MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “covid-19”

Languishing

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Do you feel it too? It’s quite common nowadays. That sense of not moving forward, of being underproductive, of aimlessly drifting in life. There is a term coined for it: it’s called languishing. Quite the opposite of flourishing, it’s the sensation of feeling empty and stagnant. Of feeling “blah” and “meh”. It’s the loss of purpose that two years in a pandemic have caused. That absence of meaning for anything we do.

As this NY Times article explains: “Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity. Languishing dulls your motivation, disrupts your ability to focus, and triples the odds that you’ll cut back on work. It appears to be more common than major depression — and in some ways it may be a bigger risk factor for mental illness”.

People worldwide have been affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic to a level they cannot explain. Hence, the term invented for this inexplicable feeling. We are dispirited, discouraged to do more. It often appears that we’ve lost the will to do something astounding because we see no point in it anymore. Our mental health is perhaps our most valuable asset and what has been most severely affected by this pandemic. Yet, we usually don’t recognise it, sometimes because we don’t want to admit it, and most times because we can’t really explain what it is that’s wrong.

We’re angry more often than usually. We become irritated by the slightest of things – by the tone of a person’s voice, the queues at the supermarket, the agitation in traffic jams, the high prices, the stalling of public transport, the inefficiency of the public service… anything can spark a distress that is difficult to mentally control. And then it becomes a domino effect of things going wrong, adding to the existing stress and the thoughts about the futility of it all.

Counsellors advise you to name your emotions, to get in touch with your inner self through mindfulness, to take it easy and give yourself time to go through the process, to relax and enjoy things as much as possible, to generally ‘be present’. We are told to focus on small goals because they are more easily achievable and bring satisfaction all the same. To transcend this feeling we need to start small, acknowledging, however, what we’re dealing with. Managing mental challenges is a feat in itself. Immerse yourself in what you do, be it a project of any kind, or a Netflix marathon; if it absorbs your uninterrupted attention it will help keep your mind off existential questions. It also helps to speak to like-minded people, who keep you calm and optimistic about life. Changing the scenery also helps, from redesigning a room to travelling abroad.

Languishing is not a disease that can be healed. It is a state – of mind, of psyche, whatever you may call it – that is greatly affected by the circumstance in which we live. Perhaps not everything is in our hands to control, but the way we react is. What we can do is realise that the best way to defeat whatever is bringing us down is to face it head on, and simply not let it. Whatever disrupts our mind, is what overpowers it and guides it too.

When tired gains a new meaning

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We hear it being whispered, being shared in secret gatherings, being discussed among friends, being confessed to psychologists, being admitted during our most exasperated moments.

We’re tired.

We’re tired of this entire situation; this new reality that is dangerously becoming the new norm.

Life with a pandemic, a virus we still know little about. Life with social distancing, masks, restrictions, regulations, opening and closing of the economy, schools, social life.

We’re tired of the fear that is being spread together with the disinformation about it all.

We’re tired of the isolation and alienation this is causing.

We’re tired of the bellicose atmosphere resulting from everyone being on edge.

We’re tired of this being the only topic of conversation constantly and everywhere.

We’re tired that it is beyond our control and all we can do is hope.

But most of all we’re so tired of being tired of it all.

Also part of Your Daily Word Prompt

Inspired by Once Upon a Picture

The 1001st

Eight years and eight months (or 104 months) after I started this very blog, I achieved a milestone of 1000 posts. I was never really good at numbers – or getting too personal in a post – but sometimes statistics offer a perspective. It’s easy to spill your soul on paper because you don’t visualise all those people reading it. You only see yourself as the steering wheel guiding the pen that scribbles down the words you feel.

Like Barbara Kingsolver said: “Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer”.

And just like that, you make writing a habit, you go on with life and suddenly you realise that…well, life happens. Milestones come and go like a rising sun, and it is only when you stop to reflect on the time that has passed that you acknowledge the changes you’ve undergone and how your reality has altered.

This 1001st post coincides with a process of moving – in all senses and on all levels.

Moving on to a new neighbourhood, a new home, a new environment. Moving on to new work opportunities, levelling-up, moving forward in order to evolve.

It is said that after the grieving of loss or separation, moving is the third most stressful thing we endure. Because that too entails the breaking of ties. Beginning life anew is both difficult, but also exciting. It is a chance to start over, to rediscover the world, to open up new windows and doors both literally and metaphorically.

As always, though, things don’t always happen as smoothly and seamlessly as we plan. Some transitions don’t occur without conflict; in this Covid-19 era, the virus gets hold of a friend you relied on for help; bureaucracy makes the world spin much slower; and technocrats don’t seem to be able to communicate effectively. There are all sorts of challenges we need to cope with that test our patience more than anything.

But that’s how circumstances make us stronger. How they teach us to be bolder and more resilient.

That’s how we move on; how we persist to make things work; how we survive.

That’s how we live. And in keeping ourselves busy, we (instinctively) power through.

Nothing Normal

© Marie Gail Stratford

There was a time when you’d find a never-opened fully-filled water bottle and take it to give to the first person in need you’d encounter a bit further down your way.

There was a time when you wouldn’t think twice before entering a crowded bus, or a shopping store.

There was a time when hugs were abundant, and felt as warm and loving as a meeting with friends.

There was a time when our concern was to which part of the world to travel next.

Nothing seems normal anymore.

Perhaps because that past ‘normal’ was too often taken for granted.

Also part of Friday Fictioneers

Reprogramming a lifestyle

You know why we refuse to accept something we cannot control? Because we can’t handle uncertainty. We are not wired to ‘go with the flow’ and let things happen. People are impatient. And insecure. We need to know that there is a beginning, a middle and an end to things. Otherwise, we go insane.

This year has been strange and extraordinary in every sense and at every level. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a serious strain not only on global healthcare systems, but on our mental health as well.

People can’t handle so many restrictions and so many recurring constraints.

But most of all, they can’t accept being told what to do, or rather, what not to do.

We can’t breathe with masks on because we’re told we need them. We feel we’re being deprived of oxygen because that is what our mind is telling us.

In every lockdown, we remember the need to go outside, to walk, run, cycle, swim, and sit in the park under the sun. Yet, during our ‘normal’ lives we may hardly even go out onto the balcony for some fresh air, spending the entire day in front of a screen at a an office.

And now, that screen is our way of communicating with the world.

Ironic. Tragic. Call it what you will. But this new reality has caused an irrevocable change to what we consider ‘normal’.  And the things we consider as a given or as common sense.

The world has hit pause and forced us to reconsider everything we considered ‘ordinary’. We need to reprogramme our entire lifestyle and way of thinking, working and living at whatever life stage we currently find ourselves.

The worse thing about the recurring and long-drawn lockdowns is that we’re challenging our own minds, the limits of our sanity, the strength of our beliefs, and the potency of our optimism. The entire situation places us in the unwanted position of not knowing whether to make plans or what these can entail because we very simply do not know and cannot tell what tomorrow may bring.

Uncertainty is the root of our discomfort.  

But no matter how much we resist, complain, moan and react, there are some things that are beyond our control. A global pandemic is among them.

So if you had to answer the question “if you could be anywhere in the world, where would that be?”, what would you say?

Some would answer the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights; others at the top of Mount Everest, at the Caribbean, at a fancy resort, at your beach house, a mountain chalet, somewhere no one has been to before, anywhere you cannot be at this very moment, somewhere different to where you are.

But the truth is, the answer is not a destination. Because in pondering your reply, it’s who you want to be with that springs to mind. As you grow older, you realise it’s not really the place that matters, but the moments and people you spend them with.

In essence, everything we need is here – within us – we just haven’t acknowledged it enough so as not to worry about what is beyond our needs and control.

It’s not the place or circumstances that need to change. It is our entire lifestyle and mentality.

We are a strange people

There are three types of people in this world: Those who when told to do something by experts or authorities choose to follow the rules; those who only follow some of them in a customized way that suits them best; and those who obstinately refuse to do so.

We are a strange people.

We have demonstrated that worse than a virus that is plaguing humanity is stupidity that, unfortunately, cannot be remedied with a vaccine.

We have heard and seen so much in the past couple of months since the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, that we begin to wonder how mankind has actually survived 2020 years amidst this astoundingly low IQ that is on display everywhere lately. Perhaps it is simply a matter that we now have the means (social media) to make our stupidity more evident and apparent and for all to see. What is even more tragic is that the dumber you seem, the more proud of it you seem to appear.

From the most obvious things that belong in the realm of common sense – from washing your hands, maintaining basic hygiene, and not cramming everywhere – to simple instructions, such as how to (properly) wear a face mask to cover nose and mouth, people are reacting everywhere as if they have been told to become victims of the most horrible and unending punishment.

It is ridiculous how much time and energy we waste in rebelling against something that is supposed to protect us from each other and us collectively from something that is evidently (despite the abundant conspiracies) affecting us in a very negative way, both in health and in economy.

We have proven that we need legislation to regulate even the most common sense issues. But we stubbornly refuse to abide to the laws, because we simply have to object to something, to show that we do not yield to a system that is trying to violate our rights and freedoms, and because we simply do not want to.

Yet, we are aware of every provision of the law and are willing to exercise our legal rights when our neighbour’s dog wakes us up from our afternoon nap, or for any other pedantic reason we find to draw money from the state, or waste time and energy to prove that we are superior to those we ourselves elected to manage a democracy.

We rebel against technocrats and scientists, arguing that they bought their way into their positions. But not everyone is like that. Corruption and nepotism is definitely widespread. But there are people who have worked hard and made sacrifices to be where they are. And they are trying to help.

It is easier to criticise everything and everyone when you are sitting on your couch and have not spent years or grey matter studying. And it is much easier to feel contempt that others justifiably have more knowledge than you and can recommend what to do to keep you safe. It is easier to scorn than to admire. And consequently it is this competitive nature that makes us fight against the tide rather than go along with it.

We believe we are more clever, cunning and astute than the next person. We have ideas – an abundance of innovative trends – that we do not use for something good or useful, but for the most ludicrous reasons, and for our own benefit and interests alone.

We are a strange people.

And the more we try to change others, the more we realise that it is those who couldn’t care less about the world that will end up surviving the longest.

The hardest part of being away

©Todd Foltz

The hardest part of being forcibly away is not being able to hug you and receive back that warm heartbeat vibration.

The hardest part of being forced to be apart for so long is not being able to join our laughter in chorus in all our inside jokes; in all the things only we find funny.

Forced to be at a distance, we’re never really apart, and you know that.

I can feel you, just like you can sense me. Every mood and every thought resonates within each other.

I would still prefer not to be so many miles away.

Also part of Friday Fictioneers

When we say we’re fine

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When people ask each other “how are you?”, the response is a reflex answer of “fine, and you?”. Rarely does the question delve deeper into how the other person actually is. We ask about our news, our novelties, our gossip, work, relationships etc, but hardly does anyone actually look into how we really are; how we feel, in what mental state we are in.

This year (2020) has been hard. Almost six months have passed, and we have but a few days in which things actually progressed and we have something to show for them. Otherwise, all we have done is stayed at home, explored our neighbourhoods, developed our cooking skills, irritated the people we live with, become depressed at being alone, and wasted an obscene amount of time on Netflix and social media.

Undeniably, even doing a bare minimum – or absolutely nothing – takes a toll on our mental health. We tell each other we’re fine to believe it is true. Because if we don’t overanalyze, we won’t have to admit to ourselves that deep down we are not as great as we want to appear. We are lacking security, the freedom of movement, the capacity to make plans again, having something to look forward to, the prospect that we will get to see our loved ones again soon in a scheduled time and date without the fear of risking a new lockdown or quarantine measures being imposed on you.

We’re only as fine as we believe ourselves to be. Yet, we prefer not to talk about what is bugging us in an attempt to override it. It’s like sweeping the dust under the carpet. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Mood swings and mental breakdowns don’t necessarily need professional help to be overcome or healed. Sometimes all we really need is people around us who care enough to offer the help we don’t dare to ask for. It’s enough to know that there are friends and family there who can offer a hug, a random talk when needed, and a simple confirmation that we’re not facing things alone. Because in the end, what we all need is the sentiment that better days are coming no matter what, and the incentive to garner the patience to deal with it all.

When all this shall pass

© MCD

For you to see the stars, you need a dark sky. That is the only allegory suitable to describe how to remain optimistic and patient in order to see the positive in a gloomy and tragic situation.

Staying positive, doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time. It means that even on hard days you know that better ones are coming”. That is something we need to remember now more than ever.

Because around the globe, restrictions of movement, closed borders, bans on public gatherings etc, are all commonplace at the moment. We are all self-isolated….together. We are all in this together. Most of us are called to fight an invisible enemy in an unprecedented war from our couch. Others are on the frontline working night and day in hospitals, witnessing the painful consequences first-hand. All we are called to do is to #StayHome, #StaySafe, so they can help us out of this.

Viewed in another perspective, the whole world is frozen at the moment. As if someone pushed a ‘pause’ button and ‘regular’ life simply stopped. For how long, nobody really knows.

Sometimes even the hardships serve for a higher purpose. It is during the hard times that we realise how strong we truly are. (“We all have an unsuspected reserve of strength inside that emerges when life puts us to the test” – Isabel Allende) And we acknowledge what truly matters. The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has proven that everything around us is so temporary. Things we revolved our lives around: our work, gym, cafes, malls, cinemas, society itself, have all become irrelevant as we are now learning for weeks to live without them. It has taught us that we are so technologically advanced we can actually work from home, i.e. anywhere, and we can remain more connected than we believe. It is in our own homes and families in the end that we will remain safe. We learn that distance cannot keep emotions away.

But when all this shall pass – because it will – we will come out reborn, we will have learnt (hopefully) to not take anything for granted, to appreciate everything and everyone we have more. Because it is in this distance and isolation that friendships will be tested and relationships will either be reinforced or shattered.

Like Victor Hugo said, “even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise”. Every day is a lesson: the good days offer happiness and the bad ones, experience.

No storm lasts forever. But if we can stay positive in a negative situation, we win. It is up to us how to manage the situation we are in. “Fear has two meanings: Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. The choice is yours”.

We can’t change how all this started. But we can change how we deal with it from now on. And certainly what we will learn out of it. To become a bit more humane, empathetic and less selfish. To value the little things in life. To be kind to everything that is alive. And above all, to wash our hands.

Social relationships under self-isolation

https://www.cartoonmovement.com/cartoon/64806

It’s interesting to witness how a state-imposed self-isolation affects our social relationships. Funny memes are going viral in that, during just the first few days of quarantine due to coronavirus (COVID-19), people are rediscovering their homes and the people in them.

If we choose to remain optimistic and see the positive in every situation – even this one – we may realise that this is an opportunity to take a pause and allow the world itself to breathe. By staying home, the decrease of environmental and atmospheric pollution is already evident. But there is more to that: we can take a break from the routine we keep complaining about and rediscover ourselves and the people around us. We live in a world where we can communicate with everyone / anyone anywhere at the click of a button, we can work from home, view films and series, tour museums online, read books, go online for shopping. There are so many things available at our fingertips.

It is during this time that we acknowledge how important it is to have people around us who we can communicate with even if only via a digital chat. People who can keep us strong and positive, and with whom we can exchange useless information simply to keep each other distracted and busy enough to forget to despair that we are “stranded” at home.

Some of us are actually “stranded” in another country away from our families. And due to the closing of borders as tight precautionary measures we will have to wait for a few months it seems to be able to hold them again. Because via videochat we can see each other every day and check-up on each other.

This is the time to realise that we can never tell what the future holds. Even if we plan things, they may not turn out the way we hope.

Most of all, we are given a chance to acknowledge all the things we take for granted and don’t appreciate. First of all our health and the time we have with our loved ones.

Let’s seize this opportunity to stay home, stay strong, stay safe, and keep our families and friends safe too.

Nothing lasts forever. Not even this.

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