Chapter Four of my book, Metamorphosis, is devoted to caring to our brains by importing wisdom and exporting, well, the utter crap that we all tend to consume. Suffice to say that since COVID-19 took over our lives, all of my best practices have gone out the window and I’m anxious, antsy, distracted, obsessing over social media, and light on any form of wisdom or clarity at all. Can you relate?
Therefore, I thought I would rework ‘Export Crap, Import Wisdom’ into a quarantine-specific manual. I hope it helps. PS – there’s a third part to the chapter which is ‘Download Wisdom’. It turns out that there’s some great advice in our subconscious, if only we can access it.
We live in the greatest age of information, and not only is this the first global pandemic in our living memory, but it’s the first to play out in real-time over news and social media. If you’re anything like me, it’s time to play close attention to both the quality and quantity of the news flow and noise you’re letting in.
- Filter your inputs. It’s a scary time when even the US President’s briefings are utter fiction. Consider limiting your news flow inputs to (a) the news outlets that you trust the most, (b) the social media accounts that you find most helpful, nurturing and positive, and (c) specialist people and institutions who know what they’re talking about. I, for one, can’t wait to scrub my Twitter feed of epidemiologists but for now, I value their perspective.
- Decide how much, and what news you’re comfortable consuming. I’m finding it a difficult balance between wanting to be informed and wanting to manage my mental health. In Metamorphosis I talk about how I rarely consume newsflow. Well, that’s gone out the window as I mentioned above. However, I’m trying to limit my Twitter consumption to the morning, when I’m at my most resilient, to only check news outlets a couple of times a day, to decide before clicking whether I need to read a story, and to keep my evenings escapist and newsflow-free.
- Turn background noise down or off. We’re so bombarded by noise that we’ve become immune. Silence really is golden (I assume those lyrics were written by a parent). Seize your golden moments and turn off Spotify, the radio, the TV, and whatever other noise sources you possibly can, whenever you can. Embrace even brief moments of tranquillity as precious interludes in your day.
- Turn off notifications and regain control. This is particularly important at this time. I know that I’m completely overwhelmed by WhatsApp messages at the moment and have taken to putting my phone on airplane mode when reading on my Kindle app. The feeling as I swipe off my connectivity is heaven! At the moment, we’re all susceptible to distraction. Think about turning off notifications on email and social media. Let me tell you a secret: if you don’t get back to people immediately, the sky will not fall.
- Meditation and mindfulness are brilliant tools for these times. They reduce anxiety and that feeling that I can only describe as being ‘frazzled’. They may bring you peace and allow you to shift your perspective. Ping me if you’d like some suggestions. I also find breathwork very effective as it shuts down my thinking brain in a way that I struggle to do via meditation. Try @thebreathguy on Instagram.
- Journaling. This is SUCH a good one!! I’m a huge fan but have been journaling more than ever recently. At the very least, it’s cool to keep a record of our emotions and experiences during this historic time. It’s also brilliant for getting rid of anxiety, thoughts that play on a loop, rational and irrational fears, and for reminding yourself of what’s going right and what makes you happy—gratitude journaling is a wonderful thing. Here is a beautiful podcast episode on 10 ways to journal effectively.
Now that we’ve managed to rescue our brains from some of the crap that may be lodged there, let’s look at how we can fill up these beautiful vessels with mental nectar. While there’s not much we can control in the world around us currently, we can control our responses. The ‘Five Chimps’ theory states that the moods and behaviours of a chimp can be predicted based on the five chimps with whom they hang out most frequently. It works for us humans too.
- Choose your five chimps: I like to have a real-life list, and a virtual mentor list – people of influence who have no idea who I am, but whose teachings I find invaluable. It’s worth having a think about what you want to absorb from them: scientific fact? Coping mechanisms? Help with making sense of everything that’s going on? Distraction? Comfort?
- In real life, use this as an opportunity to reach out digitally to people who feel like home —to family, friends and soul mates
- Balance education and entertainment. In my book I talk about choosing education over entertainment (the idea being that if we spend our whole lives watching Love Island, we may not become our best selves) but right now is the time for doing what makes you feel good. I’ve been escaping into feel-good movies and books far more than I usually do. But there are still so many amazing books, blogs and podcasts if you want to feed your mind or use this time to get inspired. Whatever works for you.
- Micro-dose on wisdom: some of my practices include keeping inspiring books by the loo (!), listening to podcasts when I’m doing any form of housework, and doing a 5-10 minute meditation practice—free app Insight Timer allows you to search by how much time you have
- Make notes. I use Evernote and make notes on everything – it’s easily searchable and a great way to keep track of stories, facts or soundbites that inspire you when you’re listening to podcasts or reading
Here’s a bonus if you are game: access your inner wisdom.
- Travel forward in time. In Metamorphosis I suggest writing a letter from your 85 year-old self, but you can travel forward 6 months or a year if that’s the furthest you can imagine right now. Write a journal entry recalling the events of 2020 and celebrating the fact that the pandemic has passed and you are healthy, safe and with your loved ones
- Travel back in time. Think about what life was like just a few short weeks ago, how carefree you were, and allow yourself to fill with gratitude at the ‘ordinary’ things that make our normal so special
- Tap into the power of universal intelligence. This is one of the most helpful things I do for myself right now. I remind myself that I believe everything happens for a reason, that the universe has my back and that I’m in good hands—I just have to sit back and watch everything unfold as it should. Books on this that I love include Super Attractor by Gabby Bernstein and The Power of Intention by Dr Wayne Dyer.
There’s never been a more important time to look after your mental health. Focus on what feels good to you and know that you are not alone in this. Stay well. x
If you’d like to read about these practices in greater detail, check out my book Metamorphosis.