According to Roman mythology there lived a King on the western bank of the River Tiber. A king so venerated he enjoyed his own religious devotion, along with spelt, barley and honey cakes brought to him on the daily.
Janus (Ianus in latin) is etymologically related to Ianua, the Latin word for door. King Janus himself was the doorkeeper of the heavens. And like any great doorkeeper, Janus had two heads. He could see forwards and backwards simultaneously without turning around and guided travelers with a powerful staff.
Numa, The second King of Rome was the ultimate fanboy of Janus. So much so that he advocated for calendar reform by adding the month of January in his honor.
Janus often comes to mind during a global pandemic. I have consulted with many folks not stricken by the virus, yet they feel “a sense of paralysis” as one young woman recently put it,
“I honestly just don’t know what to do. The pain and anxiety have doubled in recent months. I was hoping that the start of a new year would change things.”
My inner Janus would simply and confidently say with powerful staff in hand,
“Young lady, you must not look back. Allow me to be your guide and transition you into 2021 and this new uncertain world.”
Alternatively, maybe more helpful would be the wise words of Marcus Aurelius, the venerated Roman emperor and devout follower of Stoicism,
“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
Whether you’re a fan of mythological makers or the Stoic leaders, patients often need a dose of practicality when navigating the unknown.
Moving Beyond the Paralysis
We don’t know! Keep this mantra as the overarching operating system at the back of your brain when thinking anything and everything Coronavirus.
“What are the real numbers? Would getting more sleep help? When will I get the vaccine? How long does the virus live on my patchouli-stained yoga mat?”
The reality is that there is much we don’t know and won’t know anytime soon. Wonderfully, Pfizer, Moderna and a host of other pharmaceutical companies can work tirelessly in creating a vaccine, but when will you get it? Will it be safe? How many people did they test it on? What are the side effects? The questions are endless but the underlying answer remains the same: we don’t really know.
This doesn’t mean you should not get the vaccine. If anything, vaccinations may arguably be considered humanity’s greatest ever achievement. But that doesn’t mean there will not questions surrounding what will be a very fragmented global vaccination strategy.
Once “We don’t know” gets accepted as the underlying operating system try installing three additional software programs:
1. Take Control
This really comes down to perception and like most things, it can be trained. How do you perceive the world around you? How do you perceive yourself during this pandemic? Are you the type of person that gets upset when positive cases begin soaring around you? Are you the type of person that throws caution to the wind?
Your mind is your greatest asset, spawning creativity, intelligence, love and ingenuity. But, your mind is also capable of being your largest enemy; a seemingly unrelenting warzone where the enemy occupies much of your working mind.
To limit the chances of an enemy takeover, we start with a strategic framework in which to work. Here is an example related back to the lady suffering from a “sense of paralysis”:
During Covid, she found herself staying in bed for 4–6 hours longer than normal, terrified of the possibility of contracting the virus. She ate, worked, and chatted with friends in bed for gradually longer portions of the day; often not emerging from bed until much past noon.
At first, she justified being habitually horizontal as a strategy to resolve the physical pain she had grown accustomed to living with from a previous car accident, but this quickly backfired on her. The sharp increase in pain from remaining in bed was her brains way of pleading with her to move; she viewed it as the needing to move less. By the time she had reached out to our clinic she had basically fossilized herself to her queen Casper bed.
We implemented a basic morning (operative word; morning) walking routine. 30 minutes each morning, every morning with no exceptions. These walks started at 11am and moved a half hour earlier in each of the next eight weeks. This began the process of taking back control of what was happening day in, day out.
2. Choose your Reaction
From Viktor E. Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning,
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms — to chose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
I know this is easier said than done, especially during a pandemic when second and third waves seemingly bring life to a grinding halt. Sure, you may not be able to go to your favourite restaurant or spend time catching up with a friend over coffee, but all is not lost. Far from it.
Most of us can choose to protect ourselves (or not) and our families from the virus. We can choose to practice social distancing and wash our hands frequently. How much of human history has been plagued by no such individual freedoms?
3. Microactions for Macroresults
Three weeks into 2021 and I’ve received numerous messages about folks not keeping with their New Years strategies for dealing with Covid-19,
“I need to get on a vaccination list.”
“I need to buy a Peloton.”
The goals are lofty but that isn’t the worst part. The worst part is that there is no plan in place. What do you do when you end up being one of the last demographics of folks being vaccinated? Or you end up having to wait three months for your Peloton delivery? The only thing you can truly control is how you respond to these scenarios.
The key to long term success is starting small. Small incremental changes over time tend to become reaffirming. These reaffirmations end up becoming a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy which have the power to create larger and more permanent change over time.
You need to wait three months for your Peloton? Start walking. Then from walking move to jogging. Then from jogging move to Peloton. Now you're 2/3rd’s of the way to becoming an Ironman athlete.
New Year. Same Covid.
If Y2K didn't magically alter the planet with the roll of the calendar, I was pretty sure the coronavirus wouldn’t do so either. Cases continue to rise around the globe and there have been talks of the virus mutating as a means of maintaining its own virulence.
Covid will be at the forefront of our foreseeable future, so we might as well get accustomed to it. Learn to exercise without going to the gym. Figure out how to find the end call button on your computer, and turn your home office into a make shift day spa. Learn to take delight in the newness that change can bring.
“ Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature’s delight.” - Marcus Aurelius