In Greek mythology, there is a tale about a King. His name was Sisyphus and he presided over a land called Corinth. King Sisyphus was known to be greedy and deceitful. He would kill guests and travelers who came to his Kingdom. This angered the Greek Gods. In particular, those actions violated the Greek Gods rule of Xenia (ancient Greek rule of hospitality). Zeus himself was the protector of that rule. As a result, an angry Zeus punished King Sisyphus. Zeus forced him to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity. Every time he got near the top of the hill, the boulder would roll back down. This resulted in King Sisyphus having to start over again. Each day consisted of the same routine, rolling a boulder up the hill and as he neared the top, it would roll back down.
The reason this may sound familiar, aside from reading this story in school, is that many of us feel that our days consist of rolling the boulder uphill in the midst of a pandemic. Increased effort is needed to achieve even the simplest of tasks. Prior routines (working out in gyms, movie night, going out to eat) are no longer available. We are more isolated and out of sync. Connections to family and friends are disrupted. Quarantines and lockdowns are leading to more isolation and disconnection. News stories, politics, and financial challenges face us as a nation as well. For many, it is difficult to maintain optimism. Each day seems like more of the same with no reprieve.
Humans are wired to seek out stimulation. Lack of stimulation and human interaction will take its toll on most people. We also require a sense of belonging as well as, our sense of security/safety. These are areas that have also been impacted by the Pandemic. We no longer feel in control. Our current situation leads us to feel a sense of helplessness and even hopelessness.
In our previous newsletters, we have discussed the impact quarantines/pandemic have on our mental health and substance abuse issues (click here) . We have also offered resources to assist in facing these challenges (click here). With the onset of Winter, it is especially important to be proactive in your mental health checklist. Shorter days, fewer outdoor activities, fewer, if any indoor activities, and government encouragement of keeping ourselves distant from others is going to make it more difficult for everyone.
Aside from using the resources we suggested, make it a daily task of yours to seek out positive interactions and experiences. This could be through Zoom, phone calls, emails, or safely face to face. Make it a point to tap into positive news. Transversally, avoid negative news. Vary your routines when you can to avoid mon0tonomy. Make sure these variations are helping you overall and not counterproductive.
Greek Mythology does not discuss how Sisyphus endured his punishment. Albert Camus, a French Philosopher, and Author wrote a book called The Myth of Sisyphus. Camus suggests with Sisyphus, “the lucidity he achieves with this understanding also places him above his fate.” Camus imagined that Sisyphus was smiling while pushing the rock and embracing his situation without thinking of the past or the future. This sense of reframing with a mindful focus on the here and now helps us to be present to the precious people in our lives.
Unfortunately, for the time being, we may have to be pushing our rock up the hill. It is important to try to make sure you are not alone in this endeavor. A positive and present state of mind will help get us to the top of the hill and stay on top of it.