The Coronavirus Pandemic: 5 Questions to Stay Positive Through Challenging Times

The Coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed to our lives.  Social distancing has become the new normal and much of our life is now spent on-line.  Those of us in the education sector are now teaching through Zoom. When Yale School of Music students returned to school last week, they found a very different world.

Online teaching for performing artists is particularly challenging since much of their education depends on live interaction, particularly rehearsing and performing are not feasible with the current technologies.  Moreover, with the cultural sector unable to offer live performances, performing artists and performing arts organizations are suffering.  It’s no surprise that some music students are wondering whether they can actually have careers as artists.

It’s easy to feel like a victim of the Coronavirus pandemic and not know what to do. To respond to this situation, I taught a class on optimism and am leading a few coaching groups to discuss ways to stay positive during the crisis.  That’s because even in challenging times, there are many ways to cultivate optimism and stay positive.  Here are five questions that our students found helpful to staying positive through this period.

  1.  What can I control?

The Cornonavirus pandemic is outside of our control.  However, there are many things which you can control.  Here’s what our students noted:

  • Cook and eat nourishing meals;
  • Get plenty of sleep;
  • Daily exercise;
  • Meditate;
  • Follow the social distancing guidelines
  • Limit the amount of news that one consumed.

In fact, the Greater Good Center at UCBerkeley, which provide science-based insights for a meaningful life, has published a helpful article on how to be intentional about consuming Coronavirus news. 

  1. For what am I grateful?

Gratitude is feeling a sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life.  When you acknowledge the things for which you are grateful, you generate positive emotions.  Being grateful connects to others and to something larger than yourself.  It is therefore no surprise that practicing gratitude can make you happier.

You can incorporate gratitude into your life in several ways:

  • Write 3 things that you are grateful for. Positive psychologists have long advocated making a daily gratitude list as a way to training your brain to focus on the positive aspects of your life.
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Tell someone either by speaking or by writing a thank-you letter, the positive impact that the person has had on your life and how much you appreciate him/her
  • Meditate and focus on something for which you are grateful.

Despite the changes in their lives during the Coronavirus pandemic, the students were able to recognize the good things in their life.  Three things that many students were grateful for included:

  • the technologies that are keeping us connected;
  • being able to continue their education;
  • having free time (see below).
  1. What’s the opportunity?

Social distancing during the Coronavirus pandemic means that you probably have more time to do things that you have been putting off.

With the cancellation of rehearsals, many students appreciated the fact that they had time to do things that were not possible during the normal busy schedule:

  • Self-care
  • Relaxation
  • Practicing the piano for fun
  • Learning a new instrument
  • Taking an on-line class
  • Spending time calling friends and family
  • Learning how to cook
  • Improving language skills.
  • Building up their career materials
  • Teaching on-line to generate income during this fallow period
  • Working on creative projects that they ordinarily do not have time to do

What’s on your list?

  1. How can I be of service?

Another way to manage yourself through the Coronavirus pandemic is to see how you can help others and be of service.

Being of service is a great way to connect with others in a meaningful way.  Helping others is a way to be happier and experience a sense of purpose.  In fact, research shows that being of service helps to release endorphins, which result in “helper’s high”. Moreover, helping others helps you to stay physically and mentally healthy.

Students were able to be of service by taking time to support their families, do errands for elderly neighbors, share their music on-line and rigorously follow the social distancing guidelines as a matter of public health.  

  1. Will this matter in a week..a month..a year?

During the Coronavirus pandemic, it helps to contextualize the challenge.  You can do so by asking the following questions:

Will this matter in a week?

In a month?

In a year?

In answering these questions, our students realized that the current situation will not last forever. In fact, one musician shared that during the financial crisis of 2008, her chamber group experienced a lot of cancellations.  However, over time, the group was able to come back stronger than ever.

Bottom Line:

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed many things for now.  However, by asking these questions, our students were able to find a measure of optimism.

Here are some helpful resources on how to maintain your physical and mental well-being while working remotely.

And here are some Mental Health Coping Strategies from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.