On Control (Revisited).

I’ve previously written about what we can and cannot control, but this is a slightly different and more practical take on the subject.

I’m currently stuck in self-imposed isolation in a hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia, after having contracted COVID. Fortunately, the symptoms are just like bad flu, and nothing worse than that — indeed, no doctors or hospitals are required.

Still, the idea of being stuck in a room for what could easily be a week did bring me down somewhat, as well as the solid pounding headaches in the first couple of days. But, I then realized that I needed to start to take control of what I could take control, which wasn’t really that much, but it was still worth doing.

So, I started making a list of things that I could do to take control and make the most of my situation. This is what I came up with:

1) Get plenty of rest and sleep. This one was pretty much a no-brainer, but it’s still important. When you’re sick, your body needs to rest to heal, so make sure you get plenty of sleep.

2) Drink lots of fluids. This is another no-brainer, but staying hydrated is important when you’re sick. I’ve been drinking a lot of water and herbal tea.

3) Eat healthy food. Again, this is important even when you’re not sick, but it’s especially crucial when your body is trying to fight off an illness. I’ve been eating a lot of soup and vegetables and staying completely vegan.

4) Stay positive. This is easier said than done, but it’s important to try to stay positive when you’re sick. I find that listening to music, reading and writing help me stay positive.

5) Take care of yourself. This is probably the most important thing on the list. When you’re sick, taking care of yourself is important and not trying to push through the illness. I’ve been taking it easy and not trying to do too much.

So, those are five things that I’m doing to take control of my situation. Obviously, there are some things that I can’t control, such as the length of my isolation, but by focusing on the things that I can control, I’m able to make the most of my situation.

That said, there were two key things that I realized were the most important:

  1. My attitude.
  2. My Environment.

I started with my own attitude, and I began to write in my journal a list of all the silver linings to having Covid and being in isolation. When one thinks hard enough about anything, there are always unintended positive consequences to even the most serious things that happen in life, let alone something as mundane as being slightly sick and having to stay in a fancy hotel room for a week.

This reframing of the situation already started to help shift my overall mood, and I started to consider that I am very lucky to the fact that I caught Covid after the vaccines were developed and rolled out, and I already had my 3rd dose of Pfizer. Had I caught COVID a year and a half ago, the story may have been very different. I was also very lucky to regard where I caught COVID, as I was fortunate to be staying in a lovely hotel, instead of perhaps travelling and ending up in some government quarantine camp or hospital.

The other silver lining was that I could drastically reduce my coffee intake to one cup a day, after it had shot up with repeated long-distance travel and timezone changes this year. Any potential negative side-effects of the caffeine withdrawal were masked by the fact that I was feeling like shit already, and misery loves some company 😉

And there were dozens more similar examples that I could think of that point that I am very lucky to get Covid at this specific time and place — and also how things could be significantly worse.

Practising this form of reframing or negative visualization is something that can be done both when things go wrong, but also in daily life. The great thing is that this is free and anyone can do it. It is difficult to conceive of anyone who could not, somehow, be worse off.

Even the homeless person with almost no belongings, could still be worse off — they could lose the little they have, or they could be physically hurt, and so on.

Even the prisoner condemned to a life sentence in a brutal prison, where they are in lockdown 23 hours per day, could still have it worse. Humans have shown through the centuries that there are ingenious ways to make someone’s life a complete misery, and so these techniques could always be added to anyone in prison, and they are fortunate this is no longer the case.

My second point of focus was my environment. After two days of throbbing headaches and generally feeling like crap, my room looked like it was not lived in by a human but perhaps by some type of barn animal like a sheep, horse, or pig. It was cluttered and unkempt, and there were crumbs everywhere.

This did not help my mood one bit, so I decided that I needed to take some control over my environment and make it a place that would be conducive to recovery and relaxation.

I put some Beethoven on and got to work making the place look spotless again. I am always surprised that these things take far less time than I think they would. Before I knew it, my environment was significantly upgraded compared to what it was only an hour previously — and this helped with my mood tremendously.

It is incredible how just a few simple changes can have such a profound effect on one’s state of mind — and if one makes a few hundred tiny changes like this across your life, you eventually find that it is an entirely different type of life!

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