to find ease, knowing I’m actively addressing everything necessary for reaching my goals. One of the most powerful anecdotes to any fear is taking concrete action. Taking action based on a plan through which I've faced my fears puts me back in the driver's seat of my life and my business success.
How To Get Back Up After A Failure
But, yes, sometimes I flat-out fail to reach goals. Or, I get out of rhythm with my priorities. Sometimes, I start spiraling into a downward stress mode where insomnia rears its head. I get run-down, and out of whack.
Yes, other personal, family or health issues distract my focus or throw me for a loop. I’m human.
When any of this happens--and things will happen--I get back to self-care basics. I refresh my determination. I refresh my determination again. And again. I go back to review my fears and center myself on my values.
As an entrepreneur, and hell, as a human being, I’m learning that it’s not a straight line to happiness and success. Rather, it’s a dramatic, magnificent drama with these crazy, off-the-beaten-path excursions, unexpected adventures, and hurdles that appear from out of nowhere. It’s heavy storms and strong gales of unforeseen problems that completely drench and knock me down into the sloppy mud.
That’s the story.
That’s the part of life that creates the dynamic arch of climactic engagement. It’s also the fuel for catalytic flow to unleash new, fresh, robust, colorful creative juice that leads to a view of an amazing, vast vista.
That new vista is a vision of your joyful fulfillment and the start of a new chapter for previously unimaginable victories.
But, this up-and-down, twisty, turning story cannot emerge without dealing head-on with fear, or without hitting plateaus of illusive limitations that cause you to rear back or stop dead in your tracks.
These obstacles force you to take three steps back, like the lion prepares an attack on his prey, to regroup. Assess. Take care of your inner world. Do whatever you need to refresh yourself and rebuild your inner fortitude.
Then, you may lunge forward, with all your might. That momentum gained from ripping out each fear by their roots will propel you forward in a way that you’ve not experienced until this moment.
Fear makes you face your problems to break through your self-imposed limitations so you may unleash your massive, unlimited, creative, beautiful human potential.
Fear makes you better yourself, both for your own happiness and for others in your life.
I’m learning that for every negative emotion, problem or experience, there is a positive. A way to convert whatever it is into value, inner strength and a source for deeper personal growth and wider progress.
It all goes back to nurturing creativity and inspiration, based on self-care. When we truly do the things that are beneficial for ourselves, we spur positive health, creative energy and the inner qualities we need to improve ourselves and for others.
How Dealing With Your Fear Buoys Your Success
That’s why I’m becoming grateful for my bouts with fear.
After wholeheartedly, directly wrestling with my fear, I find that interaction miraculously morphs into a kind of bearhug, leading me to a moment of gratitude.
This shift is an amazing metamorphosis that allows me a more informed view of my true self and my situation. I feel a burst of powerful confidence, with the strength to go after my goals with clear action.
This mood change propels the reach of my actions. The energy behind my actions grows more confident, joyful, compassionate, deliberate and resilient.
This personal development process reveals how dealing with fear buoys powerful action toward success and growth.
When you see fear as a part of your necessary growth process, it has the potential to be your friend. Fear becomes your guiding voice of wisdom to do the things you must do for a richer, happier life.
So let’s embrace our fears. Addressing our fear is the way to successful, enlightened living.
COMING SOON: Watch this space for new ebooks, products and courses for nurturing creativity and inspiration!
In my INSPIRATION blogs, you’ll find ways to overcome obstacles, reach goals, and experience more joy in the moment with spiritual awareness and inner transformation.