COVID -19 offers opportunity for hope

Last Modified: 4/03/2020

COVID mental health

Living through the days of a pandemic is something we should all be grateful for. If we are healthy enough to continue thriving, loved enough to have friends and family that we miss, successful enough to have a home to find safety in … surely there must be some good we can find in our situations. Yet, for many – even the “lucky” ones – these days are full of anxiety, fear, sadness and uncertainty. Rightly so. COVID-19 has swept over the globe with a fury like we’ve never seen before. So, how do we manage the emotional toll that this pandemic is taking on our lives? Paul Wilson, MSSW, ACSW, MHA, director of opioid treatment and prevention, Parkview Behavioral Health Institute, offers some incredible words and rays of light in a dark time.

A tale of two wolves

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me every day,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Our fight

The same fight goes on between anxiety and peace. So, we need to ask ourselves, are we feeding our anxiety or are we doing things to feed a sense of peace and kindness?

Disconnect from the things that feed your anxiety and other less-than-helpful emotions. We do not need to be addicted to immediacy. It is OK if something happens in the world and we do not know about it for 10 minutes. Set limits on how often to listen to the news or scroll through unsettling stories on social media. 

Rewire and reinforce

Maybe this is an opportunity to connect to more important things and disconnect from things that impede our joy.

We can rewire our brains. What we seek and pay attention to gets reinforced. Eventually, our brains rewire. How about paying attention to our faith and our families? We have all gone to a restaurant and seen a whole family on their own devices instead of talking to each other.  Perhaps we can use this as a time to refocus.


We all want some control over our lives and generally assume that we have some. That assumption is really an illusion because, in reality, unexpected things can happen at any moment.  Yet, some sense of control generally helps us feel less anxious about our day-to-day life.

The current virus is new and the outcome is unknown right now. We are scared about what might happen to ourselves and those we love.

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.

– Corrie ten Boom

Apply structure

Use this time to develop some new skills or habits. We often say that we don’t have enough time. Well, now we have some.

·       Establish a routine – Structure can help by providing boundaries and creating some sense of normalcy and predictability. It may make sense that each evening you set at least some structure for the next day and some small goals.

·       Set small goals – and accomplish them! – This will help you feel a sense of accomplishment.

·       Perhaps this is an opportunity to set one larger goal – Learn how to play the piano, get better at a foreign language, increase physical fitness, etc.


Practice gratitude.  Each night, identify three things that happened to you throughout the day that you are grateful for. Share those with your family members. Practice that for a month.  Over time, you begin to be more aware throughout your day of the good things and you begin to see more of them in your life. This shift in attitude actually improves your physical health. Be specific and look for new and different things instead of just repeating the same things. Gratitude journaling does lots of things for you, including boosting your immune system.


Exercise is really important, both for the body and for the mind. It improves your immune system and even helps fight anxiety and depression. What if we viewed this time as going to “bootcamp” with a goal that at the end we can all come out healthier? It is OK to go outside and run or walk or enjoy the birds, prepare the flower beds, breathe some fresh air.


Notice your breathing patterns, muscle tension, furled brow. Do some relaxation techniques.  The more we practice these, the more effective they are. There are so many resources available online. Relaxation training could be a good skill to develop during this time.


Acknowledge your grief/anxiety. We are all experiencing losses. It’s OK not to feel OK. The more we run away from anxiety, the more power it has over us. Being mindful and accepting of where we are is important.

Giving back

Generosity takes the focus off of ourselves. A great way to find some satisfaction is by making a difference. We all have different talents and resources, so it may be different for all of us. It could be a financial contribution, sharing good ideas, doing a task for a neighbor or just listening to a friend who needs to talk.


Use this time to deepen your relationship to your Creator. He is on the throne and He is not worried. This situation is going to last long enough for us to create new habits and patterns.  What habits or patterns can we create to improve the most important relationship we have in our life?

Reach out

If you find yourself very overwhelmed or depressed, reach out to a professional. Help is being provided over the telephone and in person when necessary. If you or someone you love needs help, call the Parkview Behavioral Health Helpline at 260-373-7500 or 800-284-8439, anytime 24 hours a day. These are hard times – don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.


In many ways, this challenge could be used as an opportunity to stop and evaluate what has been working well for us and what ways we may want to improve our lives. We do not need to only see the negative side of this, we can use it for growth and opportunity.


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