Slow Down: The World isn't Going Anywhere Slow Down: The World isn't Going Anywhere
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Remember that time when two planes crashed into two of the tallest buildings in the world in the middle of the day? You probably weren’t there but you definitely saw it on TV. 3,000 people died on that day.

Or maybe you remember that time when Hitler killed millions of people by sending families to concentration camps. Nope, you weren’t there for that either but you probably learned about it in a History class. 6,000,000 Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

But wait, perhaps you remember when millions of Africans were beaten, shackled and sold into slavery. Nope, no memory of that either. We all know about that horrific time from history books and from quite a few movies too. Around 12,000,000 Africans were sold in the Transatlantic Slave Trade between the 16th to 19th century.

Now by no means am I comparing the gravity of any of these tragedies. What I am highlighting is the significant probability that we are living through another World War right now. We have a deadly weapon right outside our door, waiting for us to make a nanosecond mistake and it attacks. It doesn’t matter if we are fighting racism, bullets or a virus, human life is at stake - and every single human life is up for grabs. It doesn’t matter how rich or educated or powerful you are. Everyone is touched by this, whether directly or indirectly. In the next few years, they’re going to teach about the COVID-19 pandemic and make movies about it. Netflix already started and some of us haven’t even come to terms with what’s going on yet.

So when I see posts about productivity and taking this time to work on yourself, the Entrepreneur in me is like “Let’s Go!” But then, the Psychologist in me is like, “No, it’s not time for anything. Let’s SLOW DOWN.” Not a single person alive today has any experience with whatever our reality is right now. None of us have lived through a global pandemic before. All of our lives were turned upside down and we’re expected to still be on top of everything. Well, guess what? If you’re staying on top of an upside down world, then you’re also hanging upside down.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to stay productive right now. There’s also nothing wrong with laying in bed a few hours longer either. These are all coping mechanisms and you have to do what’s best for you. Everytime we hear bad news and the virus’ rising death toll, our body responds even if it’s unconsciously; stress levels peak, anxiety creeps in and our thoughts go haywire in a split second. For some people, their first response is to get to work. For others, this response is to curl into a ball and cry. It’s all fine as long as we don’t impose the “correct response” on others. Remember that overworking and perfectionism is as much of an anxiety symptom as paralysis and procrastination.

As a Psychologist, my advice for everyone is to take a break. The whole world has slowed down. A week or two away from your job or business isn’t going to kill anyone - pun intended (we have to find humour in all situations, it’s good for your mental health). Now, if you can’t take a complete break, at least slow down. Think of how privileged you are to have a job or a source of income and then, slow down. Take a step back from what used to be your life because it’s not coming back. A new version of it is coming and if you don’t slow down, you won’t get the chance to shape it.

Everything around what we thought the world was is crashing down and we’re realising that it was all an illusion - a societal construct. What does time really mean if we don’t have breakfast at 8:00, get to work by 9:00 and have lunch at 13:00? What does marriage really mean if traditional gender roles crumble and you now have to spend every hour together? What purpose do all the clothes and shoes in your closet serve when you have nowhere to go? What value do all the 000s in your bank account add if you could die tomorrow?

Take a week or two to slow down. Cleanse. Purge. Think. Plan. Let Go. Grow. Cry. Laugh. Learn. Journal. Stare at a wall. Repeat. And when you feel adapted, when you don’t need to jump to your coping mechanisms whenever you hear or think about the virus, start rebuilding the new version of your life.

By Araika-Zawadhafsa Mkulo

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