I must have looked like an air traffic controller in the midst of a nervous breakdown as I ran around the neighbourhood wearing a giant set of headphones dodging imaginary aliens. It was all pretty normal on the streets – the sun shone and the pavements teemed with walkers, but I could hear the sounds of an impending apocalypse. Thud! Squelch! Squeal! ‘There’s an alien behind you, veer to the left Risky!’ boomed a voice.
I was testing out a fitness app for a client called Apocalypse Survival Training where I am a secret agent (called Risky!) trying to save London from an alien invasion. It’s a story based exercise experience where a cast of fellow survivors join me in an attempt to get fit enough to survive an apocalypse.
It felt like a timely exercise given that we are living through the biggest crisis of my lifetime and it got me thinking – what does a person have to do to be pandemic ready?
I’m not talking about the practical things like making sure you have a freezer the size of a house, buying up enough pasta to feed a small town in Italy and sleeping with the milkman to get on his priority list, no, I am talking about mentally. How do you prepare yourself for the emotional fallout of a pandemic?
Forget the army, the SAS and Bear Grylls, because the person who seems to be coping with this better than anybody I know, is my spiritual mentor Marion Young. She is in her element and explains that this moment ‘a shift in human consciousness’ was pre-planned and that we all decided to incarnate at this time because of it.
That may sound a bit la la for your liking and I get it, but during one of our conversations the penny dropped and I realised that the year of spiritual mentoring I did with Marion in 2019 was the perfect preparation for this crisis. I have all the tools I need to withstand the storm.
That doesn’t mean I always use them of course. There are still days (many of them too!) where I stay up too late watching Netflix (damn you Money Heist!) and am too tired to meditate the next morning; I eat too much chocolate and lose my rag with the family. BUT….I honestly feel I can cope with almost anything when I use the techniques that Marion taught me.
So without further rambling, here are my top tips on how to stay sane during a pandemic:
• By all means run away from aliens, but do not do the same with feelings. If uncomfortable emotions surface, don’t try and push them away. Feel them fully. The more you actively invite them in, the quicker they pass.
• Kick the worry habit. It’s hard I know, but worrying about the future is pointless. Try and think about what is in front of you right now. Take each day minute by minute. If you are really struggling with worry, try and give yourself five-minute breaks where you go somewhere quiet and refuse to engage with negative thoughts.
• Before you go to sleep, write down three things that you are grateful for – make these different each day. It will make you appreciate how much you have in your life right now.
• Ask the universe for help. To be honest, this is the thing I struggled with most when I started working with Marion. ‘But I don’t believe in God!’ I’d cry. Forget what you believe, what you’ve been told etc and just try it out. Don’t use the G word if it feels uncomfortable; call it mother nature, the universe, life force, Mickey Mouse or whatever, but just ask. What’s the worst that can happen?
• Stop trying so hard. I am a control freak and my default setting is to work really hard at getting things in order and making things happen. The irony is, when I get tired and ‘give up’ fantastic opportunities fall into my lap. Try reading The Surrender Experiment by Michael A Singer. He decided to let life take the reins and his story is extraordinary.
• I appreciate that for some, this pandemic will be really tough. Perhaps a loved one has died or you’ve lost your job. You don’t need glib self-help phrases at a time like this, but when and if you feel ready, ask yourself ‘What can I learn from this situation?’ My father died earlier this year and it was one of the biggest and most illuminating lessons of my life.
• Dive into the now. You read so much about present moment awareness these days and I am not banging on about it because it’s hip. It is one of the most liberating things you can do. Even if you only manage it for a few seconds, it will make you feel better. Pay attention to what is happening RIGHT NOW. What can you see, hear, feel, smell and touch? I reach this state best when I am surrounded by nature. When I gaze at a beautiful rose or tree, I am so overwhelmed by its beauty, I cannot think of anything else. Eckhart Tolle is a good place to start if you want to know more.
• Get high on nature. Honestly, even if you are in a flat with not a tree in sight, get something green in your life. Order some flowers, get a pot plant or better still, go and find a park. I am thrilled to see Facebook feeds awash with photographs of nature rather than holiday snaps (I have posted one from my daily walk above). All the beauty you ever need in your life is on your doorstep. Everything smells wonderful at the moment too and the cow parsley is out!
• Avoid the news and downbeat films or TV series. It’s best not to fill your head with upsetting news and scenes of violence, but I can’t talk because I am addicted to Money Heist on Netflix, which features gunfire every five-minutes. All I know is, I feel much better if I listen to uplifting music or birdsong. Round here the birds are positively showing off. They are singing so loudly, I started to wonder if they’d rigged up a sound system.
• Routine. Get one. Try and get up at a reasonable hour and put normal clothes on. It’s okay to slob out in your PJs from time to time, but not every day.
• Enjoy the slow lane. Use this unusual period as a time to rest, reboot and think about how you want your life to be when we get to the other side. What aspects of this new way of being would you like to take with you?
• Don’t bottle things up, talk to people who won’t mind if you break down in snotty sobs or bleat endlessly about how terrified you are. Everybody is shit scared by this thing, even if they don’t always show it. I’ve been using Zoom to this end. Apparently there are fears that the Chinese can spy on you through the platform, but frankly, I’m not sure they or anybody else will be interested in anything I have to say.
• Surrender. It’s a tough one for us control freaks, but the fact is, we are not in the driving seat. Nature is. It’s managed okay without us for a few billion years, so we have to assume that everything will work out for the best in the end.
• Be your own cheerleader. Make sure you are your own biggest fan and celebrate your achievements, even if all you’ve managed to do in 24-hours is brush your teeth and watch Emmerdale. Yay. Go you! I’ve noticed that when I root for myself, life improves considerably.