The Coronavirus has been the Ultimate Habit Disrupter
How we are surprising ourselves with our incredible ability to change and adapt in the midst of uncertainty.
Like many of you, the Coronavirus has changed my routine. ‘Freedom’ has taken on new meaning. ‘Going outside’ is the new vacation spot to tout on Facebook. Fresh air has become a commodity — an underrated privilege as much as a bare necessity.
There are many ways to interpret this unusual time. Is it a punishment? An enlightenment? A wake-up call? Who knows. Whatever it is or isn’t, it has shaken the world to its core. And while it has brought out the best in many, it has also resurfaced our innermost fears. Most notably our fear of the unknown.
Yet, despite that fear, I’m amazed by how readily and seemingly effortlessly many of us have been able to stop in our tracks. Let go of our ‘to-dos’ and steer forward without a plan. Perhaps the weight of this uncharted territory has made us all tired — too tired to fight what we don’t yet understand.
Or maybe, encumbered by the haze of the uncertainty, we willingly relinquished our need ‘to do’. And in not ‘doing’, we have become undone. With no timeline to hold us accountable, we are virtually free from submitting to our routines, our schedules, our habits.
A month ago, I would have felt a tinge of guilt every time I reached for my phone to take a break from my endless list of ‘to dos’ . But these days, I don’t care as much for my phone. Without the pressure to rush to the next task on my schedule, the sense of time is more abundant, and constantly wanting to check my screen seems unnecessary. This, of course, presents an opportunity to turn my attention elsewhere.
While I generally dislike organizing, I have found myself craving more structure. I’ve already de-cluttered my pantry — something I’ve put off for over a year. Cleaning my floors always felt like a chore, but now it seems vital to my sanity. And though I rarely bake, one of the best days so far in this lockdown/slowdown, has been the day I made sugar cookies with my kids.
Those cookies reminded me of the ones my beloved grandmother used to make. I never dreamt in a million years I could create anything that remotely resembled something that remarkable woman could craft in her kitchen. I never had the space in my mind to even think of such a thing.
I’m not alone. I’ve read multiple posts of friends who are tapping into places and spaces they haven’t been able to visit for a while. Slowing down and taking it easy. Cherishing the time they get to spend with their loved ones without perpetual timelines looming in the backdrop.
That’s not to say any of us are immune to the reality we are currently living in. The fear is still palpable. However, I do believe most have taken comfort in doing what they can to protect those nearest and dearest to them.
We stay home.
Outings are limited and we may not be moving around as much. Which also underscores the psychological toll that being still with our thoughts — without the interruptions that daily habits and routines often afford — can have on our psyche.
My thoughts about the Coronavirus fluctuate daily. I teeter between feeling as though I’m forcefully trapped inside stucco walls to believing I’ve been granted permission to free myself from the confines of a set schedule. I waver in my habit of wanting to get things done, to accepting that I can’t do certain things even if I wanted to.
Perhaps living abroad for many years has skewed my perception of this pandemic. Like many others who have lived in regions plagued by tumultuous political climates, I remember the times I was glued to my TV watching live coverage of wars unfolding all around me— the imminent threat, the casualties, the fighters on the front lines.
I eventually learned to limit my exposure to television because it became unbearable to watch. Even so, the news somehow found its way to me on the internet and in the streets. My perception tells me the Coronavirus has become the global terrorist we are all trying to beat, individually and collectively.
Having grown up mostly in the US, I also know of the media’s habit of sensationalizing the news to the point where it often muffles a clear course of direction. The incessant need to only speak to danger —such as the wrath of hurricanes, their destructive paths, the search for salvation…this only speaks to our fear.
Consequently, the Coronavirus seems like a colossal storm and we don’t know which way the wind will blow. Whose town is the next on its path? Will it implode? Will it grow exponentially?
When I was in high school, the AIDS epidemic shook me to my core. There were even rumors one could contract the disease through kissing (if that were true it might have taken gallons upon gallons of spit). We were indoctrinated with fear. What limited information we were given about sex came with a caveat of death.
I wonder what young generations will make of our current pandemic. Will they fear standing too close to people long after the virus is gone? Will being within a couple of feet of others make them feel dirty, thus perpetuating a need to constantly sanitize? Moreover, will future generations be led to believe that when they touch someone, they are essentially touching every person that person touched and so on and so forth?
I’m not sure what will happen in the future, but for now, I see what isn’t happening. In recent months I haven’t read or heard anything about war. That doesn’t mean it isn’t taking place, but the urgency to pull triggers and broadcast about it has been largely overshadowed by the Coronavirus.
Additionally, my news-feed hasn’t been flooded with selfies but rather posts about kindness and generosity. Stories of good Samaritans from every corner of the world devoting their time, resources, and hearts to helping others. The Coronavirus has made us think and change our habits.
Who knows how long this will last. But what it does, is exemplify the inherent good nature of people — especially in time of need. It also illustrates how even the most rigid habits — defaulting to fear, greed, selfishness — can be disrupted.
Perhaps most remarkably, it also suggests that as creatures, we’ve almost forgotten that our adaptability is one of our most defining traits. We never really know what the next day will bring. We can’t predict how we’ll react. And yet, despite all of that, we carry on and keep moving forward.
It seems as though we are moving into a new era. And while the way is still unknown, we always have a choice in how we respond. We may fall back on fear, but we also know how to question that habit — to change, adapt, and redirect it away from ourselves and towards helping others.
Originally published at https://medium.com/body-wisdom on March 31, 2020.