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An Italian Perspective | Elena Mauro | #LetsResetNormal


Milan, Italy

Feeling uncertain and overwhelmed? While we may be isolated physically, we are not alone, and this book offers insights, comfort and hope.

I am Italian; I live by myself in an apartment in Milan (red zone), and since 8 March I have been experiencing #IStayHome. This will continue until at least 15 April.

During the first few days we were allowed to walk in the open air keeping a safe distance of a couple of metres from others and I found it very interesting how COVID-19 was creating solidarity: the people around were all smiling and even waving to each other while walking. People who did not know each other were showing an openness I had never seen before.

I also observed a growing kindness and compassion in the building I live in: many were asking after older people, whether they were in need of food or medicines; some bought extra gloves and sanitising gel to be shared. I have to say that those attitudes and behaviours helped a lot in making me feel I was not alone.

When the total lockdown started due to the spread of the virus, I started to think of the friends I have around the western world. I called them to share my experience and I noticed they were not ready to think of an immediate total lockdown as the best solution. It showed me that when faced with something unpalatable, we do not want to listen to someone with more experience, and what really struck me was that both fear and hope could produce the same result!

The days since the lockdown have been marked by the pursuit of a “new normal”, adjusting to working from home and reorganising my time and needs while complying with the updated government rules. It has been a valuable time of reflection and I would like to share the following insights with you:

  • Uncertainty is part of our reality; every day we deal with it even if we are not aware of it. We often struggle with uncertainty and chase after certainty, and that is not beneficial in my experience: it requires a lot of energy and leaves you feeling drained.
  • Adaptability is the best approach to uncertainty: think of it, the history of humanity has shown through the ages that we are very capable of adapting. In my experience we are perfectly able to adjust to the lockdown.
  • Focus on the fact that the lockdown is for a limited time: when we do not like something our mind tends to focus on it, losing the big picture and draining our energy.
  • Ask yourself, “What can I learn from the lockdown experience?”; valuable answers can emerge regarding your self-awareness, relationships, behaviours, beliefs… and in my experience, new ways of thinking emerge as well!
  • To make wise decisions, think not only of yourself and your family, but of the community as well: if I focus on my own desire for freedom, I might think I can go out as I do not have COVID-19 symptoms, but what about the safety of my eighty-five-year-old mother? And what about the danger I pose to the community?
  • Think of the wider picture: the meaning of the lockdown is not to follow rules, it is to take responsibility as an individual who is part of a community. A friend of mine is a doctor and during these gruelling days at the hospital he has to choose to whom he can give ventilation helmets as there are not enough of them to go round; how many more times will doctors have to make such decisions because you are not respecting the lockdown rules?
  • Be creative: many say that as human beings we need disruption to generate innovation. The lockdown is a great opportunity to change our habits, to reflect, and to create a “new normal”; to experiment with new ways of working and communicating. The important thing is to stay focused on the value we are creating, not on what we are missing. In Italy we have web happy hours and parties, we play music and sing from our balconies, we webcook with friends, we read books and poems.
  • Reconnect with Kairos (qualitative time): ancient Greeks distinguished Kairos from Chronos (quantitative time, the one of our clocks). Lockdown is such an opportunity to live time in a very different way: you do not have to rush out, stress yourself for being late, rush to pick up your child from kindergarten, plan your day to fit in the gym and buy food. During the lockdown you can slow down and ask yourself which are the things that really matter.
  • Focus on love versus fear: oriental philosophy says the two opposite forces in the universe are love and fear; the more you focus on love, the more light you can see and you can help others to see. Love makes you stronger and full of trust; fear weakens you, drains energy and makes you think only of your survival needs. When we focus on fear we run to the supermarket and buy lots of food and water; we do not want to give two packets of pasta to an old woman when in our shopping trolley we have twenty.

Smile: a smile costs nothing and makes a real difference, even to ourselves. In fact when we smile we produce anti-stress hormones that reinforce our immune system: it might even help you resist COVID-19!

For further information

Surviving the Coronavirus Lockdown and Social Isolation is a guide to creating a new normal in a changing world. Download a copy of the ebook for free now.

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An Italian Perspective | Elena Mauro | #LetsResetNormal

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