Counselor's Corner: Coping with coronavirus social isolation

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So many of us have a lot of quiet time right now. This coronavirus social isolation keeps us inside and very quiet and sometimes fearful. The news, which is so necessary for us to watch for a period of time each day, is not very hopeful at these beginning stages of this pandemic. Slowing down and quiet time are more common than we had ever anticipated or desired. Because this quiet time can seem so prolonged, it can cause anxiety and frustration. Fear and boredom can engulf us. The inability to go places and do things can make us feel like we are in solitary confinement. We can become obsessed with the thought, “When will this be over?” So how do we cope with all of this?

Here are some suggestions that can help us.

1) Live only in this moment. Focus attentively on the present moment. Look around you and experience what you see. Engage in only experiencing this present moment. It is all we have and it has always been this way. It is so easy to want to rush to the next moment. It is not worth it. We only have control over how we stay in this moment. Life is all about what we do in this moment and how we experience this moment. Life is all now and how we embrace now.

Look around your room. Observe everything and experience what you see. Pay close attention to whatever you see and experience. As I sit here typing this, I take time to observe what is happening outside as I look through our living room window at the runners on the Macomb County trail. I observe the big tree in the yard. I look at the pictures on the wall. I observe all the furniture. I let myself experience everything I see and hear. I then begin to realize that in everything I see and experience, there is a presence of God. All of this slows down my inner self. I begin to realize that life is only about this moment and my experience of this moment. When my wife walks into the room, I simply pay attention to what she is saying and what she might be experiencing or feeling. When I talk with someone on the phone or have a Zoom conference with some one, I do it slowly and reflectively. All of this makes me fully alive in this present moment.

2) Slow down in everything you do. There is no need to rush. This is difficult because all of us want to rush to the next moment. This imposed self-quarantine reminds me that there is no rush to the next moment. I walk slowly and experience the moment. Everything I do, I do it reflectively and slowly. And I remind myself that this is not a waste of time. It is an experience of present time that can often be overlooked.

3) Experience what is bothering you. I have no control over other people or what is happening outside of me. I have no control over this coronavirus except to obey the rules of social isolation. When I totally embrace my fears and worries, I will go deeper and let go of what I am obsessing about. The reason for this is that I am no longer fighting my fears. I am embracing my fears. When I do this, I begin to see things in a proper perspective and realize clearly what I can control and what I can’t control. Again, it is never what is happening outside of me that is the problem. It is how I deal with things that can be the real problem. And when I embrace what is before me without fighting it, I will find peace. It is important to remember that depression (which means “pressing down”) happens when I am avoiding what I must feel and embrace. Because there is so much quiet time right now, many of us will have unfinished business or feelings that will begin to surface. It is important to allow ourselves to experience the pain and the joy inside of us. Past memories will surface that may be painful or joyful. Feel them. But if it is anger that surfaces, know and realize that this is a defense and superficial feeling that stops us from going deeper into the hurt and pain and powerlessness that we need to feel. We will not fall apart from feeling our emotional pain. In fact, this will allow us to experience more peace and joy inside, and to appreciate happy memories and what is most important in life.

4) Take abundant time for prayer and meditation. If you have a meditation book, read it very slowly and experience every word. Don’t do prayers so as to get them in. Do prayers in a way that you slowly experience every word. Then just take time to remain in total silence say a word or phrase over and over again without analyzing it. Some people call this a mantra. I often use the word “Abba” (an affectionate name for God) or “maranatha” (Come Lord) or “My God and my all.” Sometimes, I will say three things over and over again, “God is love, God loves me, God loves you.” I might use all of these words just quietly saying them very slowly, breathing in on one syllable through my nose and breathing out on the next syllable through my nose. Whatever religious denomination to which you might belong, you can use special words that are meaningful to you. The purpose of all of this is to quiet your mind, heart and soul and be receptive to God. If you are an agnostic or atheist, it will still work because you will be quieting down and getting out of your head. Every person can choose whatever word or phrase is very meaningful to you. In this prolonged social isolation, prayer and meditation can be done for a long time. I usually spend an hour a day in doing this. Now I am taking at least a couple of hours each day. And in doing this, I begin to experience the presence of God throughout the day in everything and in everyone. Meditation and very slow prayer are the best way to find peace and discover the better version of ourselves. And right now, we all have an abundance of time to do this.

5) Always be loving. It is true that love conquers all. Love disarms everyone and creates the environment for all of us to become emotionally and spiritually connected. We may not be physically close right now but we can make the effort to be emotionally close by using social media to express love to one another and compassion toward one another. This effort to bring love and compassion toward others brings out the best within ourselves and helps us to realize that we are all on this journey through life together.

I hope these suggestions will be helpful to you during this time of crisis. This whole coronavirus crisis and isolation can become an opportunity for each of us to go deeper than we ever have in discovering ourselves again, in connecting with others and in encountering God.

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Fred Cavaiani is a licensed marriage counselor and psychologist with a private practice in Troy. He is the founder of Marriage Growth Center, a consultant for the Detroit Medical Center, and conducts numerous programs for groups throughout Southeast Michigan. He can be reached at 248-362-3340. His e-mail address is: Fredcavi@yahoo.com and his website is fredthecounselor.com.



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