How can we stay strong in difficult times? At the moment our countries are going through a crisis. The coronavirus is spreading quickly and many people are struggling. It is very easy to get swept away in all the bad news. Of course, we feel sad for people who got sick or even passed away and we are also worried something bad will happen to us or our loved ones. However, this mindset won’t get us far. If we feel sad and afraid all day, we won’t have the energy for work, studies and other important things.
On the other hand, in our society not caring about others is perceived as egocentric or even cold. We believe that it makes you a better person if you have mercy for everyone who is having a difficult time, but this is not entirely true. Having empathy (identifying with others and sharing their feelings) does make you a nicer person – being empathic leads to having better relationships and therefore more satisfaction in life. However, empathy appears in three phases and the most important phase is the one where we go on with our lives.
In the first phase of empathy, people identify with the other; we notice the other person’s feelings. Secondly, we go through the phase of incorporation and resonance, which means that we feel what the other is feeling. The third and most important is the separation phase: we cut ourselves loose from the other person and continue our life. Many people forget this phase and they carry the sadness and worry of many people with them, which can cause burnouts or emotional fatigue.
It is not egoistic to forget about other people’s problems for a while. It is very important to go back to our own feelings and save energy. We need to take care of ourselves first. This way, we can spend our energy on our work, hobbies and development. We will grow and gain more energy, so when another friend needs our help, we can be there for them. If you are feeling sad for everyone who suffers and another person asks for your help, you won’t be able to listen to them because you already feel drained. So eventually, not going through the separation phase results in helping fewer people.
Imagine what the doctors go through in these difficult times. If they go home and feel sad for all the sick people, they will feel tired the next day and can’t do their work well. On the contrary, if the doctors go home and forget about the situation, they can relax with their family and have a good night of sleep. As a result, they will have more energy the next day and they can dedicate fully to their work. This is why being egoistic is often a healthy thing to do.
So, how exactly can we become stronger and take a break from the suffering? To begin with, we can learn how to accept the things we can’t change. Many things simply don’t lie within our power. For example, in today’s situation, we can’t heal millions of people. What we can do, is to socially distance ourselves to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. The next thing we can do is choosing what we pay our attention to. Try to be grateful for the things that are going well and think positive! Maybe you can make a nice dinner and play games with your family to relax a little. This way you will have more energy later to help out others. Thus, in these difficult times, we have to be a little ‘egoistic’ first. It’s our responsibility and our duty to focus on the good stuff and to not lose our energy