September 21, 2020
Achieving Peace Of Mind During The Pandemic
By Michael D. Shaw
This column has featured numerous stories on COVID-19, from technical and political frames of reference. This week, we take a different approach. Ultimately diseases go beyond mere biology. They can have effects—often profound–on people. Perhaps, as we concentrate obsessively on the RNA virus SARS-CoV-2, we can lose sight of the humans involved. Achieving peace of mind is a perplexing goal in the best of times, and these are surely not the best of times.
Let’s start with a definition of “peace of mind.” Merriam-Webster describes the term as “a feeling of being safe or protected.” The Cambridge Dictionary relates it as “a feeling of calm or not being worried.” Vocabulary.com has it as “the absence of mental stress or anxiety.” Freedom from anxiety and worry are key factors, even if this seems impossible in the real world.
As polymath Stephen Coleclough puts it…
Achieving peace of mind is all about taking the mind away from its usual thoughts and feelings, and replacing them with the feeling of being relaxed and centered. With the worries, stresses and strains of daily life removed a person is able to focus on enjoying the moment. It’s unusual for peace of mind to last for long periods but there are ways to achieve it more regularly.
Peace of mind can be achieved by…Limiting the amount of time you spend watching television, reading the news and checking social media; understanding that some things in life cannot be changed. Rather than worrying about the things that are out of your control, focus on the parts of your life you can improve. Peace of mind is achieved by shutting out everything other than the task at hand, but doing so requires practice.
Notice how Coleclough makes a point of taking a rest from media. Unfortunately, some folks are essentially addicted to social media. Is it because they really care about keeping up with their favorite celebrities or their friends? Or, does it rather enforce a false sense of “belonging”? Maybe even your best friend doesn’t care what you had for breakfast this morning. And maybe what the Kardashians or Cardi B are doing shouldn’t affect your life.
As to the hyper-sensationalized new media, there is some benefit in being informed, but in order to get your attention, most events are blown way out of proportion. You can always watch it for entertainment value, as long as you remember the line from Dr. Hans Reinhardt (played by Maximilian Schell) in the movie The Black Hole (1979). Reinhardt is dismissing the fact that he has been out of touch with current events for years. He scoffs, “Same news, different names.”
St. Padre Pio was a bit more concise: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
One of Brown University’s STAR (Stress, Trauma, and Resilience) Tipsheets reiterates the themes of focusing on the present moment, and reducing the amount of time spent on media.
I recently became acquainted with the work of Yochanan Stoppi, an engineer by trade, who has used his educational and vocational background in developing the concepts behind his new book Emotional Mechanics: Stopping Pi(e). As Stoppi told me…
“The book is about one’s internal perception of your own thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Surely, COVID has provided much more alone time than anyone would want, but this book gives an opportunity to make this time productive and healthy. Similarly, it provides a distraction from politics, and makes one aware that it’s your own perception—not the world news—that determines your reality and your happiness.”
Reviewer Bob Hamilton, PhD notes that “Stoppi confronts the isolation, loneliness, regret, stress, anxiety, and sense of powerlessness that often characterize the private (and sometimes public) lives of modern men and women. At the heart of Stoppi’s book is a detailed exploration of the ‘mechanics’ of various inner elements that largely shape the average person’s experience of life. These include emotions and intentions such as anger, fear, jealousy, guilt, regret, self-respect, trust, forgiveness, and love.”
Stoppi applies the precision of an engineer to these emotional components in a warm and accessible manner. His unique approach should help many people.