“We’re well in the shelter, all 33 of us.” This message was sent by the team leader of the copper miners, during the great accident at the Copiapo, Chile copper mine in 2010.
When the miners were finally rescued, after being trapped for 69 days, 700 meters below the ground, everyone wondered how these people came out safe and composed, calm and optimistic, after their harrowing adventure.
What exactly led to their unexpected, dynamic behavior?
As soon as the accident happened, one of the 33 was put in charge of the group. He immediately assessed the situation, what their prospects were, what the injuries were, what they needed to do.
He realized all they had to do was wait patiently for the help that would come from the surface. He knew they needed to show discipline and faith that help would eventually arrive. As long as they remained patient without losing their tempers, optimism would reign. He deeply knew that in order for this to happen, the whole group of 33 needed to be united and in tune with a positive way of thinking. Any quarrel or split could be fatal to their survival.
So he devised a plan that proved to be life-saving for all of them and gave purpose and meaning to the copper miners trapped in the tunnels. He scheduled shifts, with specific working hours for each one. He designated work groups for the 33, assigned them simple tasks such as sweeping, arranging, preparing food, doing the inventory of materials, setting up hours of exercise, food making, eating, rest and entertainment. The whole team agreed to follow this program without delay.
And that saved them.
Why? Because in the gloomy conditions in which they found themselves, they did the best they could do. They sought to give meaning and purpose to their lives. This helped them focus on small and seemingly insignificant activities and tasks. Their shifts led them to have an organized sense of time as the days were passing, even in the darkness of 700 meters. This time-oriented schedule was essential for their mental health and good mood.
As a result, when they came to the surface after 69 whole days, they were all in the best mental and physical health they could be in under the extreme conditions they had endured! This was a miracle that was materialized thanks to the human leadership initiative.
So I used this example of the accident in Chile because I would like to share some ideas on how we too, during this“stay-at-home” period brought on by the coronavirus, can make the most of our time.
o First of all, let’s realize that we are in a much better position than the copper miners, staying in our own home with our comforts and the sense of safety home offers is a huge blessing. Ground yourself in this truth whenever you find your thoughts turning negative.
o Set small daily activities and a consistent daily routine such as: waking up, meditating for 5 minutes, morning hygiene, 45 minutes of exercise, bathing, dressing, cooking, reading, etc. For best results, plan a weekly schedule and write it down (either on a computer or on paper) and make sure to keep it posted where you see it often.
o Every day write the date in a notebook, perhaps along with a few thoughts (see next point). This will help you recognize the passage of each day and avoid time disorientation that leads to a feeling of seclusion and institutional sameness..
o Keeping a diary of your thoughts, feelings, and impressions during this time is a great way to take care of your psychological health. Share what concerns you, perhaps even thoughts you are afraid or ashamed to communicate to others. Writing relieves negative emotions like fear, anger, and frustration.
o Tackle tasks you’ve put off at home. For example, go through the clutter that is stashed in various corners of the house, organize photos in albums, or file away receipt or bills you need to keep record of.
o Cook healthy and tasty meals. This is also a pleasant activity that helps avoid overeating and unhealthy eating.
o Be sure to change out of your pajamas in the morning. This is an easily overlooked cue that will create a sense of normalcy and help you stay productive (It’s hard to get things done when you feel like you’re ready for bed). Save your comfy clothes for special breaks, like having a cup of coffee or enjoying a snack in your favorite corner of the house.
o Use technology to communicate with friends, relatives and colleagues (thank you Skype, Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber and many other programs for allowing us to talk to whomever we want, for as long as we want, wherever they are). It’s a good idea to talk to someone at least once a day, especially if you’re home alone.
o Consciously choose to focus your attention on the things you are grateful for in the present moment (e.g. I am grateful because I am safe in my home, I have freshly cooked food, I can see the sunny view from my window/balcony, I have family and friends, etc.). For even greater impact, write what you are thankful for in a diary or notebook. Consciously avoid thinking about what you’re missing (such as being able to go out freely). Instead, decide to only focus on the things you currently have.
O For those who share lockdown with others at home: agree to spend some time alone in separate rooms or spaces, while also setting periods where you can enjoy spending time together. Continuously living together can cause irritation and quarrels. Respect your personal limits, as well as those of others.
o Listen to your favorite music and why not dance too! Even better, take your music and dancing outdoors to get some physical exercise.
o Play board games, work on indoor hobbies (small crafting projects, knitting, crocheting, etc.), and focus on anything that fills your personal cup with happiness and contentment.
o Find time for personal growth. Read physical or digital books on this subject. Keep track of relevant information through the abundant internet resources you have at your disposal. Meditate and create time for personal growth exercises.
o For those employees who are called to work from home; strictly respect the working hours, but be sure you don’t overwork either (after all, most of us will not be paid for that extra time). Often those who work from home become victims of over-demand from their employer. Put a brake on those pressures because overworking will not get me anywhere, especially under these emergency conditions.
o Be sure to get enough sleep!
In the coming days, I will be sharing more information on the most appropriate and effective solutions to face the current challenges we are all up against.
Very important: if you feel like all of this is too heavy and burdensome, ASK FOR HELP. Call your personal psychologist or therapist; if you do not have one, municipalities have begun to offer psychological and telephone support lines. Call for help, instead of staying alone with your problem.
Remember: All this will pass. If we show our determination and maintain our tranquility, in the end we will be the winners of an experience that will strengthen our faith in ourselves and humanity.
Take care of yourselves, smile and be safe!
Last modified: May 26, 2020