How to Survive the End of the World.
“Once more I was trying most strenuously to construct an intimate world of light for myself out of the shambles of a period of devastation.” ~ Hermann Hesse
Hey there, Creative Warrior!
How is your heart?
“Creative Warrior,” I tell myself. Never before has this title felt more appropriate than now…
Like most of us, I fell into a state of shock, confusion and anxiety for the first 10-15 days of this global health crisis, watching helplessly as the world changed almost overnight.
I’m currently in lockdown, in the heart of Madrid, curled up on the couch, in front my millennial version of a chimney (that is, a Fireplace App crackling on the screen of my TV), with a large cup of tea and my best plant friend, whom I’ve appropriately named Wilson, keeping me company.
Watch Cast Away with Tom Hanks, if you don’t get the reference. 🙂
Every now and then, I open the window to take a few deep breaths, as I glance down to a deserted avenue — usually one of the most populated, visited and lively places in the world.
I’ve a seen a lot of virus movies, but I just never thought I’d be in one, and that it wouldn’t be a movie…
Like with any sudden, scary change, these days of isolation have tested my inner strength and faith in life — and I’ve been going through all the 5 Stages of Grief in a matter of days…
For what is change but yet another kind of death – as death is change – and a rebirth to a new life.
First came STAGE 1 – DENIAL:
This is not happening! It’s just a nightmare, you’ll wake up.
I remember how surreal it felt even when they first closed down all the restaurants, literally from one day to another, which already seemed unbelievable — followed by the overnight and totally unprecedented State of Emergency with the stay-at-home order for an initial two weeks — currently one month, with the most recent extension to an additional two weeks, possibly more.
Then STAGE 2 – ANGER kicking in:
This is outrageous! They’re using this to take away our freedom! How dare they?! It hasn’t even been three days! I can’t do this!
Exhausted from my rants and protests, I moved to the next one:
STAGE 3 – the time of BARGAINING:
Well, maybe if I try a little harder to provide solutions to everybody’s problems, or get more stuff online, or exercise at home, or stay on top of all the news and make an exit strategy…
But none of these could work before my Inner Work, and so there it came:
STAGE 4 – DEPRESSION:
Defined as hopeless separation from oneself or disconnection from one’s truth and purpose; the shadow self that grows like mold in isolation.
I think I’ve finally made it to the end of the tunnel, or more like found new light in the middle of it, just in the last two weeks:
STAGE 5 – ACCEPTANCE:
The making peace with this uncertainty, the trust that we are all interconnected and we will get through this somehow and come out to the other side more humble, kind, creative and aware…
The reassurance that while a way of life is dying – maybe around us, maybe with us, maybe because of us – something will also start to live again – maybe for us, maybe through us, maybe in us.
You may be going through these stages one by one, or all at once… it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.
My advice: Let yourself feel it all. There is no other way but through the fire.
Some people will be more affected than others by this crisis. Some will never recover while others will barely feel it.
Wherever you are between these two extremes, please know that your feelings matter, your pain matters, your life matters. Your story is the only one you will ever experience in your skin.
You have the right to feel scared, uncertain, powerless, alone.
You also have the right to feel okay, inspired and creative, to be at peace and thriving and connected, despite the reigning isolation and confusion.
You have the right to laugh and cry many times over, in the course of a single day – which now feels like a year.
None of us has been here before.
Tears have been flowing for me almost every day since the Age of Isolation started (including a few times in the middle of writing you this letter) – sometimes for no apparent reason, and yet for all the reasons. I wipe them off and keep on typing.
As one of my favorite poets, Rainer Maria Rilke, put it…
Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final.
So this is not a rant on how to stay positive on the outside, while you’re scared or lonely or angry on the inside.
This is a story of hope amid the pain and fear and confusion.
This is about the opportunity to be CREATORS, while everything in us is tempted to REACT.
They say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…
I don’t know if that’s always the case. Sometimes it weakens and exhausts you and leaves you full of scars.
But I do think it makes you truer to yourself, to others and to life. And it’s that truth, that heart to heart with life, with others and myself that I am after.
Here are some more tips I offer you to help you stay sane through this time of isolation, fear and uncertainty:
If you are sick and healing at home, these also apply.
I’ve been practicing them myself over the past couple weeks, so I could speak to you from my own imperfect experience of life vs. some rosy theory of it:
PRIORITIZE YOURSELF EVERY MORNING.
Feed your soul, ignite your mind and move your body first thing in the morning, before you do anything else.
I cannot emphasize the importance of starting the day with inspiration and creativity vs. in a state of reaction, especially when there is so much change and fear and uncertainty to react to.
Develop a morning routine that includes some kind of Inspiration (reading, meditating) + Exercise + Creative Action (writing, journaling) — and try to NOT engage with the world outside (now mostly through the news or social media) until you have completed your Inner Work.If you have to tend to your family or interact with housemates, try to get up a little earlier to have your Creative Power Hour, before they wake up.
It will make a HUGE difference in the way you face the day, your levels of optimism and your mental health — now more than ever.
I live alone and since the lockdown came overnight, I had no time to even say goodbye to loved ones. I was so shocked I fell into the news addiction for the first week or so of isolation and it nearly destroyed me.
For the past few weeks I’ve been returning to my morning routine, which I already kept before the world ended, and I came back into alignment with myself and life again.
Which brings me to my next point…
DON’T CHECK THE NEWS MORE THAN ONCE A DAY.
I’m not saying don’t check them at all or don’t stay informed, I’m saying, don’t watch a horror movie non-stop every hour of the day, and expect to not go insane.
For the first 4-5 days I was glued to the news. It increased my fear, depression and anxiety – and overall affected my mental health.
Please understand that Fear, Depression and Anxiety disempower you and have a HUGE NEGATIVE IMPACT on your immune system – aka, the most powerful warrior that will protect and fight for you in this health crisis.
All you have to do is help it vs. add more stress and pain and fear than necessary.
MAKE THAT PHONE CALL YOU’VE BEEN POSTPONING OR AVOIDING. HAVE THAT CONVERSATION.
Yes, I said CALL, NOT TEXT – you know, that weird thing with phones we haven’t done since 2008…
I’ve been talking to my dad almost every day for the past week vs. the usual once every week or two. I can’t see him yet – or anyone I love for that matter – but thank God my wifi and phone line are not in quarantine.
I’ve also been connecting with friends around the world, with whom I hadn’t spoken in a long time, and I have started working through some relationships that needed healing and attention.
I’m not sure why we wait until we’re faced with an emergency situation to share all the love, the truths and endless compassion we’re carrying inside.
After all, isn’t this short and unexpected life also somewhat of an emergency?
Isn’t it urgent that we love ourselves and others deeply, truly, madly every day, as if it were our last, through peace or war, through health or illness, through light or darkness alike?
Isn’t that why we’re here?
BE VERY SELECTIVE WITH YOUR FOCUS, ENERGY AND ATTENTION.
When you feel scared or anxious or depressed you are also most vulnerable to major life distractions and detours. You are more likely to be thrown off course and end up trapped in stories you don’t want vs. creating the story that you do want.
You can be easy prey to energy vampires and depleting narratives that don’t support your growth or healing.
Stay connected to others, yes, but don’t waste your precious time on social media or entertainment 24/7, swallowing loads of content you wouldn’t otherwise digest.
Don’t engage in negative, destructive, gossipy or unhelpful threads or interactions.
Don’t feed the fire that destroys you.
I stayed away from social media almost entirely for the first week of lockdown, free from the chatter of thousands of voices at once, until my mind and heart adjusted to the situation and I felt ready to create vs. react.
Which takes me to point 5…
STAY ACTIVE, CREATIVE & INSPIRED.
The real enemy of life is not death, but stagnation. Movement will set you free.
Movement of heart, of body, of mind – it’s all the same creative flow of life running through you.
Taking inspired, creative action propels you forward through any kind of crisis.
Creative action fully engages your mind, body and heart, bringing you back to the present moment, which is your only place of power.
Use this period of unexpected isolation to take creative action and IMPROVE YOUR LIFE, in any way that is available to you right now.
Use the hours you wouldn’t spend commuting to work or doing other activities in public places to train your mind, heal your heart and nourish your body.
In as much as possible, use this time to work on yourself!
Creative action will keep you grounded and empowered.
If you use most of your daily available energy to create yourself and your life, you’ll have less of it left for worry, anxiety, fear or depression to feed on.
Just because you’re social distancing, self-isolating or on lockdown, it doesn’t mean that time has ceased to exist. Time is still time – the stuff your life is made of. Don’t waste it. Treat it with respect.
This experience can actually gift you some extra time to dive into the things you love but you never make that time for, under the usual obligations.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEALTH MORE THAN EVER.
If there has ever been a time to get more serious about how you nourish your body, your heart and your mind, IT IS NOW.
I’ll share more in-depth wellness tips with you soon. For now just try to follow these simple basics as much as you can:
• Eat more plants – as fresh as possible.
• Exercise every single day. If you are stuck at home all day and you’re not moving like you normally do, this is even more relevant.
• Get fresh air daily. Open the windows a few times a day and let the air circulate, especially if you can’t go out. Take more deep breaths throughout the day.
• Catch up on sleep, your NUMBER 1 immunity booster. If not now, when?
• Hydrate. If you’re not moving much, you’re less likely to drink all the water your body needs. Make sure you’re drinking at least three liters of water a day (12 glasses). Measure it if you have to.
• Protect your mental health at all costs. You need yourself as sane as possible to get through this.
REMEMBER: Truth is simple. Your well-being is simple. Self-love is simple. So simple that we don’t believe it or attempt it.
SUPPORT OTHERS IN ANY WAY YOU CAN.
Whether it’s through free or paid work, please keep the flow of abundance going – inside and out.
If there is one thing we will gain from this crisis, is a heightened sense of interconnection and compassion, a deeper awareness of how our actions are affecting others – and vice-versa.
Above all, PLEASE KEEP SUPPORTING SMALL BUSINESSES.
Keep investing in your favorite restaurant or family-owned store, your favorite creators, coaches, artists, teachers, leaders — your circle of support, even more so than before.
This is also the perfect time and opportunity to invest in yourself and your skills or wellbeing – in whatever way you’ve been wanting to improve but couldn’t find the time – and in the process help another creator.
Because you’ll need the most alive, empowered and creative version of you to turn this crisis into an opportunity.
Creators, don’t devalue your work or the work of others, out of fear or uncertainty. Don’t let panic dictate the rules for your business. Don’t allow this patch of darkness to freeze your creativity and work flow.
Keep being the light. Keep sharing any free resources, discounts or bonuses that you can offer to those in need, and continue to charge for the work that pays your bills.
Whatever you do, keep moving forward and leading with your heart.
Whether you are a creator or a consumer or BOTH, like most of us, please understand that you cannot help anyone – not even yourself – from a place of powerlessness, anxiety and desperation.
You need to find a way to get or stay empowered and inspired in order to help others.
PRACTICE GRATITUDE SEVERAL TIMES A DAY.
I know that feeling grateful at this time may sound impossible, especially after you binge on the news, or if you’re ill, or in a state of shock or fear or anxiety.
However, gratitude will speed up your healing process – in any way you’re hurting right now, and help you get to the ACCEPTANCE phase quicker.
Your health may be affected, your freedom may be affected, your financial situation may be affected, your relationships may be affected – yes.
I can assure you though that there is still SO MUCH you can be grateful for right now – starting with the wifi connection that enables you read these words and stay connected on the inside, despite our social isolation.
You could fill pages with your blessings if you sit down and count. The more blessings you find even in the midst of a seemingly impossible situation, the more blessings will find you.
What you focus on affects your mental, emotional and therefore physical health – because guess where your mind and heart are living… in your body!
Furthermore, your focus and expectations literally determine your actions, and your actions create your reality to a great extent.
If you check the news on any of the most affected countries right now (Spain, Italy & the U.S.), the first thing you see is the number of infected people, along with the death toll: cold-hearted numbers that chill you to the bone.
You have no information on the context – and no idea on the REAL NUMBERS of infected people who have already healed on their own – which new studies have estimated were already ranging in the MILLIONS, worldwide, the month before the crisis even started in the west.
Notwithstanding the deep compassion and connection you should feel for the sick and dying, or the support you should offer them and the heroic medical professionals risking their lives every day to help contain this crisis…
Notwithstanding your personal responsibility to stay at home, take care of yourself and not be a danger to others…
Please keep in mind that despite the thousands that are hospitalized or in the ICU, there are also many more untested people — MILLIONS OF US — who are still healthy + MILLIONS who have recovered or are recovering at home, for whom this will be no worse than a bad cold or totally asymptomatic.
THESE NUMBERS – THE VAST MAJORITY – SHOULD ALSO COUNT.
In fact, we won’t get a real picture of the situation or the fatality rate until the majority of the population in the worst-hit countries has been tested and we have ACCURATE NUMBERS to indicate the REAL mortality rate, which might be significantly lower than we’ve been informed.
Yes, it’s an awful, desperate situation for many, and that is why we are all sacrificing for a little while – so they/we/all can have a chance to fight this.
But also know that millions will get through it just fine.
When you feel paralyzed by fear, please focus on the whole, not just the pieces that the media, hungry for clicks and ads, is emphasizing.
Psychologically speaking, fear is more addictive than joy. Bad news are more viewed and clickable than good ones. Remember that before you’re tempted or seduced to binge on fear.
Do your best to intentionally direct your focus for most of your day to everything that is GOOD, EVEN GREAT in your life right now.
The worse things get, the more you are required to find strength in what is still alright, and true, and beautiful in and around you – NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS.
Start training your eyes to see the collateral beauty, the silver lining, and your creative power will expand in ANY circumstances.
We may not have chosen this crisis – but we can choose how we respond to it.
We can choose to be the ones who create more life vs. the ones who just react to death and destruction.
In words of Viktor E. Frankl – Holocaust survivor and author of the classic Man’s Search for Meaning:
The last of human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.
As long as we’re alive, nothing – no one can take away our most essential freedom.
The power to create vs. react is ALWAYS ours.
You may not have the first word over your life, but you certainly CAN and MUST have the last word over how you choose to create it every day.
I’d love to hear from you. How are you doing? Say Hi in the comments or via Social Media.
All my love!
Andrea Balt ❤️
P.S. If you are a writer, word lover or content creator, and you could use this time of confinement and social isolation to improve your writing skills + stay creative, active and empowered, complete projects you’ve been putting off, as well as write every single day of this lockdown and beyond, join us for our most popular program EVER – 30 Days of Creative Writing open for a few more days.