As I write, highly sophisticated viruses are buzzing throughout the city of San Diego, our country, our globe, trying to get me and you sick. They do not have any ill-will toward me in particular, and they’re just trying to survive and multiply, which is what their DNA has programmed them to do. In a similar vein, I’m doing what my DNA had programmed me to do: protect my family and keep us healthy. How am I doing this? I’m staying in our home in San Diego. While I’m home, it’s easy to be negative, knowing there is an invisible bug altering out lives. But this negativity is as contagious as the virus, and I needed to find a way to question how to be more positive during crisis.
If some of the words above sound familiar to you, then it’s because you love George Orwell as much as I do. I tried to model the language above from his famous essay, “England Your England,” which was written during the Blitzkrieg in World War Two. He wrote his essay during one of the most trying times in the history of our world, and somehow, he managed to find an opportunity to think and create while Nazi bombs bursted over his head. My gut is telling me to begin my blog by echoing one of my favorite authors because Orwell can teach us something today. His essay began with this famous line:
“As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.”George Orwell, England Your England
Many people are scared now of COVID-19 and the larger crisis, and they talk about the adjustments to our lives as being similar to being at war. Our lives are certainly different than they were before COVID. People are losing their jobs and their lives, and we’re facing an insidious enemy, but we are not at a physical war. The people on the front line–doctors, nurses, and hospital staff–they are certainly fighting an enemy, but there are no bombs dropping over my head. In fact, I’m looking out at the lemon trees and the hibiscus flowers and the dragonfruit vine running up a telephone pole in my backyard, and I know that I’m safe. I’m alive. And if I just stay home, that will hopefully continue.
While it’s hard to reflect and be positive right now, I believe it’s important to take a step back, look around, and see the world for how it is. We’re in crisis, yes, and our essential workers are putting themselves in danger, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing in front of us that is positive, that is beautiful, that is alive. In fact, the word crisis translates to turning point, and in all crises, there is an opportunity to change for the better.
So, I wanted to write a blog that touches on how to be more positive during crisis, and I’m making recommendations for others, but it’s also an exercise in my own self care. Below are my 7 recommendations.
1. Be Positive, Learn, and Create
As someone who is pursuing a life as a creative, every moment that I can have to actually create a story, a piece of art, music, expand my published work, develop strategies etc., is precious. We’re all so busy with work, family. Even before quarantine, it was extremely difficult to take that time, sit down, and create. Now that the quarantine started, for instance, it’s been impossible for me to create good boundaries between my role at Circa Interactive and my role as a dad, husband, and writer. I’ve been working weekends, late at night, early in the morning, etc., and I’m so lucky that I am so busy with work, as many people are struggling right now to find work.
But I have to take more time for myself, time for self care, and there is no better way for me to feel alive and happy than making art or writing, and right now, I have an opportunity to slow down and take advantage and create. I have nowhere to go. Staying home is how I help the world. So, why not take this time and make something beautiful? Something strange? Something to help others?
2. Look for the Unexpected: The Impact on the Environment
I was talking to my friend the other day, and he had a hot take on COVID-19. Basically, he thought it was ridiculous that we are spending so much money and time on the COVID-19 crisis when we don’t spend nearly the same amount of energy on illnesses like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or social issues like hunger and poverty. While his take was one I couldn’t quite get on board with, he did bring up something that I found interesting: The world is responding, shutting down the economy, and making changes (some would say not fast enough) to combat the virus’ impact, so why couldn’t we take that same energy to something like Climate Change?
We all know that the world is reaching dramatic levels of global warming that could have irrevocable damage on our world and future. But we’re still not doing enough about it. What if we looked at how we’re rallying around COVID-19 and applied that same energy, that same global commitment, to making changes to safeguard the environment? What if every year we picked two weeks where we all decided to stop flying, to stop driving, to work from home, to stay home simply to try our collective best to stop environmental harm?
But Joe, that would never work? You’re a dreamer. The world wouldn’t slow down and stop because you want to save the world? Yeah, I could hear people already saying similar things. But, I would say, we now have a template. We have physical evidence to suggest that a slow down in our lives could let the world heal, and if we look for the unexpected results from crisis, then we can find opportunities stay positive.
Meanwhile, efforts to contain the virus by restricting the movement have had a remarkable environmental impact.United Nations Environment Programme
For instance, in the same UN article above, Pushpam Kumar, the Chief Environmental Economist at United Nations Environment Programme, said: “The subsequent lockdown of Hubei province contributed to a reduction in pollution that, according to a Stanford University researcher, may prevent 50,000 to 75,000 people from dying prematurely.” Our response to COVID-19 will actually save lives in the Hubei province. That’s a positive.
There is even larger signals that show air pollution going down. Look at the difference in LA pollution before COVID and during.
I’m not trying to say that because of COVID we have solved climate change; my point is that we might have developed a roadmap to show how a concentrated global effort to make changes can have an immediate impact on our world. So, why not build upon it? Start with the environment. Start with picking a time every year where we commit to just slowing down and letting the world heal.
3. How to be positive? Dogs Are Happy Their Owners Are Home
I’ve been working from home for what feels like three to four weeks, but I’m not really sure. It could be twelve years. But my dog must think that I’m home just for him. Since walking is one of the few activities I can do, he comes everywhere with me. He doesn’t know there is a pandemic. He just knows I’m home almost every minute of the day, and he sit by my desk and looks at me and ask for pets.
4. End America First
Listen, I’m sorry if politics isn’t your bag, and you believe that blogs should have the same rules as parties: Don’t talk about religion or politics. (In politics recently, there wasn’t much to be positive about.) But I also know if there was one good thing that comes out of COVID-19 it could be that people start to recognize that Donald Trump is selfish and doesn’t have the best interest of the American people at heart. And, once and for all, let’s end this idea of America first.
In our world today, it’s essential that we take care of our own people. Of course. But COVID-19 should show us that our world is so interconnected, and what happens in one country will impact all countries, all people. We need to evolve the idea of “own people.” Of course, I’m talking about globalism. I’m talking about everything from supply chains to human rights. Let’s use this moment as an opportunity to reflect on the fact that we are all one world not only many countries.
Want to know how to be positive? Remember that there is a giant world out there, and we are all in it together.
5. Reflect on the Role of Technology
In a recent blog post, I reflected on a book I read called, “Digital Minalism,” by Cal Newport, and in that post, I talked about how I reexamined technology and eliminated the uses of tech in my life that failed to provide value. It was an essential step for me to be a better creative and human being. COVID-19 has had a similar impact, and it’s forced me to reexamine technology. But in this case, it’s highlighted the technology I can be grateful for.
Could you imagine what would happen if COVID-19 occurred in 1995? What if we were forced to stay inside at a time before the popularity of the internet? Pondering that question opens up terrifying possibilities. We have seen dramatic impacts to the economy and countless jobs have been lost already, but with the internet, there are still millions of people who have the opportunity to keep their jobs because of technology. We understand how much danger it is from just going to the grocery story, but with the internet, we can purchase food from our favorite local businesses who are morphing into delivery services. We understand how difficult it can be to see the people we love who might across the world or even down the street, but we can now zoom or text or instagram. We can call them from our computers and actually see their faces.
Without the technology we have now, there could be lines for food like we saw in the depression. There could be a lot more mental health issues due to loneliness. And people would have never known that Kimye lied about Taylor Swift.
6. Positive News and Resources
I have heard so many people say how awful 2020 has been. They couldn’t believe it was worse than 2019. In fact, there is a pretty funny meme that sums it all up.
But there are plenty of resources out there that can help you with self care. For instance, here are a couple resources I’m familiar with and podcasts I’ve listened to that have been helpful:
- Tulane University’s School of Social Work Self Care Tips
- A Podcast from Slate on How to Not to Go Crazy Under Quarantine
- A Podcast from the Daily: A Bit of Relief: Alone Together. See how other people are connecting during quarantine with technology.
- Ozark is released on Netflix. Watch it now.
And then here is just some good news:
- Phase 2 of coronavirus vaccine human trials may begin in spring, Moderna chairman says
- Johnson & Johnson Says It Could Have Coronavirus Vaccine Ready by Early 2021
- Onward is now available on Disney +
7. Time to Reconnect with Yourself and Family
Out of the all the things that could happen during a crisis, being forced to stay at home with your family isn’t the worst thing in the world. In fact, it could it be the most amazing thing that could happen, and it’s certainly a way for all of us to know how to be positive during crisis. My son is six months old, and for most of the year, I spend at least 40 to 60 hours of week at the office. I know, it’s very challenging for a lot of those who don’t have child care, and that creates conflict. But it’s honestly a privilege to be able to take a break from work and see this:
There is a lot of hardship out there, but we have the choice to decide how we’re going to use this time. That goes for life in general. We have a choice as free people to decide how we live. For me, I’m going to try my hardest to use this time to connect more with my family and myself. I hope that when this is over, I can say with all honesty I didn’t waste a second of it when and if I stay healthy.