As Covid-19 made its viral entry into the veins of our world, countries went into a frenzy trying to firefight the tiniest enemy leading the deadliest invasion on mankind in recent history. Among the many announcements was one that said “the elderly are very vulnerable”, leaving a large senior population anxious and fearful for their health during this crisis. While we have been caught up with multiple other emergencies, they have been left to fend for themselves emotionally. They may not need hand-holding but I have been waiting to have this conversation with them.
The seasoned warriors
Just as you thought it was time to put your feet up and watch your children and grandchildren do what you love seeing them do — grow, blossom and shine — this menacing, dark cloud of Covid-19 has cast a shadow over you and everything you have built and loved.
The coronavirus pandemic has left everyone vulnerable and anxious, but reports of it being a bigger fight for the elderly, may have rattled you a bit more. So, I decided it was necessary to refresh your memories a bit. Let me remind you of the hundreds of challenges you have faced and survived.
* You have seen wars, earthquakes, tsunamis and blood-spilling riots.
* Some of you have left what you knew to be your “home” for a better future for your families, and created that future with your bare hands.
* You have felt your heart melt when your kids fell sick and painfully hammered it to be hard as metal, when you had to teach them a tough lesson.
* Some of you have seen your parents go.
* You have seen the world change every decade and adapted.
I don’t mean to cause pain by refreshing some difficult memories. I only want to remind you of how brick by brick you have built yourself with every experience. I want to bring back to the surface the grit, strength and ability you have to adapt with which you have fought, not only for yourself, but for us as well. It’s time to bring back that blazing energy to face your present.
The moment you feel low or get hit by anxiety over your perceived disadvantage, remember that you have a resilient and weathered mind and an immortal soul to face this threat to your body… that which you know we are not.
Your soul knows how it’s done, but a quick oiling of your ammunition won’t hurt.
Quiet the mind and the soul will speak – Buddha
1. Breathe, meditate, exercise, eat and sleep well
Breathing and meditation help quieten the mind, relax the body and strengthen the immune system. The mind is a powerful source, the start point of your emotions and actions.
Exercise and yoga release endorphins in the body and help reduce inflammation, thereby boosting your immune system. Healthy, regular and small meal habits have known to be one of the secrets of longevity among the Japanese. Sleep is when the hormone melatonin is generated in the body. Not only does it relax you, it keep you healthy, vital and youthful too!
2. Read, read, read and keep learning
Reading and learning keeps your brain active. Switching off autopilot and learning something new stimulates your brain in ways it has never been used before, increasing neural activity in brain cells and thus enhancing its health. Maybe it’s time to sign up for an online lesson on something you haven’t done before, chess, or sudoku or become a DJ if you please! But keep learning to get stronger!
Yogastha Kuru Karmani – Shri Krishna
3. Focus and empower your present and do your duty in the present
When Arjun reminisced about the beautiful memories from the past with his brothers, uncles and teachers, he lost heart. He worried about the future and where the battle would take them and he put down his Gandiv. That is when Shri Krishna said “yogastha kuru karmani”, which means to stop thinking about the past or the future. Focus on what is in front of you, in this moment and perform your duty. Your duty or your karma in this moment is your purpose. Focus, minute by minute, day by day, on the present and what you need to accomplish in the here and now.
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For it is in giving that we receive – St Francis
4. Give back
For us giving back often only implies to materialistic things. According to our scriptures monetary or materialistic giving, while definitely a form of help, is the least significant form of giving.
Teaching has been documented as the highest form of charity in the Gita. It is your time and dedication in giving knowledge to someone that will last them a lifetime and that is worthy of reverence. Find a way (online/video chat for now) to teach or educate someone. For instance, video call one of your staff families in their village and educate them on the virus, precautions, the government policies and measures as consequences of the pandemic, why it is important to stay in and how they can tale care of their families, is a great way to start.
Wake up every day with will and determination to focus on today, to do well by your body, mind and soul, be willing to learn and give the divine gift of teaching, to someone who wants to learn and when you go to bed that day having done all this, that satisfying sleep will add many years of joy and vitality to every breath you take.
(The author is Mumbai-based psychologist and psychotherapist.)