7 years ago, I came to live in India to work at a local company. Before I came, I was told it would be the best as well as the most difficult experience of my life.
Well, that was quite accurate. Living abroad can be a huge challenge in itself. But, if it were a video game, India would be at the extra hard level, in the last phase of the game. What I learned here, however, has helped me a to find meaning and cope with this new situation and the pandemic the world is currently in, entering the fifth week without leaving home, and I thought about sharing some of those lessons.
3 THINGS I LEARNED IN INDIA THAT HELPED ME TO COPE WITH THE PANDEMIC
1. SET YOURSELF FREE FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S ACTIONS
Perhaps one of the most difficult things is to accept that OTHERS will not act according to our expectations, and make peace with it. In India, nothing works as you would expect. Be it the people who skip lines, the cars that don’t follow traffic rules or the food that comes spicier than you ordered at the restaurant. It can be very challenging to realize that people do not follow the most basic rules of coexistence.
But creating expectations about how others should act will only frustrate YOUR own experience, especially if we are talking about collective behavior, impossible for you to change. In Brazil, my home country, fewer and fewer people are following social distancing norms, and, in the coming weeks, this will generate enormous stress for those who are staying at home.
The same can be seen in countries like the United States, where some people are also defying the lockdown. Unfortunately, you can’t change everyone, and the best you can do for your mental health is to let go of that idea and responsibility. Cling to yourself.
2. TAKE CARE OF YOUR WELL-BEING
The point above leads to the second one. When I started to worry too much about the opinions of others in India and less about myself, the result was that I fell into depression. And having depression on the other side of the planet is very difficult. I learned that I need to take care of myself, like the oxygen masks, which fall in case of an emergency on a plane. First, you put your own mask on, THEN you put it on other people. I have several friends with sick parents, with low immunity, getting burned out trying to take care of everyone.
The result is that these people eventually get so stressed and exhausted that it reaches a point where they can no longer take care of their parents properly, because they themselves are ill. Take care of yourself and establish rules for your own mental well-being, even if you have only an hour a day, or therapy once a week. 💛
3. THE WORLD OUTSIDE CAN GET TOUGH, AND YOU DON’T NEED TO BE WELL EVERY DAY.
Sometimes, the outside world can be much more difficult than you can handle. Here, in the summer months before the rain, it reaches 47 degrees (116 Fahrenheit). Dry and unbearably hot, it’s hard to even breathe because your throat is dry and impossible to stay on the street for more than half an hour and not feel too exhausted at the end of the day. And I learned it’s okay!
On the days when I needed to go out on the street for work, visiting factories, etc., I felt so tired that I couldn’t do anything afterwards. And I felt very guilty about that. Over time, I learned that it is normal, it’s okay, not every day will be as productive as I wished it’d be.
Similarly, during the pandemic, everything seems to fall apart outside, and it is normal that sometimes, no matter how much you wanted, you won’t have the energy to do anything. There’s nothing wrong with it and you don’t have to feel guilty or blame yourself for it. Balance is the key to everything ✨
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