being well Area

being well during the 2020 pandemic

  addressing stress realistically
gary e. davis
May 2020
  April 2020

A specialist on anxiety when that portends panic advises a person to be active: “Face” the phenomenon. (That disarms the demon.) “Accept” the feeling. “Float” (go with the flow). “Let time pass.” But that advice is mere prelude.

    A couple of other specialists (here and here), thinking specifically of this pandemic, advise that a person learn the relevant facts; put the pandemic in perspective; identify the sources of anxiety (own your stress); refrain from shaming and blaming; don’t be afraid to ask for help; set goals every day; find joy (more below on that); call a friend; don’t procrastinate about preparing for the worst; “connect, connect, connect” (more on that below); practice self-compassion; and don’t skip the self-care.

May 2020

“Face what’s happening. What does it mean to me?,” advises Daniel Goleman, a leading light on emotional intelligence, i.e., feeling authen-tically. He’s quoted by Jane Brody, a long-time Personal Health columnist at the NYTimes, writing about intrinsic value.
the importance of intrinsic motivation

Difficult times provide “a ripe opportunity to think about what really matters to us,” says Goleman; and, Brody adds, intrinsic purpose “tends to be more forceful and the results more fulfilling” than extrinsic motivation (or looking to be relieved by ordinary incentives). “What really matters to me now?,” Goleman continues. “Is there a way I can act upon what’s meaningful to me?”

“With intrinsic motivation, inspiration comes from within a person,” says Brody. Depth of purpose expresses scale of truly belonging to what matters.

Tara Parker-Pope, NYTimes, notes that “studies show that having a strong sense of purpose protects us from stress in the short term and predicts long-term better health, a lower risk of dying prematurely and even better financial health.

“Intrinsic motivation involves behaviors done for their own sake that are personally rewarding, like helping other people, participating in an enjoyable sport or studying a fascinating subject.”

All of those kinds of activities are included elsewhere in my “American humanity” discussion, as a matter of purpose: living forward out of difficulty because that’s a keynote of coping well: Using the appeal of owned purpose (futuring, so to speak) as resource for coping with present difficulty.

project-ive comfort zone of manageable challenge

Meaningful life is an endless journey—engaging and, at best, adventurous in countless small ways—and large accomplishment (career or one’s life as a multi-decade Project) is always made in manageable steps, each deserving to have the integrity of being a project (e.g., doing a week’s chores, because that provides chances to do better things later that depend on what must be done for the sake of better pursuits).

No wonder, then, that Brody advises that “motivation might best be fostered by dividing large goals into small, specific tasks more easily accomplished but not so simple that they are boring and soon abandoned.” She’s implicitly thinking of a zone of manageable challenge (which echoes the educational notion of “zone of proximal development”)

“Avoid perfectionism,” Brody advises, “lest the ultimate goal becomes an insurmountable challenge.” Yet, the appeal of perfectibility mirrors the appeal of progressive life, like an ever-receding horizon that causes discovery along its endless draw—marked by rewarding milestones, deserving little celebrations?: “As each task is completed, reward yourself with virtual brownie points (not chips or cookies!), then go on to the next one.”

holding back thoughts and emotions is stressful

So, talk to someone who matters, in terms especially of intrinsic interest in moving on.

Talking is good because “affect labeling” gives you a frame for constructively moving on, which is why psychoanalysis has been historically called “the talking cure.”

“You have the negative feelings either way,” writes NYTimes freelancer Eric Ravenscraft, “but you have to work to repress them. That can tax the brain and body, making you more susceptible to getting sick or just feeling awful.”

But “co-rumination—or consistently focusing on and talking about negative experiences in your life—can have the opposite effect, making you more stressed and drawing out how long a problem bothers you.”

That’s why I advise thinking (through talking) relative to moving forward with your life, not just gaining relief from stress. Make the relief constructive!

By the way, stressed-out “essential workers” especially deserve related essential advice.


Writing can be an excellent release into the story you want to live and already always are.

next—> enjoying simple pleasures




  Be fair. © 2020, gary e. davis