10 ways to survive a crisis like COVID-19
Asian Development Bank principal human resource specialist Vina Francisco.

10 ways to survive a crisis like COVID-19

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo (The Philippine Star) - May 12, 2020 - 12:00am

I asked my friend Vina Francisco to share some of her personal insights on how she is living through this pandemic and the enhanced community quarantine in Manila. I chose her because she experienced the tragedy of 9/11 in New York and continued to live in New York for many years after.  Almost 10 years ago, she relocated to Manila and is currently the principal human resources specialist at the Asian Development Bank.

For many years, Vina thought of her life in terms of before and after 9/11. That single day gave her a new lease on life and changed her perspective of it forever.

“I learned a lot about myself through that experience. I realized that I had more courage than I ever thought possible, that I am resilient through change, that I can think quickly on my feet, that I had strong survival instincts, and most importantly that I can create a meaningful life for myself in spite of limitations, circumstantial or imposed,” Vina shares.

She thought 9/11 and its aftermath would be the only global tragedy that would be part of her life story but that was not to be so. She said that for the second time, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, she feels that she has to fight for her life all over again. Lessons from the past are helping her, but she is, like the rest of us, feeling the uncertainty and the stress, too.

“But that doesn’t mean we give up. We have to cross over to the new world… so let’s cross bravely with hope and fervor to re-create meaningful lives with new paradigms. ‘Do not go gentle into that good night.’ Not yet. Not for a long, long time. Let’s be here for each other for the long haul!” says Vina.

Vina shares 10 ways to survive a crisis like COVID-19.

1. We all cope with crisis differently. It’s difficult to tell how each person deals with a crisis. Right now, we are all on survival mode but the trauma of this crisis may manifest later on in life. There are outward behaviors that may be real but there are also emotions that may remain hidden. Some people seem to have “adjusted” well enough to the new normal, some panic, others are angry, lonely, while others are quietly adopting a wait-and-see attitude. Some will find solace in prayer, some in food and alcohol, some in humor, in keeping busy while others will pick up a new hobby or be an information hound. No judgements. To each his own way of coping as long as at the end of the day, we stay healthy physically and mentally. And remember, it’s OK to have bad days as long as it’s not every day.

2. The more resilient you are, the better you will manage through the ambiguity and uncertainty of these times. Change is difficult for many of us especially when it is unexpected and forced. But the burning platform is clear — change or get sick, change or die. But you can learn how to manage through change with acceptance and practice. Go with the flow, accept that we don’t have all the answers, and make informed decisions. We don’t know how far ahead we can plan so plan in small increments of time — three months, six months, nine months. It is less overwhelming this way.

3. Many people have stepped up and upped their game. For many, the desire to be helpful, useful, to contribute to the welfare of others has kicked in. Genuine leaders are working harder, are more focused and are selfless in thinking not just of themselves but the people in their care.

4. It’s harder when you live alone. While living alone can be bliss, it’s harder in a crisis because being alone every day, 24 hours a day for an indefinite period of time takes some of that bliss away!  Check in on friends and family, especially those who are alone. People check on me and that goes a very long way for my emotional well-being.

5. We are feeling a sense of  regret for all the things  we wish we did before our lives changed. If ever there was a time that we are collectively living the “life is short” cliché, it is now. It’s really hit home pandemically. We all have “If only…,” “Had I known…,”  “I wish…,” feelings. That’s normal but I think the lesson here is to lessen the regrets in our lives… starting now!

6. Relive your happy memories and let that be your buoy in tough times. Look at old photos, remember past travels and adventures, reminisce on happy conversations, family milestones, the times you laughed out loud, got silly drunk, danced like there was no tomorrow! Happy memories are your rewards for having lived a life that decorated your soul!

7. Make a mental  list of who are important in your life and who are going to cross the “portal” with you to  the new world. I know who I miss, who I worry about, I know who are the loves of my life. They are the ones who are helping me see through this crisis and they are the ones I will continue to treasure all my life. Of course, I want to stay alive for myself but I also want to stay alive because I want to be here for them for many more years to come.

8. You can learn a lot about yourself in a crisis. Some of us may already have personal reflections while for others, the revelations may come later. In some of my Zoom sessions, I’ve asked friends these questions: What have you discovered about yourself through this crisis? How are you coping?  What would you like to change about your life going forward?

9. Things happen for a reason… look for the hidden blessings. It’s hard to think why there would be a good reason why over a million people in the world have gotten sick. But we can all look into ourselves and find positives. Perhaps now you can slow down and take care of your health by eating better, exercising more, catching up on sleep. You now have quality time with your family. You have more time to catch up with people who are important to you but that you have lost touch with.  Faced with your own mortality, maybe you even now realize that you love your imperfect life!

10. You realize that it really takes a village to take care of yourself. As independent and as capable as I am, I am now fully dependent on the dedication and work ethic of those around me for my survival. Security guards and building maintenance people who keep my building safe and clean by enforcing the use of masks and social distancing. The staff at convenience stores who supply me with basic goods so that I don’t have to go to the supermarket often and risk getting exposed. The Grab drivers who deliver supplies to my older parents because their entire household needs to stay sheltered. The medical practitioners who made a house call so that I didn’t have to go to the emergency room to be treated for food poisoning! Each one of their acts has kept me virus-free. *

(We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at monsrt@gmail.com. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.)

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