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The human brain is a curious organ. It is programmed from birth to actively search the world around us. As we get older and mature this search gets fine tuned and focused. We pursue education, friendships, hobbies, sports. Our quest for life experience allows us to learn about the world around us and just as importantly develop a better sense of our own identity. We progress from a period of knowledge acquisition (“knowing”) that can last decades into a prolonged journey that requires that we utilize what we have learned and productively participate in life. This “doing” often includes pursuing gainful employment and careers, raising a family, involvement in spiritual endeavors, development of hobbies, political involvement and altruistic pursuits.
Is there a common thread throughout the stage of knowing and the stage of doing? Both stages involve the presence of meaningfulness. Knowledge, employment, raising a family, friendships all invest humans with a sense of value and worthiness. Curiosity without meaningfulness leads to emptiness. Curiosity requires the attainment of goals and real-time accomplishments. Otherwise curiosity ceases and is replaced with apathy and malaise.
All of us need day-to-day meaningfulness to replenish and sustain our souls. A healthy sense of self thrives on it. The covid 19 virus has created an overwhelming challenge to life’s meaningfulness. Our pandemic world has led to anxiety, an overarching sense of helplessness, and problematic hypervigilance as we worry about getting infected. Covid 19 imposed social isolation has led to depression, hopelessness, helplessness and family stress.
How to cope with a world that none of us have control over? It is natural to experience anxiety in this scenario. Besides day-to-day meaningfulness, human beings have a need to be in control. The pandemic has brutally interfered with our belief that we have control. Social media, news outlets and politicians have contributed to our sense of helplessness by providing confusing messages and advice as we have tried to navigate this new world.
What can we do to make the best of this difficult life situation? When life around us appears chaotic and out of control, it is imperative that each one of us focus on our own personal worlds. This can best be accomplished by attending to day-to-day structure and routine. If you can’t influence the external world you certainly can control your personal life. Attention to sleep, nutrition, exercise, hobbies, family and friends, fun can facilitate healthier life balance during trying times. Meaningfulness can be derived from basic life interactions. This will sustain us through life’s travails until normality returns. And normality will return. Once normality returns, we will hopefully have become wiser and better prepared for the post pandemic world.