The Covid-19 pandemic has led to sweeping changes and disruptions in every aspect of daily life. While some are in pain due to the loss of a loved one, many are struggling with job loss and isolation or trying to cope with a health issue themselves. In such a situation of crisis, imagine being able to help someone, share their sorrows, have a heart-to-heart conversation or bring a smile to their faces. If this isn’t surreal in these tough times, nothing else can be. Yes, the world needs kindness and empathy more than it has ever needed! “The uncertainty of the pandemic is such that even if one hasn’t experienced a traumatic loss on a personal front, one is still caught in a puddle of anxiety about contracting the deadly virus. In such a situation, it is needless to state that we tend to develop and expect a greater amount of empathy towards ourselves and others,” says mental and emotional wellbeing coach Kanchan Rai. This is one of the reasons we are coming across more and more people supporting and helping each other on social media. Whether it’s simply being kind and considerate to someone or spreading information about availability of beds, plasma, Covid medication etc, it’s wonderful to see people trying to understand one another by putting themselves in another individual’s shoes. We talk to experts about the importance of practicing empathy during Covid-19, simple acts of kindness one can perform during the pandemic and its benefits
Empathy can be an acquired skill
Studies have revealed that empathy is a beneficial emotional skill that can be learned. Some people naturally tend to have an empathetic nature, while for those who lack compassion skills, there are plenty of things that one can consider doing to cultivate understanding. “Begin with taking feedback on your relationship skills from everyone in your family, friend circle and/or colleagues. When you become self-aware, you can easily accept and become sensitive towards others’ emotions and sufferings. Drop any kind of judgements, biases and opinions” says life coach Samira Gupta. Simple ways like listening attentively to others, getting yourself engaged in acts of service, being observant about the empathetic actions of others, visualizing yourself in another person’s situation, accepting the present, attuning to the situation and prioritizing self-care are all strategies that can aid in building empathy. “In times of chaos, confusion and stress, behavioral etiquette can often take a back seat. However, practicing empathy consciously can help you be more considerate and forgiving. This simplifies things and makes life’s hardships bearable,” says mental health professional and corporate wellness coach Dr Umesh Wadhwani.
Start with yourself
While empathy is about connecting with other people in meaningful ways, it is necessary to know that empathy starts with self. “Unless and until we aren’t empathetic and compassionate to ourselves, it is difficult to mirror the same for others. It is often said that ‘fill your cup first and let others benefit from its overflow’. This is truer than true. Empathy, compassion, kindness is done not just to make others feel cared for, but also yourself. It is one of the instant ways to elevate your mood and happiness,” says holistic lifestyle coach Luke Coutinho. Practicing empathy during the COVID-19 pandemic not only opens your mind to what others are experiencing, but it can also help you feel socially connected and combat feelings of isolation. “Being empathetic towards yourself and others improves your ability to regulate your emotions during times of stress. It increases your self esteem, confidence levels and makes you feel good about yourself,” says Sanjana Bafna Ranka, a young entrepreneur running an inspirational mental health facility.
“Empathy is knowing we are all sailing through life in our ships and boats wherein the weather conditions are common, but resources, willpower, strength and capacities are varied”
– Kirti Sharma, socio-emotional educator
Empathy helps nurture the significant human need for connection and attachment. It also helps in guiding our moral compass by being a foundation for the moral behaviour that generates healthier, sustainable communities.
– Kanchan Rai, mental and emotional wellbeing coach
Kindness is under-rated but it is one of the first few steps that a person can adapt towards becoming empathetic. Moreover, it can be adopted in every form of communication
– Sanjana Bafna Ranka, entrepreneur
QUICK TIPS: Ways one can practice empathy in the time of Covid-19
– Stay at home: Each of us plays a role in breaking or spreading Covid 19 chain, so by staying at home we aren’t just being considerate to ourselves but also others.
– Empathy in communication: Greet and genuinely ask “How are you” or “Hope you are well” before jumping on to the main topic. Ask them about their well-being, family, health, etc, and gradually build up on the conversation.
– Thoughtful condolences: Be very sensitive when it comes to offering condolences and grief messages to someone who has lost a loved one in their family.
– Avoid being judgemental: In case someone is unresponsive, avoid being judgmental. Give them the benefit of doubt and understand what is up with them.
– Help: Help doesn’t always have to be about donations. Simple acts like volunteering to prepare a meal for someone who is in quarantine, checking on what they need, spreading authentic and verified messages, and awareness posts are also very powerful ways to help. Even an honest prayer with faith is a form of helping someone.
– Avoid hoarding: Stockpiling and overbuying essentials like groceries and medicines is the opposite of practicing empathy. So, take only what you need, and leave the rest for others.
– Support local vendors: Purchasing directly from local vendors and farmers can help them earn their livelihood during this crisis.
– Appreciate: At work, offer some form of appreciation or compensation in case your employee has gone the extra mile to work. Genuine appreciation is a form of empathy too.
– Express gratitude: Send gratitude messages and notes to any frontline worker you know who risks their lives every single day to keep us safe. Say a pleasant and heartfelt thank you to that security watchman or delivery boy.
Inputs by holistic lifestyle coach Luke Coutinho
Simple benefits of practicing empathy
1. Boosts and elevates your happiness and everyone else around you.
2. It is known to surge oxytocin and serotonin levels
3. Increases self-esteem and makes you feel good about yourself
4. Helps build collaborative efforts and teamwork, rather than working in isolation.
5. Improves relationships and builds better and stronger bonds
6. Limits misunderstandings and miscommunication