“We all did feel the same, we just saw it from a different point of view” – Bob Dylan, Tangled Up in Blue.
What is truth? What is reality? Maybe you think those questions are for the philosophers or the clergymen who grapple with the ultimate questions of what is good and bad, right and wrong, and true and false about the world. But the fact is that each one of us decides what is true and what is real each day. We look at the events in our lives and make judgments about whether they are good or bad for us. We look at our past experiences and decide what is true or false about them. We look to the future and anticipate with either fear or excitement.
Here is an example. A client of mine is a musician and wanted to put on a performance for some friends and acquaintances near his home. As he contemplated playing his guitar and singing his songs, he was struck by fear. He was afraid of the judgments of his friends. Would they like his music or not? Would he play well or not? These thoughts produced the fear of performing and he resisted planning the evening and sending out invitations. I worked with him on changing his perspective. I suggested he plan on playing music for himself, which he loves to do and to have fun doing it. Then invite his friends to join him for an enjoyable time listening to music. That change in perspective reduced his fear and he was able to plan the performance, invite his friends and have a good time playing and singing his songs. The actions were the same, but the way he looked at it was different.
This idea of change of perspective is crucial during this time of Corona Virus uncertainty. Lockdowns, limitations on travel, loss of jobs, isolation, and fear of infection or even of losing our life are some of the results of this pandemic. And no one knows how long it will last. A change of perspective can be a key to surviving and even thriving right now.
Here are some ways to change your perspective during this chaotic time:
- WHEN YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT THE FUTURE – LIVE IN THE PRESENT. We don’t know what tomorrow, next week or next year will hold in store for us. Don’t look or plan too far ahead. Just take it one day at a time.
- WHEN YOU ARE FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF – MAKE LEMONS INTO LEMONADE. If you have temporarily been laid off or have lost your job, think about ways you can use this time productively. Volunteer, write an article or start writing that novel you have in your head. Take up a new hobby or develop a talent that has lain dormant inside you for years.
- WHEN YOU ARE FEELING SOCIALLY ISOLATED – REACH OUT TO OTHERS. We are all in the same boat so call someone that maybe needs an encouraging word. Isolation can lead to depression so keep connected.
- WHEN YOU FEEL DEPRESSED – GET SOME EXERCISE. Working out, especially aerobic exercise changes your brain chemistry and releases endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that help you to keep a positive attitude.
- WHEN YOU ARE IN A NEGATIVE STATE OF MIND – BE GRATEFUL. Make a list of all the things you are grateful for and update it daily. A 2005 study at the University of Pennsylvania showed that one of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness in life is how much gratitude we show. And a noticeable difference can be experienced with as little as three expressions each day.
Changing your perspective is like looking at a tree from a particular angle and then moving to a different place and looking again. The tree looks different because we are in a new place. Fear can turn to fun, anxiety to excitement, anger to energy. Even sadness can be transformed into introspection and thinking deeply about what is important in life.
When this pandemic is all over, may it be soon, we will look back with wonder at how we got through it and even find some humor in it. Changing your perspective can radically alter the way you experience your life and it is a skill that you can use to navigate thru the roughest of times.