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How to Experience A Pandemic Survival in 7 Creative Ways with Perceptual Thinking

“Life is in the transitions. We can’t ignore these central times of life; we can’t wish or will them away. We have to accept them, name them, mark them, share them, and eventually convert them into fuel for remaking our life stories.” William James

Life struggles are tough right now for an indeterminate amount of time going forward in a pandemic world. Too many people feel physically and mentally locked up, estranged, depressed, anxious about maintaining normal family life, unemployment and fearful of the unknown future.

“It is blunting your emotions. You are losing empathy for others, not seeing other people’s needs, but instead are becoming very self-absorbed. That self-absorption leads to an increase in anxiety and depression. It also leads you deeper into more stress.” Dr. Gregory Jantz

Much psychological common-sense advice can help alleviate anxiety such as do a self-assessment, watch the negative talk and nutrition, walk or daily exercise, sleep better, renew your mind, and minimize news feeds and screen time.

However, I would also like to recommend playing with your perceptions to help perceive things, people and events in different ways. In other words, move outside the negative concepts of knowing how bad the situation is to stimulate new ways of talking, acting and relating.

Perceptual thinking or learning is the process by which our different senses respond to various stimuli to learn through experience. Stages of perceptual learning (neural pathways) can be modified to help change the cognitive process of understanding to see better or see worse, to see hope or despair, to have a laugh instead of tears.

One can hope that a more creative acceptance of reality will make any situation more bearably manageable and change negative patterns of thinking, if only temporarily.

7 Ways to use creative perceptual thinking

If you live with other family members, everyone can participate. If living alone, then share imagination with others via technology or just descriptively talk on the phone about something else than CoVid.

Note this picture is used as a reference. You will need to play within your spaces.

Photo by Francesca Tosolini on Unsplash
  1. Break the problem into sub problems to deal with one part at a time: Plan meals for today, help the kids, time to finish house or business chores, private time to relax, favorite music or book.

2. Imagine in reverse: How could things be made worse … dinner burned, data on laptop lost, empty fridge, difficult walking, fruits running around, the word fear is painted on windows, rudeness and swearing everywhere, what if you’re blind?

3. Imagine unusual even nutty things: What if everything comes alive with personalities, what if your mate dressed like a clown, your kids turned into their favorite animals, your lamp changed into a plant and vice versa, your plates were large banana leaves, what if your pet was a dragon … anything to engage in abnormal talk and bring a smile to tamp down stress.

4. Imagine you have a magic wand: Walk around the room changing things and explaining your fantasies ... the rug is a magic carpet, the spoon’s face describes the food it’s serving, your shoes can bounce over any bad moment, your chair is a throne, the walls are hung with your favorite paintings, you’ve swallowed a magic pill to visualize a happier future from time to time.

5. Use different senses and emotions: Focus on senses and be able to describe them with more than one word that first comes to mind. Touch descriptively the objects in the room. Taste your food more slowly. Feel the liquid flowing into your stomach. Look at color and textures of food and other objects intently before using them. Express anger by stomping on cardboard or Styrofoam and let it vaporize. Express joy by taking a long time to arrange a small vase of flowers or a lace hankie on the dresser.

6. Form new mental connections to other places: Link quiet times to something you enjoy doing such as a walk in the park. Eat dinner as if in a 5-star restaurant. Do housework as if playing an academy role. Think of ways to be productive within a cardboard box. Think of neighbors and friends in creative settings as well where everyone is connecting with each other.

7. Play imaginative games with all the family: Realize the limitations of plugging into individual videos for solo entertainment. Survival thinking cannot be inspired by solo isolation.

Remember old fashioned games like I spot with my little eye and Charades. Refresh family board games and jigsaw puzzles. Play fantasy games … what if an alligator came into the room — what are some good things that can happen, what are some bad things? Play act a favorite TV show or change the characters.

Imagination is as limitless as the universe of neurons in your brain.

The main point to all this creative perceptual thinking is to take your brain out of the pandemic disaster zone and help to shape your own imaginative experiences to bring some levity.

When there doesn’t seem too much of anything else to hang unto, the brain’s innate perceptual power can change inner points of view and find different meanings, crazy or otherwise, of commonplace existence.

Comments are always welcome. I wonder what kind of playful perceptions you may think that may help others to think more creatively.

Annemarie Berukoff

Note: If you are interested in more academic “awareness plans” about how to be more effectively creative in your experience with the world, check out the book called Playful Perception by Herbert Leff, Ph. D. These 7 ways were drawn from this book; there are others.

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