Clifftop Perspective: wellbeing from above

How to get by… (and be awesome) pt. 3: dealing with frustration and boredom

April 28, 2020

This post is part of a three-part series written in early April, 2020, when the world was ushered into quarantine and physical isolation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Part 3: Responding to frustration and boredom with compassion and optimism

We get it. You’re in quarantine and you’ve been staring at the same walls and screens for longer than you had ever planned. According to our parents’ warnings, its about now that our eyes will turning into the shape Netflixes as everyday seems to roll into the next.

Here’s the thing. In a way everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is trying to Jedi-mind trick the virus to self-combust so they can get their hit of some sweet takeaways, or to get back to work, or to visit and hug a loved one.

Yet, I tricked you. We are not in the same boat. Essential workers are on the front-line everyday, potentially exposing themselves and their bubbles to the virus and serious illness. If you or a loved one are on the front-line right now – you will know that their experiences are far more complex.

What’s the issue then?

Your experience is as valid and human as the checkout operator at your local supermarket, who is thinking about the hundred or so people they came into contact with on their shift – or my sister inlaw, a doctor coming home from the hospital, nervous about hugging her deliciously cute two year old son, for fear of transmitting something.

Most people are doing it a little tougher than usual.

Sometimes, when we are feeling frustrated, impatient – we aren’t our best selves. We aren’t kind to ourselves or others. For example there have been a few articles over the last few weeks here in NZ covering incidents of people being verbally abused at supermarkets. I know this is worsened by people standing in mammoth queues that make Disneyland queues look like Denny’s queues… at 2pm.

How do we respond then?

Compassion is the ability to feel the suffering of self or others; and also sense a need to take action to alleviate said suffering. In other words, a) sensing hurt and struggle and b) wanting to take steps to stop or prevent that hurt. There are loads of handy applications for compassion in a time like this.

As for optimism – NO, I don’t mean “thinking happy thoughts”!

Dr Martin Seligman, amongst other feats wrote a book for pessimists like me, called Learned Optimism. Essentially, to practice “learned optimism” you should align your thoughts with the idea that these negative events are not: personal, pervasive or permanent. Good events, we should explain are more personal, pervasive and permanent. So really – mind your self-talk!

  1. Acknowledge that right now you feel [insert range of emotional experiences here], and that is perfectly okay
  2. Take it easy on yourself! If you are being challenged, you are being perfectly human. 
  3. Acknowledge that everyone else is doing it tougher too – some, perhaps much tougher than you. Sit with that thought for a little while.
  4. Ask yourself what small things (even tiny things) you can do differently to respond to people’s struggles – whether is in your bubble, your contacts or your supermarket queue
  5. Remind yourself that Level-4 determines where you should be, not what you do there or how you do it – that’s up to you
  6. Remind yourself that this season will come to an end and will most likely lead to great learning and improvements in the long run

Practical tips

  • Make a point of smiling at supermarket staff and other people in the queue. Smiles are free and have a neurochemical effect on ourselves and others that can improve mood and behaviour.
  • If you have the means to ease other peoples’ struggles in a tiny way – do it. Positive posts on social media, thoughtful catchups with friends online, donations to charity – anything!
  • Logic your way through this. Combat any catastrophic thinking with facts! Especially the fact that all pandemics come to an end, and also, humans tend to learn and improve after challenge – that includes you and our systems of education, government and healthcare too.

Finally, make the most of what many are calling the great pause. The ship is not sinking, it has merely paused – anchored up enroute in the middle of the sea. Some days are sunny and calm – other days the see is rough and it may feel you are getting thrown around a bit. The best news is that someday, the engineers will get the ship moving again.

What you do with your time in this pause, is up to you. Will you learn something, write something, thank someone, appreciate somethings, rest? Breathe?



Part 1 link | Part 2 link