I cannot ignore this monumental “Happening” of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic 2020 which will change the dance world forever. It is an Archive here after all. This is the first of two articles dealing with mental stability during this time. I am very thankful to Michael R. Herdlitzka for sharing this with us via The Dancing Coach on Facebook.
Resilience & Mental Stability – some thoughts for less happy times
In these times of uncertainty one thing is certain: The situation will last and our lives will remain changed for a very long time. The longer it lasts the more important keeping your mental health up will be in order to keep your physical health in order. I put together some items which might look like a “formula” but in psychology there is not such a thing as a recipe which always works for everybody. So I start with some warnings for secure application to safe your resilience and mental stability.
If some items seem irrelevant to you, fine, you are most probably right. Some ideas will make you upset or even angry – ok, just skip reading them. I am not trying to convert your beliefs into the “right ones”, please resist the temptation to convert my – or anybody else’s – beliefs to the “correct view”. This is already one extremely important exercise to keep up your mental stability: Have your own opinion, it is good, it is yours and it is right for you. Let others have their own opinion too. It is not about “right or wrong” in absolute terms, it is about helpful or not. It might be wrong, if it is helpful for you for a while, stick to it. This is the same with others. They may seem stupid doing wrong, if it is good for them, let them do so.
Some ideas may seem “perfectly alright” for you. Fine, but keep your distance (!) also in thought and re-consider whether some aspects may still be different with you and your very situation. Some of my thoughts may appear to you as “yeah, but” – perfect, you are welcome to become my ally. “Yeah, but” is often not very welcome in counselling as it usually creates obstacles in agreeing. Here we do not have to agree on anything. We try to find useful and helpful thoughts and actions – individually! Please make yourself aware of all your “yeah, but’s” and share them with others, they may help them.
Think “with” instead of “before-after”
Even with a medicine or vaccine the unpleasant situation will not be “turned off” suddenly. The virus will stay with us, perhaps forever. You may hope for all sorts of miracles but this is not a helpful form of hope. Miracles happen from time to time but you cannot force them to happen. Waiting for miracles leaves you in a passive and helpless state. This is strongly poisonous for your resilience and mental stability. Concentrate your hope on things you can control.
Develop scenarios for your private and professional live. Develop strategies for your actions in the various scenarios. Unless you are dead there is no situation in which you can absolutely do nothing. Concentrate on things you can actually do. We have survived diseases much more serious and deadly than this CoViD-19 thing. We have learned to live with HIV and Hepatitis C and many others. We have learned to live with the people suffering from these diseases and we have learned not to blame them. We can control with whom we shake hands but perhaps not kiss. That keeps us healthy and stable.
Make your own decisions – for yourself
Many data show significant differences in resilience and mental stability when people decide for themselves instead of doing what “they” say, whoever “they” are. If you decide for yourself to stay at home, to wear a mask, to wash and not shake hands you have a much better chance to remain stable. If you do (or do not) such things because “they say” you lose your autonomy which is the backbone of your mental health. Same is true if you get involved in opinions or actions of other people.
If it worries you (too much) when somebody else is not wearing a mask properly or somehow does not behave as “they” say you become more and more heteronomous. Do not act against the law but within the boundaries of the law you can choose from a wide variety of thoughts and actions. Find the ones most suitable for you and do it your way. Let other people do it their way. Live in your greatest possible autonomy. You are not depending on other people “getting it right”. Get it right for yourself.
Do some news distancing
If you check the news every hour you are already on a safe way to damage your resilience and mental stability. Do not mesmerise yourself with news and especially the “numbers”. Check the sources, not the news. Listen to a medical authority and then decide to believe it or not. Follow your instincts but do not believe if somebody tells you that someone said so and so.
Keep your distance to what you read and hear. Step back and have a look on the wider picture. The easy explanation (it’s “their” fault) is most probably not right. The easy solution (“THE vaccine”) is most probably not realistic. Stay curious, become a researcher yourself and find your own set of pro’s and con’s.
If you have only pro’s or only con’s on your list your research is incomplete. If your explanation is simple, don’t use it. If your solution is simple, don’t believe it. The more you believe in “just one thing” the more vulnerable you are if that “one thing” turns out to be not (quite) right. Stay curious for other opinions, there might be some truth in them. Do not seek “THE truth”, research what fits you and your situation here and now. Be open for change. The more you believe in just “one thing” the more you have fallen into an ideology. Then you are fully dependent that this ideology is “right”. You have lost your autonomy, which is, remember, the backbone of your mental stability.
Humour – the vaccine for your resilience and mental health
Keep your distance to even the most terrible news and this will enable you to see things in a more easy-going and humorous way. A good laugh keeps you strong and healthy. Any situation becomes more light-hearted with a sense of humour. “Once that bloody lockdowns are finally over I will quietly stay home for a while” is one good example that makes me smile almost every day which brings more and more severe restrictions. You find wearing a mask stupid and strenuous? There are so many funny ones, with smileys ore funny faces or silly slogans on it, use them to conjure a smile on other peoples’ faces and have yourself and them vaccinated. Avoid jokes against a certain person or certain groups of persons. They only seem funny but do not exert a vaccination effect. On the contrary they are only the camouflage of an ideology – what this does to you, see above.
Look out for REAL things
The virtual world seems the loophole to things we cannot do in real life. In many ways that is right. We cannot meet in real life but we can meet, discuss, teach, lecture via video conference systems. Great but leads us into the danger of losing too much contact with real things. We need to visit a real beach, a real forest, a real mountain, whatsoever. We need to still have real relations with real people. You must not leave your house? Open your window and talk to your neighbour across the street. Find real things that work for you – here and now.
A very smart chart with kind permission of Ruud Vermeij: