The Art of Improvising

Tips for the lockdown

20. March 2020By Karsten Risseeuw7 Minutes

We are at the start of an epidemic in Switzerland. On a worldwide scale it is officially called a pandemic. Many people experience stress, which is understandable. It is much like a war situation and few of us ever experienced this. It is a new situation and it is hard to know how things will develop. Nevertheless, bold decisions need to be taken if we want to avoid scenarios like in Italy. On a more pragmatic level there is just a simple question: What can we do ourselves today?

Storm warnings at Lake Constance

The current situation with the Coronavirus can be compared with a storm warning. The storm is not yet here, the sun shines bright, and people are told to get into their homes for safety. To many it feels surreal. And they are right. It truly is.

Once I lived in a home from which windows you could see part of Lake Constance, which is between Switzerland, Austria and Germany. The lake was actually quite far away, but whenever there was a storm coming up, we could see the lights flashing up on the German shore across the lake. From a distance you could see a line of blinking lights. These warnings were set up to inform the sailors to get back to safe harbors as quickly as possible and not to go out on the lake.

The intention of the lights and drastic measures was not to cut down on your freedom or to install a political crackdown on society, but to simply inform you that bad things were about to happen. It was not storming yet, but these warning lights were there as an early warning. The message was: “Sailors, come home to the harbor now! It’s urgent!”.


The restrictions which are in place for our society today are comparable with the storm lights along the shores of Lake Constance. There is one big difference though: Possible scenarios point towards much more severe effects as any regular storm could cause. It would be more appropriate to speak of a possible tsunami coming our way. Italy is experiencing this already and it is not yet over. There is no need to panic (or to hoard toilet paper), but it is important to get back into that harbor (to practice social distancing now).

What can we do?

There is no need for panic. Actually there are good things we can do, apart from heeding the suggestions and requests from the government. Doing good things will give your mood a boost. And as you do positive things, it will influence your environment, neighborhood, village or city as well. Here are some ideas:

  • Contact your neighbors
    Now is a good time to contact your neighbors. There might be no necessity right now, but creating a contact will make it easier to speak if you or they might need help. You can cheer up each other, just send a smile or simply be nice in another way.
    Things you can do: Call them, use Social Media, create a Facebook Group for your street. Write them a short note and put it in their postboxes. Write a note at the entrance of the building (leave your phone number and name and a short message).
  • Create networks
    Find a way to communicate with your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc.
    Things you can do: Use social media, email, messengers. Sing from the balcony. Just stay in touch. Look for those who might not be so lucky to know a lot of people.
  • Be creative
    There are thousands of ways to be creative. Being creative will lift up your mood and encourage others.
    Things you can do: Share recipes, drawings, music pieces, poems, whatever you create. Walk the dog of your neighbor. Organize an online chat. There are risk groups, which might be glad if you get their groceries. Are there other active groups in your surroundings? Let them know you are available.
  • Feed your spirit
    It is a good idea to feed your mind with good thoughts every day.
    Things you can do: Read the bible (there is much to learn, much comfort to receive). Learn something new. Prepare for the time after the virus (business, family, plans). Be thankful (that’s a daily decision).

Embrace the improvising

For myself this extraordinary situation is great. Does that sound weird? That is not because of the real threat (which is terrible), but because of something else: Everyone is improvising and I love that aspect. Improvising is not something very common in Switzerland. Today however everyone needs to improvise! We all need to find a new approach to daily life, and there are numerous challenges people have to cope with. It changes the very fabric of society, and we might see something good happening.

Improvising might be very unsettling for some people. That needs to be accepted. The situation is very new. Some see the situation as a threat (instead of the virus), as an assumed “security” seemingly falls apart. That feeling might be very real. For others like myself however, it feels quite different. I have no security whatsoever and I do not know of what I will live next month. But I have no fear. I know that I am now asked to improvise. That is a good thing.

As people have different needs and temperaments, we do good to accept the differences. Everyone can contribute something. We might still have to figure out how it works best.

Happy improvising!