The coronavirus pandemic has turned billions of lives upside down in a matter of weeks. Day after day we sit at home, wandering around in a hazy fog of boredom, disbelief and depression.
The main source of torture for most people is that insidious anxiety roiling around in our guts 24/7. That anxiety has three main causes: Health fears, financial worries and the plain old weirdness of being holed up at home. This piece deals with that last one — the bizarro world of self-quarantine.
Resistance is the culprit
Though you may not be aware of it, it’s likely that the biggest contributor to your anxiety over the weirdness of your self-quarantine life is resistance. You’re thinking to yourself or telling your friends and family things like “God, I hate this. I wake up every morning and have no idea what to do. I can’t believe this is happening. It’s just weird. And bizarre. I sit at home and feel like crap. It’s like I’m paralyzed. Then I go out and the grocery stores shelves are half-stocked. And people there are all paranoid…”And on and on.
When you do that, what you’re doing is resisting the reality of what’s going on and that in itself causes anxiety. What should you do?
Surrender. Completely and totally surrender.
To the reality of life in quarantine.
It’s here. Don’t fight it. This virus has thrown the world into chaos and that’s it. There’s nothing you can do about it. The healthiest thing to do is accept it.
By the way, my motive in recommending this course of action has nothing to do with acting virtuous in the face of adversity. It is 100% about helping you feel better.
Resistance=feel worse, Surrender=feel better
The bottom line is that if you resist and fight this weird new world you’ll feel worse. If you surrender to the reality of it you’ll feel better.
To better understand why, it’s worth exploring the two kinds of pain we face in life, primary and secondary. As an example, when you break your leg the actual pain in your leg is primary pain. We all deal with primary pain. It’s inevitable in life.
Secondary pain is what you ADD on top of the primary pain and is emotional in nature. “This leg pain is never going to go away. I’ll never run again. Why did this have to happen to me? I’m so unlucky…”
In other words, secondary pain occurs when you flip out over primary pain. What most people don’t realize is that secondary pain usually causes as much or more suffering as the primary pain it’s responding to.
With our case, the self-quarantine morass we find ourselves in is the primary pain. It sucks. Our lives have been suspended in animation. We can’t go to work. Can’t go to the gym, etc.
Surrender to the primary pain
The secondary pain, which I detailed earlier, is all the complaining and ruminating we do in response. The best way to eliminate this unnecessary secondary pain is to surrender to and accept the primary pain.
Don’t try to win the fight against reality. It never goes well.
How do you actually do this? Well, there is no five-step program for mitigating secondary pain.
The solution comes down to doing one thing: disciplining yourself to become aware when you start descending the rabbit hole with thoughts of, “Boy, another day of hanging out doing nothing and feeling weird. Why did this have to happen — ” Then…
Boom. You stop yourself right there and say, “Nope. Not going there. I’m stuck in the house. It sucks. But there’s nothing I can do about it so I’m going to make the best of it. Let’s make a list of three things I want to get done today. Read fifty pages of The Great Gatsby, start cleaning out/organizing my disastrous garage…”
And leave it at that. Cut it off at the pass.
This is a tough time for just about everybody. Make it easier on yourself by cutting down on that self-imposed secondary pain!