What is the meaning of life? While COVID-19 remains active, many people have embraced restrictions by slowing down, spending more time with family, and reassessing what’s important in life.
Sunshine Coast meditation teacher Erin Ashley says, “COVID-19 has interrupted a lot of our typical routines and patterns. If we’re open to it, we’ve been afforded an opportunity to examine our ways.”
Ms Ashley, who hosts mindful yoga classes, programs and retreats, says the meaning of life is, “to keep loving, growing and being present enough to discover our own true purpose and gifts – and then to share that for the benefit of others”.
“Like any other challenging event that arises in life, COVID-19 has only affirmed my desire to focus on life’s more meaningful values, like spreading kindness, having patience, treasuring the simple things, and cherishing others.”
Everyday things we took for granted have suddenly been flipped upside down, delivering a new perspective on what we consider important.
An affective way to snap things into perspective is by chatting to elderly relative, who have experienced the hardships living through World War II and the Great Depression.
Lutheran Services’ Immanuel Gardens resident Joy Hurrell says during the war, travel was a luxury and food was rationed for years. “And here we are complaining about bare shelves for two or three months,” Ms Hurrell says.
Fellow Immanuel Gardens resident Col Spann remembers the struggles his family faced during the Depression. “My earliest memories are that life was hard and my father had great difficulty in keeping food on the table for his large family,” Mr Spann says.
“There were very few ‘treats’ and if you could somehow find a penny to spend, it would buy two chocolate frogs or a penny ice-cream in a cone. But we had a happy enough upbringing.
“I really feel that our current situation has some parallels to the Depression years and to the early war years in Brisbane,” Mr Spann adds.
Much like these historic hardships, COVID-19 has given much of the modern world a new sense of gratefulness and appreciation for life.
Judy Belter is another resident who sees the positive side. She says COVID-19 has taught her to live with less. Her advice to the younger generations is to always respect the humanity in others, as well as be caring and kind.
“We should work much more towards a cleaner and sustainable environment and society for the welfare of our children and grandchildren,” Ms Belter says. “Set goals, pursue worthy purposes, work hard but smart to achieve them. Be caring and loving to you family and fellow beings.”
Expressing a newfound appreciation for life, resident George Cooney says, “Life living with COVID-19 says we cannot be sure what tomorrow has in store, so treat life with respect.
“We should practise quality of life because without quality we do not have anything worth having of value.”
For bestselling authors and Coast power couple Allan and Barbara Pease, the pandemic has significantly changed their lifestyle, yet provided a rare opportunity to reset their values.
Going from speaking at events around the world to staying home on the Sunshine Coast, Mr and Mrs Pease say they have enjoyed hitting the pause button and spending more time with their children.
“When we sit on Mooloolaba Beach we are reminded that we live in an amazing part of the world and we haven’t suffered as much as other countries,” Mrs Pease says.
“Look after you, your family and friends. Be kind to yourself and always remember we need to adapt and change as life will never be the same,” Mr Pease adds. “It will be different so we need to embrace the new world and set goals and just go for it.”
ComLink founder Feda Adra is also adapting to the new norm.
ComLink is an aged-care, health and wellbeing service that improves the lives of thousands of people across Queensland. Ms Adra says during the pandemic, ComLink rebranded to Be, and its Vitality Village project continued to hit major milestones.
“I am grateful that I am surrounded by brave and compassionate people who also saw the pandemic as a call to action to strengthen our community,” Ms Adra says.
“The pandemic has strengthened my beliefs and continues to remind me that community, care (self and others), innovation and agility all are important.”
Ms Adra says the meaning of life is about “knowing your purpose, and knowing what sparks joy in your life. Loved ones, friends, making a difference and moments in nature all help to remind me that I live a blessed and fulfilling life.”
While restrictions have forced us to slow down, spend more time with family, and reassess what is important in life, there has been an increase in depression, anxiety and emotional exhaustion.
Neuropsychotherapist Joanne Wilson says before the pandemic, Australian society was already in the grip of a mental health crisis. This was due to a combination of shrinking households, a greater tendency to be more mobile, severing old-fashioned neighbourly friendships, the increasing rate of divorce, and the information technology boom that has us feeling more connected but more apart from each other.
“Enter a pandemic then forced isolation and we ‘stacked’ a sense of global fear to already high anxiety levels for many Australians,” Ms Wilson says. “We are designed relationally and thrive with hope around certainty for the future.
“On many levels this has been removed from society.
“When our body operates under constant cortisol overload in stress, the blood vessels to our heart constrict with less oxygen to the brain. We need healthy stress, but the detrimental reaction under pressure from too much toxic stress too often will compromise your immune system.”
If you are worried about a loved one’s mental health during this time, Ms Wilson says there are a few red flags found in unusual behaviours to take note of.
“People respond to adversity in various ways,” she says. “Common symptoms include withdrawal, lack of purpose, sleeplessness, feelings of consistent overwhelm and dread, ruminating and overthinking as well as an inability to cope with small challenges.
“Depressive physical symptoms include weight changes from a varied appetite, and slower in movement and speech. Anxious physical symptoms include dizziness, dry mouth, bowel problems, tightness or pain in the chest, a racing heart and shortness of breath, hot or cold flushes.”
While restrictions are lifting on the Sunshine Coast, the effects of COVID-19 continue to linger. That’s why it’s so important to constantly prioritise your mental health and wellbeing.
Ms Wilson says productive and happy people thrive on respect and connection. It’s important the people around you feel valued with regular contact to talk through their progress and concerns.
Ms Ashley says yoga, mindfulness and meditation are powerful tools to maintain resilience during turbulent times. “As the COVID situation unfolded, there was indeed a great rise in uncertainty, which is a massive trigger for anxiety,” she says.
“Our mind races off into a future place fearing change and unpleasantness. This then leads to a lot of people living out of survival mode (think panic-buying) rather than remaining calm enough to operate from a state of higher consciousness where we can access qualities like generosity and compassion.”
Ms Ashley says practices such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness teach us that no matter what happens in life, our perspective on the event influences how it will impact us.
A global event as drastic as COVID-19 has no doubt affected everyone’s lives, some more so than others. While the horrific consequences have been felt across the globe, it’s important to remember the positive effects the pandemic has given humanity.
Has your view on the world changed in recent times? If so, what is the meaning of life to you now?
Joanne Wilson offers some mental health and wellbeing tips:
- Look up reliable sources, including government health directives and information, to ensure you avoid toxic and detrimental over-thinking and ruminating over misinterpreted information.
- Aside from regular check-ins, why not have fun with a fun fitness challenge. Raising your heart rate for at least 30 minutes every day is the best anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication on the planet!
- Encourage healthy home routines. This includes keeping regular sleep times, allocated work spaces that trigger mental focus and rest along with limits on social media.
- Make use of Ms Wilson’s worksheets that inspire health and wellness, such as the resource called Stockpiling Solutions During A Pandemic. Find it at relationshiprejuvenator.com/freestockpilingresources.html.