“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”
(Viktor E. Frankl)
I came across this quote recently and it really stood out to me. It drew me in and made me think very much about the current situation that we are all experiencing with the Covid-19 global pandemic and how we may be coping with tough lockdown restrictions collectively and individually.
This ‘space’ that we all now find ourselves in is somewhat uncomfortable for many of us. Uncomfortable because we are experiencing restrictions of our liberations, our movements, our social celebrations, our physical connection with society in general. This is not something that the majority of us are used to. We are used to having the freedom to make our own choices, to decide how we wish to spend our day, our week, our month, our year, to enjoy unrestricted movements and most of all we may be used to feeling ‘safe’ in our personal and social environments.
During the first lockdown, I can remember feeling immense anxieties and fears over the pandemic and in particular the continuous media reporting on every element of it. In this anxious and fear filled ‘space’, I had to make a conscious decision to remove myself from a lot of the social media groups I was a member of and to limit my daily news intake. I had to make a conscious decision to be ‘present’ in my ‘moment’, in the ‘space’ between the ‘stimulus’, being the pandemic, and to my ‘response’, being how I chose to react to the situation in general.
This ‘space’ we are experiencing at present or indeed we can find ourselves experiencing at any stages in our lives can be debilitating for some people and yet it can be life transforming and very liberating for other people. Respecting whatever category you find yourself falling into is paramount in your ability to cope moment by moment, day by day through your own experience. There is no right or wrong as to how you should feel when living in a global pandemic or otherwise, each person’s experiences will vary to some degree. But what is a common denominator to us all living in this pandemic is that we all have the ‘choice’ and ‘freedom’ in how we allow ourselves to respond to this ‘awkward’ and ‘unfamiliar’ space we find ourselves in.
We can choose to become completely consumed, overwhelmed, fearful, panicked and possessed by the constant ‘threat’ to our health, to our liberations, to our existence. Alternatively, we can choose to literally just take each moment as it comes. We can choose to take a deep breath, to fill our lungs full of fresh air, to take a warm shower or bath, to remove news or social media feed before going to bed, to limit the overall news or social media feed we expose ourselves to.
We can recognise this ‘space’ as uncomfortable, as unnatural but as an opportunity to connect with ourselves, with our roots and with our souls. As suggested by Jeanette Winterson:
“In the space between chaos and shape there was another chance”
We can use this ‘space’ and this ‘chance’ or opportunity to realise that sadly, there are many people in our world who experience constant mental, emotional, physical or social restrictions and limitations in their daily lives and that they may never have the ‘chance’ or opportunity to experience a more liberated existence. We can encourage ourselves to feel immense gratitude and appreciation for everything that we do have in our lives. We can allow ourselves to feel the fear and anxiety that is currently swamping many of us in this pandemic but we can also gain an understanding that:
“Anxiety is the space between the ‘NOW’ and the ‘THEN’”
Understanding this ‘space’ and that anxiety is a natural and expected response to what we are all experiencing at the moment is liberating in itself. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with us for feeling fear, anxiety, uncertainty, threatened or burned out as the pandemic keeps rolling on. It is so important that we release any pressures that we have placed upon ourselves, be it increased exercise, increased workload at home, with children, with education, with general work commitments etc and just allow ourselves the ‘space’ to be present with ourselves, with our fears, anxieties, emotions, traumas, physical responses. We need to allow ourselves the ‘space’ to be present with the ‘stimulus’ and to give ourselves the ‘space’ to just breathe, to just be, to let-go, to accept the situation and to help ourselves to be more in control of our personal ‘responses’ to the ‘stimulus’.
An empowering thought to leave you with:
The Space Between – You carry both lightening and thunder in that space between your bones and soul. Become the storm you are hiding from, a hurricane does not run from the rain”
How to EMBRACE the ‘space’ between stimulus and response:
The following is a guide on how to EMBRACE the ‘space’ between stimulus and response:
2. Take 3 regulating breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth, bringing an awareness to breathing in and breathing down through your whole body.
3. Realise and accept that your mind will continuously wander and get caught up in the drama and trauma of the ‘space’ you find yourself in. Each time this happens, use one of your 5 senses (your sight, hearing, touch, taste or smell) to bring your attention back to your present moment, to your present ‘space’.
4. Don’t judge yourself or feel that you are failing when you have to continually repeat step three as above. This is how you become more mindful and how you increase your present moment awareness and living in any moment. When you realise your mind has wandered and you choose to bounce it back via your senses, you are creating a mindful moment.
5. Each evening, before you end your day, express immense gratitude and appreciation to your mind, emotions, body and soul for the ‘space’ and ‘living experience’ you were gifted with in the day just passed, remembering that not everybody is gifted this experience.
Thank you as always to Brian O’Loughlin and his team at Celtic Media Group (https://www.anglocelt.ie/, https://www.con-telegraph.ie/, https://www.meathchronicle.ie/, https://www.offalyindependent.ie/, https://www.westmeathexaminer.ie/ and https://www.westmeathindependent.ie/ for all their wonderful help!
As published by The Celtic Media Group in The Anglo Celt, Connaught Telegraph, Meath Chronicle, Offaly Independent, Westmeath Examiner and Westmeath Independent newspapers w/c 01/02/2021