My neighbor spotted this sidewalk art while out walking her dog a few days ago.

I love that someone wanted to lift everyone’s spirits!

Abrupt Changes in our Surroundings

Things in our neighborhood have changed abruptly. There’s so much  less traffic. So many more  parents outside walking and biking with their children during the day. Lots of folks out walking their dogs – many more than I normally  see.

There’s more stopping to chat with people I haven’t met before, while standing the length of a dog’s leash from them. With the dog’s length added, this reaches the recommended six feet of distance!

Around here we’re adapting by physically distancing but socially connecting.

There Are Inner Changes, Too

My inner landscape feels different too. There are new worries, fears and anxieties in there. Mine are centered around the sudden layoffs that hit my sons, daughter-in-law and several other family members. So many others are caught in this situation, with little to no safety net.

But this isn’t the first scary time I’ve lived through. And though I wish I hadn’t had my past experiences with turbulent, unwanted change, what I’ve learned from them comes in handy now. My recent experience with cancer is one of those.

I Had To Learn How to Shift From Worry to Joy

By nature, I’m a worrier. I’ve always gone there easily and had a hard time disentangling from it. But the thing with cancer is that it’s a valid reason to be worried by, and the fear never completely goes away. Treatment was scary enough. After it’s done, though, there’s a new fear to grapple with. It’s the fear of recurrence, which is a very realistic possibility for so many. Living well after cancer treatment — and with recurrence if it happens — means figuring out how to shift your attention toward what gives your life meaning and purpose, what brings joy, what makes you laugh until you cry. Of course, living with recurrence also brings so many more challenges.

There’s no getting away from this reality, but there are ways to let the worry recede. And importantly, doing that supports your physical and emotional health.  

Worry and Fear Can Fade

Shifting attention from worry and fear doesn’t make them go away, but it allows them to fade into the background. There are times when worry returns, but now I know that when it does I can shift away from it again. I know that being calm and centered helps me feel better and do better. That’s good for me, good for my work and helpful for those around me.

The COVID-19 pandemic brings a level of challenge that has important differences from what its like to be seriously ill. As disruptive as it is, there’s usually a known process for handling illness. There are books, online resources and people to learn from. It may not be a smooth process, but there is knowledge to draw on.

Right now it seems that entire world is in upheaval. While there’s some historical information to draw on, there’s no blueprint for how to handle the way it’s impacting our lives.

Because of this, it’s extra important right now to acknowledge all of our feelings, even the darker ones. We need the information available to us from our darker feelings, and we need the resilience that comes with shifting from them by calming and centering ourselves.

When we’re calmer, we think more clearly, we’re more creative, and we can find ways to handle challenging situations.

5 Things I’ve Learned From Cancer That Help Me Right Now

Ways to Connect Socially While Distancing Physically

That last is important right now, when so many of us are under orders to self-isolate or shelter in place. Isolation can increase worry and anxiety, while connections provide comfort and helpful resources. But just when we most need our social ties, they’ve become harder to maintain. People are finding creative ways to do it, though. A few examples:

How are you staying connected with others right now?

 

With appreciation to Kelly Indra Inselmann, whose question to those of us in her Facebook community inspired this post.

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