Let’s Talk … About thriving in the pandemic


It was March, seven long months ago when COVID-19 was acknowledged as a pandemic. When the shutdown was announced most of us thought we could just hold our breaths, make some minor adjustments and things would get back to “normal” within a reasonable period of time. But here and now, the numbers of people contracting and dying from this disease continue to soar in the U.S.

It’s now time to shift again, from short-term adjustments, to more consciously evaluating how we’re coping and exploring ways to move from just holding our breath to emotionally shifting to make more adventuresome changes in our lives. Just “coping” is depressing. We are all hopeful for a vaccine and future efforts to more adequately control the spread, but it looks like for now we’re being called on to move on to yet another level of adjustment.

Generally, the initial anxiety and worry we all felt has shifted for many to a more depressive state of monotonous waiting for it all to be over. People have reported loss of motivation and interest, lethargy, withdrawal from interactions, whether they are through the Internet, socially distanced, and even with people in our bubble. It’s an understandable response. When you’re holding your breath, eventually, the slow leak of despair and discouragement can lead to an overall deflated way of feeling and being.

What we thought we could make do “during the interim” now needs to shift to a more active decision-making process. Unfortunately, some people are responding to this stage of waiting by slowly easing up on the restrictions imposed by scientists … that’s the leaking. And it’s the cause of the continuing rises and spikes of COVID-19 across the country. So following the rules of science and maintaining healthy COVID-safe practices while revitalizing your life is not only possible, but necessary for emotional and physical well-being.

Life purpose is what has been compromised and short-circuited during these times. For some who were furloughed or lost their jobs, if work was where your life purpose was focused, completing unfinished household chores may no longer distract you from the necessary changes that need to be made. With children out of school, people working remotely, limited contact between family and friends, grandparents and grandchildren, what might have given you purpose in life may all be on hold.

So this may be a little dark, but what if I were to die before the pandemic ended? How will I have spent my time … waiting or activating? What I mean by “activating” is a process of thinking, maybe even writing down, “What gives me a sense of my purpose in life?”

People who suffer from depression often struggle to answer this question. There is, of course, for each of us, a purpose for our existence. It doesn’t have to be grandiose and shiny, but it is unique to you. If you have felt that life or circumstances defined your purpose, now is the time to reflect on what purpose I choose for myself. In simple terms, “purpose” is defined as a reason for existence. It’s a heavy question, but as a therapist, I’ve found that people who are fueled by purpose are less likely to suffer from depression.

If COVID has stymied you from your purpose in life, don’t put it on hold, find a way to get around it, over it, under it and discover new ways to activate what gives meaning to your life. Now to fire up your imagination, I want to invite you to e-mail me with ideas about how you have, or plan to, re-invent or continue to fulfill your life purpose. Send me just a sentence or two describing what you are doing to redefine your purpose in life to shift from living in suspended time to living fully. And I’ll share it in my next column.

Here’s some examples I’ve heard from others. A grandmother, devoted to her grandchildren living in other states, used to visit them often, especially for their birthdays. She’s now sending birthday parties in a box, sending homemade cookies, making miniature pinátas and party favors and then Zooms with the kids on their special day. One architect whose company closed down, is looking for work, but has found great pleasure in a new hobby of beekeeping. A teenager who played basketball all the time, finally got tired of looking at his phone and computer screens, and has gotten serious about drawing comics. What shifted them from having been depressed while waiting, is their renewed passion, a way to express themselves, to manifest who they are from the inside out.

As for me, I’ve been slogging through a book about my family’s wartime experience for several years, but once I decided this story might actually change how people viewed protest and resistance in the World War II prison camps, I found myself more fired up and disciplined about something that has always been difficult for me … writing!

So e-mail me and share some of the ways you’ve given meaning to your life in spite of COVID. Let’s do it!

Satsuki Ina, Ph.D. is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in intergenerational trauma. She can be reached at satsukina44@gmail.com. She is also a filmmaker (“Children of the Camps” — www.children-of-the-camps.org and “From a Silk Cocoon: A Japanese American Renunciation Story” — www.fromasilkcocoon.com). The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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