The author gave a talk in the latest edition of TED Connects.

By Madeline Diamond
April 02, 2020
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As part of a new daily conversation series from TED Conferences, authors, scientists, doctors, and other experts are sharing their insight and advice on how to deal with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the acclaimed memoir "Eat, Pray, Love," and most recently, the novel "City of Girls," spoke with TED CEO Chris Anderson on Thursday's edition of TED Connects about how to deal with the mix of emotions brought on by the pandemic.

Credit: Tyler Essary/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

In a talk titled "It's OK to feel overwhelmed. Here's what to do next," Gilbert shared anecdotes and her own personal coping tactics in addition to answering viewer questions. Gilbert's talk joins the ranks of several other online discussions with guests like Bill Gates, neuroscientist Matt Walker, and psychologist Susan David, which are all available to view online. Next on the TED Connects agenda is a performance and talk with singer, beatboxer, and songwriter Butterscotch. It will livestream on April 3 at 12 p.m. ET.

Keep reading for four tips from Gilbert on how to deal with isolation, anxiety, and grief during these uncertain times.

Don't forget to show yourself compassion and mercy.

When asked about dealing with anxiety and fear during this time of uncertainty, Gilbert stressed the importance of showing yourself compassion in addition to others. For example, the author writes a letter to herself every day from the voice of love as a way to validate her fears and concerns.  It's also necessary to "give yourself permission to hope," she said of how to move forward.

Embrace being alone.

Gilbert mentioned that earlier this year she completed a 17-day retreat in India with no human contact. She sees this as inadvertent practice for her current period of isolation during quarantine. And while she acknowledges that "the hardest person to be with is yourself," she also encourages people to look at the positives of spending time alone. "Don't be in such a hurry to rush away from an experience that could transform your life," she said.

Trust your intuition.

Gilbert also emphasized that while it is common to have anxiety and panic about imagined futures, your intuition will ultimately tell you what to do one moment to the next, including when you are grieving. She mentioned that grief is bigger than us and our efforts to manage it, though she also encourages people to "walk toward" the emotions they're afraid of.

Focus on your curiosities.

While many argue that this is the best time to invest in your passions and creative projects, Gilbert says that now is actually the time to indulge in your curiosities rather than face the pressure of following a passion or purpose. "If you can't think of what to do right now, do what made you happy when you were 10 years old," she said, suggesting everything from painting to playing with Legos.