"Maybe everything you want is buried underneath everything you don't" Joshua Becker, founder of The Minimalist Home.
Here, Becker is referring to physical clutter. But - and this is the beauty of minimalism - it can be applied to anything in life.
You see, Covid-19 stopped the world and stripped away ALL the clutter. There were less people moving about. There were less cars on our roads. We had less appointments to attend. There was less human-created noise (how good was the birdsong?) Most of us had less, if any, work.
Overall, Covid-19 provided us with less to do, less places to go, less people to see, and less roles to play.
In the days prior and during the first week or two of lock down, when everything that contributed to my current life had been stripped away, I felt like I had lost my IDENTITY. You may know this already if you follow my journey on Instagram where I shared my feelings of isolation, emotional disruption, doubt and fear. My perceived loss of identity rapidly sent me into anxiety so bad I was bordering on panic attacks. I have been here twice before and know that an episode of depression quickly follows. I couldn't allow myself to go back to that place a third time.
First, I acknowledged that Covid was merely an obstacle that was stopping me from doing things that made me, me. Secondly, I realised I hadn't lost my identity. That was just my PERCEPTION. I had to unpick the belief that what I DO in life, (like going to work, taking the kids to school) is not who I AM. The things I do in life don't make me, me, they are just roles I have. I needed to use my newfound time and energy extricating my roles from my identity. I could have chosen to continue being frustrated, angry and feeling lost. But it wouldn't have changed anything about the situation. And besides, apart from staying home, I couldn't do anything about it.
I remembered there are only two narratives in life - struggle and progress. There are highs and lows. I have learned that no matter how difficult life gets, the next step is always my choice. The lesson I've learned is that behind the thing that provoked a negative reaction, lies an OPPORTUNITY, a gift. The worst thing isn't the obstacle that is Covid. The worst thing would be losing my mental health. I chose to see the opportunity INSIDE the obstacle, rather than the obstacle.
Michelle Obama put it this way, "you should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it's important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages."
And this is how my previous experiences with anxiety and depression have helped me. I have been through dark times before. Resilience and courage are not handed to us on a silver platter without going through dark or tough times. They are something we have to work at building. They are something we can chose to use when we need to. I needed to lean on the belief that my resilience and courage could get me through this.
I have a mantra I repeat when I am struggling on a run. I say to myself in time with my foot strike, "I CAN. I WILL. I AM." I repeat those words over and over in my mind because I have learned where the mind goes, the body follows. This may sound simplistic to you and while I didn't 'mantra' my way out of anxiety and panic attacks, what I did do, could be summed up by those six words. I CAN choose my emotions and next step. I WILL follow my adjusted attitude and plan. I AM doing what it takes.
By meeting the obstacle (Covid) head on, my fear and panic dissolved in just over a few days. At first, it felt strange...as if hanging on to those negative emotions were a default crutch. And maybe they were. This time was different because, instead of using resilience and courage to get me out of the black hole that is anxiety and depression, I was using them to keep from falling into the black hole in the first place. Just because the sky was cloudy doesn't mean there's no sun.
Covid forced me to rise up, be strong and use it. The very decision to accept the new situation allowed me head space to choose the right action for me to take. We have to trust that things turn out. Because when we don't, we stumble into those black holes. Remember, you are stronger than you think and the future holds good things for you.