Their aim has been to find greater meaning to their lives amongst the chaos of Covid-19, as well as to relieve the daily stress of isolation and worry for the future. After a whole year of negative reporting on world media on the deep pyschological impact of the Covid lockdown I found this news item inspirational. It reminded me of my early counselling training when I had to study the existential philosophies of philosophers such as Nietzche. Nietzche wrote that as we only have finite time to live on this planet, we must therefore live as if there is nothing else beyond life. A failure to live, to take risks, is a failure to realize human potential.
Sometimes it can take a crisis like the Covid 19 virus to reassess our lives. Guardian Journalist, Dr Sarb Johal wrote back in January of this year, “around the world, many people have found that the Covid 19 crisis has helped them to realise what is truly important in their lives, health, relationships, a safe place to call home…” And billions of us across the globe have either had to face our own potential demise, or of those around us, due to this deadly virus. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that we might ask ourselves the key existential question - that people for centuries have been asking: “Is this all there is to life?”
Part of my work with clients who are struggling to make sense of personal changes like - retirement, divorce, getting old, and being made redundant etc, is to help them navigate through the maze of emotions such as loneliness, hopelessness, uncertaintity and fear for the future. The following five elements are a kind of personal map to help clients reassess, who they are, what they want for their life and what will bring greater meaning to the rest of their life, cope with emotions and learn to live in the present moment.
- Living authentically with an increased sense of awareness. If we only have a finite time left why should we pretend to be that expert just to get financial rewards or public acclaim that temporarily make us feel good? Or be the rescuer who helps everyone but hasn’t learnt to help ourselves? Why not instead live a life which nourishes our mind and body? After a crisis many people change careers, or give up working all together as they finally discover what they were doing before wasn’t authentic or true to who they truly are as human beings.
- Allowing ourselves the freedom to make choices that support our well being. As above, the new choices might be to give up a job that doesn’t support our physical and mental health. We may decide to retire earlier in order to spend more time with our partners, grandchildren and friends etc. Selling our floristry business in the UK gave my partner and I the time and freedom to pursue our dream of setting up an holistic treatment centre in the Algarve.
- Finding personal meaning. This is a deep and complex process. A lack of meaning can lead to many of us filling our lives with a boring job, social media, alcohol, a lot of meaningless sex and unfulfilling relationships in order to fill up a day that would otherwise feel empty. From my own personal journey and work with clients I have learnt that we can find meaning even from painful experiences and crises. Working with a charity gives many people a greater sense or purpose. Volunteering in that way has no public acclaim but is still very satisfying.
- Coping with emotions such as anxiety. Sometimes it can take a crisis for us to standstill and begin to examine what is going in our life. The anxiety can be about not knowing which direction to take which may make us reluctant to move forward. According to existentialists, Anxiety is part of the human condition and therefore something we all have to learn to live with. In my private practice I help clients learn to live with unavoidable emotions such as anxiety and loss.
- Living in the present. Ideally, when we have all this time on our hands, the aim is to live from moment to moment. Yes, we do need to plan our diaries, shopping, think about our career goals etc. But if we are so distracted and anxious we are most likely to focus on previous failures (the past) or worried about letting someone down, being late etc (the future). If we begin to understand that nothing lasts forever, we may be able to look at the current emotion we are feeling - see it as temporary and allow it to pass by, and then re-focus on ‘this moment’.
I am sure many of you can can relate to some of the content outlined above, so why not experiment yourself with some or all of these elements? But do be patient with yourself if you find yourself going back to the old traits. Even the most established masters of self development can sometimes find themselves procrastinating over an important decision. The trick is to catch yourself out, and then gently bring yourself back to the new way of thinking, feeling and being in the world.
My own counselling practice is in the centre of Portimao and I work by appointment. If you are going through a difficult time and would like to work on ways of moving forward in your life please contact me for a short and complementary telephone consultation to establish how best we can work together. You can contact me by phone on 910 665 601 or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org