Well, it’s starting to happen: state governors are starting to implement plans to return society to normal, at least they hope. It is a well studied fact that when people interrupt their normal lives to “social distance” or “shelter in place” that there can be psychological effects. . . from fear and anxiety, depression and boredom, anger and frustration, irritability, even stigmatization. Each of these have, in their own right and in non-associated (COVID) cases led to irrational and sometimes violent behaviors. So, what do we have to really expect when we begin this trip back to our normal lives?
(By the way, you will never hear me say “new normal”. I hate that statement. “New normal” implies that something has changed and that the lives we had may never be experienced or lived again; that we must accept something new. While that happens from time to time in our lives, I like to think we get to decide how we will adapt to life – not fall in line with what others think we should and should not do or be.)
As we have been discussing situational awareness lately, I thought it appropriate to look at each of these psychological dispositions, to shine a light on what they may look like, so we may identify them in our lives and, as the situation presents the necessity, defend ourselves appropriately.
Before we begin let me just say this: Self-defense is a restrictive act when paralyzing fear controls us. Just an example: I was teaching a class when I surprised a two year martial art student with a punch. (I didn’t really hit him, but I moved quickly and he must have thought I was, because he jumped.) His response was totally inappropriate. (To be fair he had only been in my classroom for a couple of months. He had learned from someone else previously.) We, as a class, identified the response as the “Oh, shit!” response, a reactionary response to being overwhelmed by an outside energy. It led to an important question: How do we train out the “Oh, shit!” response and replace it with the appropriate disposition or self-condition to defend ourselves.
Well, that question is one that leads every student – regardless of the martial art they are learning – to the foundation of all self-defense and is self-defense at its root.
Without getting into that too deeply, just know that our discussion today (and in previous blogs) have led us down a road to help develop such a self- condition, an awareness of ourselves in time and space and relations. So, let’s continue. . . .
- Fear and Anxiety. Many will experience this like they do the shadows at night. What was that? Did something move over there? etc. Instead it will be a fear of the potential for contracting the disease or the distrust in medical professionals who advise us during these times due to some (political or otherwise) bias. This becomes worse when the stress of reduced work, caring for loved ones or loss of sleep set in. It disables our normal ability to focus on tasks or stay in the moment of our lives. Relationships become misunderstood or lost altogether.
- Depression and Boredom. While having time off may mean more time with your immediate family, you may also feel a sense of lost purpose, as the daily purpose that drove your life before has been halted due to the shelter in place restrictions on your (work) industry.
Anger, Frustration and Irritability. As things went from life and normal to state by state shelter in place restrictions, closing martial arts schools, gyms, work places, parks, beaches, etc. you may have been sitting at home, saying to yourself: “I hope they don’t do that here” in your state. Or, “I hope that don’t impact my employment.” Then, when it did, you may have felt hopeless to the situation, angry that others were dictating what you could and could not do – and the cost of their restrictions on your life. Or, maybe you or someone you love contracted the disease and you felt a sense of anger at others’ negligence (i.e., not following the shelter in place restrictions as you thought they should).
- Stigmatization. If you’ve contracted the disease you may feel stigmatized by others who fear they will contract the disease if they interact with you.
I have always taught that being aware of the people around you and willing to positively get to know or bid-welcome to those people is a form of self-defense. It not only opens the door for positive human interaction that leads to building friendship, it also creates a positive energy that allows you to measure up people without them realizing you’re doing it. (Are they a real threat or not?) A good example of this includes the following:
Imagine you’re at a community street party, where booths are set up and local citizens are showing off their creative abilities and, in some cases, selling their creations. It’s crowed, but you can get by okay. Then, you see a man walking toward you with a scornful face, angry. He is looking straight ahead, which happens to be where you are. Is he measuring you up to do you harm, or is he just having a bad day? How will you get to know? How can you avoid the potential of conflict? These are all true self-defense questions and measures to be taken. And by recognizing the situation you can act appropriately.
As our society starts to return to normal most of you will encounter someone who falls into one of these psychological categories (or you may be in one, yourself). Make sure you’re of the mind and body to recognize your environment and the dispositions of others around you. If you see someone in one of these conditions and there is a chance to help them, do it. Not only will you avoid conflict, you will have a positive impact on someone else’s life. If you are in one of these conditions, seek help.
Whether you negatively interact with others or not, you do not want one of these conditions to limit you from your own potential: A potential at work, in familial relations, in neighboring or communal relations, or in your diet, exercise or (otherwise) well-being. Here are a few tips to help:
- Limit news consumption… Today, as many of you know, news outlets are very politicized and lean one way or another in favor or disfavor of some position. And, with such things as this COVID disease, social distancing, shelter in place, government defining essential and non-essential people (work), etc. there are many positions to be had and poked at by many organizations, people, associations, etc. Everyone is at risk of being prodded. Don’t stay in the middle of their debates. It will only create stress.
- Create and follow a daily routine that is based on your joy… Having a sense of order – that you’ve established and brings you joy – benefits everyone. Try to integrate work, exercise, training, and other interests you have so that your daily routine is not too routine. (We don’t want boredom.)
- Stay connected to others… Staying connected with the people we know and care for is easier than ever in today’s world. Besides texting and phone calls, we can do face to face time and share videos of important things going on. For example, while the shelter in place order has been in effect, my granddaughter began walking. I got to see it on face-time with my daughter, as she was gracious enough to share it with me and my wife. That brought us so much joy.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle… As with any other time in our lives, we cannot allow our circumstances to stop us from seeking the best of ourselves. Get enough sleep, exercise, avoid harmful substances, and use this time to seek out the next-level or stage of your training, organizing for when you come out to push farther than you every have before. This is an opportunity for you. (Me and my students have been having online, live class-times with each other.)
I hope this helps you empower yourself to be your best. If you have questions or want to learn Wing Chun Kung Fu, reach out to me anytime. My email is email@example.com.
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