#Askingforafriend: How do I pursue peace during a pandemic?
By Lauren Dixon
GCU Office of Student Care
Peace is not defined as a lack of disturbance but rather as a freedom from disturbance. It is easy to feel at peace when we are pleased with the circumstances around us, but peace is also available to us even in the midst of distressing circumstances.
As humans, we are biologically wired to be averse to pain and discomfort and to seek pleasure and ease. While this wiring is helpful to us in circumstances where we have some level of control to assess risks, set boundaries and pursue our goals, the same wiring works against us when we find ourselves affected by circumstances outside the grasp of our control.
In our frustration with things we cannot control, we exhaust ourselves both mentally and physically as we cling to the belief that “this should not be like this” and desperately try to convince those around us that things must change.
Ironically, these efforts not only don’t change our frustrating circumstances, they also increase our anxiety, frustration and exhaustion. Our efforts to fight against distress actually create more distress.
Instead of acknowledging realities outside our control and figuring out how to best support ourselves in light of those realities, our pain-averse/pleasure-seeking wiring tells us we cannot have peace if we experience any kind of lacking, longing or loss.
Fortunately, this is not the only wiring with which we’re equipped. We’re also wired for learning, for growth and development, for self-awareness, for relational connection and for making meaning of our experiences.
When one of our wired paths is not serving us well, we have the ability to shift gears and utilize a more helpful path for a given circumstance.
To be clear, our pain-averse wiring serves us well when it urges us to practice social distancing and increased hand hygiene in the midst of a pandemic, but it doesn’t serve us well when it urges us to overthink and catastrophize, to harshly criticize one another, or to stop seeking connection, support or purpose in day-to-day activities.
Here are some ways you can practice shifting to and strengthening other paths that facilitate peace in the midst of scary, frustrating and devastating circumstances:
- Mindfulness: Observe the data around you and the thoughts/feelings within you without judgment or evaluation of whether those things are good or bad. Just notice and breathe. This creates a pause long enough to choose the most helpful response rather than reacting impulsively.
- Learning: Stay curious. Research the facts and increase your understanding of the issue at hand. Examine the costs and benefits of various choices before making decisions.
- Self-care: Identify what will be most supportive to you in this moment. Do you need to create a task list or a new routine? Increase rest, physical activity and social connection?
- Connection: Share your feelings, experiences, needs and desires with trusted supports in your life.
- Meaning: Identify your values and examine whether your actions and routines today are aligned with your values.