Getting through the pandemic –
I’m counting on it!
How do we get through COVID-19? To successfully face a crisis, we need to take action. First, there are precautions that minimise the physical risks. Secondly, we need to have a strategy for maintaining our mental well-being.by Terry StephensLast year I was diagnosed with cancer and underwent major surgery to eradicate it. I am very lucky because the procedure was successful. The body needs a long time to fully recover from such things. And during this difficult time I needed a strategy in order to maintain equanimity during a protracted period.

I created a management system by subdividing long periods into 10-day blocks. Each block is represented by a single, easy to visualise colour, and is counted off sequentially.

I am now in my third round of counting off blocks of ten days.

The system uses seven rainbow colours to give seven mileposts to count off the days plus other colours to give a greater range. Adding grey and white to either end gives nine mileposts of 10 days each = 90 days.

Alternatively eight colours could be applied to blocks of 14 days, giving 112-day periods, or roughly four months. Other configurations can be devised. There’s a limit though: I have found that blocks of 20 days or longer are not so easily managed.

It turns out that this system of task segmenting is readily adaptable to other situations or problems faced. We have been advised that it could be many months before the pandemic is brought under control; so I can see this system being useful for those struggling with the long time frames involved, especially periods of self-isolation and social distancing. Following this system of counting off blocks of long periods provides a means of successfully negotiating difficult and protracted periods. In the language of goal-setting experts, it helps us maintain our ‘tension to the goal’.

In my case I’ve had a few ‘melt-down’ moments; I guess no system is perfect. But following this system has, in the end, converted an avowed pessimist into a reborn optimist.

Perhaps it can do the same for you.

Terry Stephens is a massage therapist, a former tertiary and secondary school teacher and deputy editor of LivingNow magazine.