The world looks very different than anything any of us have ever known right now. There isn’t any place to go to get away from this. 2020 has seemed to bring so many things to worry about right now besides the health aspect!
Finances are in shambles for many. Either you’ve stopped working or you are making less. Or maybe, you have an extra expense that you hadn’t planned for… like medical bills.
If like me you have family that are scattered, you almost feel like you want to grab them to you and put your arms around them to try and protect them from this crazy world right now. With my youngest in college, one in New York City, one in Colorado, and one in Dallas, I have found this at times to be particularly difficult. To say nothing of the rest of my family being in England. I sent a text to my kids the other day. I said, “ I feel like we should all be together right now….but on the other hand. How would that go by the third week?” The answers I got back were funny and truthful. But what I said back to them was, “I know, I’m just being a mother for a moment”.
So we are doing our thing, staying away from others and watching a whole lot of netflix. However, what I have found from talking to so many is that this is when the actual fear starts to creep in. The lack of control that we all as humans really crave. The need to know what is coming next and when it will come. Maybe that is why horror movies are so popular, because things suddenly jump out at us unexpectedly and it’s a thrill. But long term and in real life, this is not thrilling. It’s incredibly scary and we want it to stop. The fact is that no one really knows when this is going to end. When it does, what will the world look like for us? What will our normal be then? And how are we going to feel and act going forward?
I know you all get it. That is the strange thing about this whole thing really is that we are all going through it together. Comforting…but not exactly helpful. I realized the other day that this is actually my second quarantine in less than 12 months. Last year I fell from a high ladder and broke two vertebrae. I had that real fear of the future then. For 4 days I didn’t know if I would be able to walk. Then for another 2 months or so, what the lasting effects would be on me physically. I couldn’t work at my business because a concussion kept me fuzzy and I was unable to sit in a good position to type on my computer…which is my lifeline. I couldn’t drive, so I was stuck in my house…alone after a month when my youngest went to college and my oldest had to go back to her life in New York. So I had that anxiety, fear of what was going to happen and who I was now and going forward. Did I have the resilience to get through this and cope with the changes that would need to happen to move positively forward? I’m here to tell you that I did. But I’m not going to sugar coat it. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t forward momentum all the way. That’s the lesson I already have to take away from that. You need to be forgiving with yourself. You cannot do it all, sail through being the strong one. Allow yourself moments, or even a day to hide and watch netflix on the couch with your dogs if you need to. However, then you need to start to look at what you can do the next day to flip the script and take a step forward to resilience and confidence. Knowing – believing- that you are able to get through and be ready for the end of this particular crisis.
So let’s look at how we are going to do this thing!
If you are feeling really isolated there are several things you can do to reach out to others, even as we social distance. Do you have a friend who you haven’t texted for a long time, Is there a neighbour who you think may need some help right now? Write them a little note and slip it under their door to let them know that you are around and thinking of them. We are so lucky to have this thing at least happen in the age of the internet and great communication tools. Of course, that that can also be a bad thing. Too much negative news, too much scrolling through famous instagramers who are quarantining in their luxurious home with all their family may not be what you need right now. Comparing yourself to others is always a bad idea, but even worse now. There are people who are looking to connect like you. You can find them in facebook groups, online meetups and zoom calls with friends.
One of the things that plays on our fears and anxiety is the what if scenarios. The “what might or could happen”. Even the “what should be happening to me right now” thoughts. These are all minefields that we wander into in our minds that help us spiral down into the negative mindset that can be very difficult to dig ourselves out of. Those are all things that are not our current reality. Staying in the now and what is happening will really help you to avoid those minefields.
Look around you now at what you have that is good…there is good stuff now if you are looking for it. It doesn’t matter how small. Human minds can be pretty devious. When we start to look for evidence of what we want to believe in right now we can find it. Then more and more of that evidence pops up to prove how right we were all along. If you can stop and take the time to look for some kind of evidence that this is going to be ok and things are going well for you right now, you will find that and you will be able to build from there.
You need to look at the patterns in your thoughts. We all do it, even when not in a crisis situation like this. You know what I mean….”oh I’m not pretty/smart/funny…fill in the blank…enough”. We are listening closely to what we say to ourselves, even as we are not aware that we are saying it. And it has an impact. It becomes the story of who we are and it totally affects the way we live our lives at the time and decisions for going forward. This is even more evident right now.
It is time to interrupt those patterns. Learn to be aware of them. When you become aware of things that you are saying, you then need to take a look at what you were doing or thinking about when these thoughts pop into your head. What is the trigger to start this spiralling pattern? Then you need to make sure you try to avoid that trigger going forward. If it’s facebook scrolling, stop and do something else instead…like listening to a positive podcast, going outside to look at the sky for 5 mins or reading a book. Done often enough and consistently, that will allow you to interrupt the patterns and lessen the negative thoughts.
Responding rather than reacting to events is another good way to interrupt the patterns of negative thoughts. I know that I have a serious news addiction that I have to detoxify myself from on a regular basis. As an example, I decided to watch the Great British Baking Show instead of the recent political debates. It was hard for me to feel that I’m not taking civic responsibility but I decided that my mental health was more important at that time….and you can always get a synopsis later. If you can do this type of thing often enough and consistently, it will allow you to interrupt the patterns and lessen the negative thoughts.
If all else seems to be failing you, and you feel that you are very anxious at the moment, a quick breathing exercise that I do with my clients will trick your body into thinking all is well and so making you feel well.
Try to find a quiet place. If you can sit down and close your eyes. If that’s not possible, do this anyway. Take in a deep breath for five counts, hold it for four counts and release for seven counts. Repeat this for about ten rounds and you will find that your body has calmed down and brought your mind with it.
On a daily level I have found that it really helps to make a schedule for the days ahead. It is hard to get up in the morning when you have no real idea where the day is going. It can drift into a blur of cable news, worry, hiding in tv or social media, feeling like you are wasting your time, more worry negative voices in your head, bed. Then you’re angry at yourself for wasting time. Get more down and repeat the next day.
Even scheduling in little things, like going to the store can lead to a feeling of accomplishment as you check them off as done. If you want to get in more exercise, you may find that writing that on your schedule actually makes it more likely that you will do it. It’s right there on the page. You are now accountable.
Start your day by writing in a journal. Get all those thoughts out on paper. If you’re not sure where to start. Set a 5 minute timer and just write anything that comes into your head,,,even grocery list until that timer goes off. It will get easier to let go and get real thoughts down on paper as you practice.
Meditation is always a good idea and now more than before. It calms the mind, the body and produces good serotonin levels for your day. Don’t think you can’t do it because you can’t clear your mind. No one can actually do that. Well maybe some yogi whose been doing it a whole life time. Start slow, use an app. On your phone if you like. Give it a try.
You may not feel comfortable going to the gym yet, but you can get some exercise. Walk outside or like I tried yesterday, go on youtube and do a dance exercise class. I’m not sure how much actual exercise I got, but I was left laughing hysterically by the time it ended at my attempts to do some of the moves. I just can’t seem to get that Booty Pop idea down. So now I have a new goal for the next couple of weeks. Lucky for me no one was watching!
That brings me to the idea about what will happen once this has ended. This is a time where our daily crazy busy lives came to a screeching halt …but it has given many of us a time to reflect that wasn’t really possible before. That is why I call it such a great opportunity.
Why not take at this time to look at who you do want to be going forward.
Now though you can look at what you have missed most about this whole thing and what you really haven’t missed or are frankly happy has gone away. It’s a good way to think about your priorities.
What do you do that has so engrossed you that you lose track of time? Did you come up with a new hobby or try something new? This is a good way to discover your passion in life. Once you know that, how can you use this going forward to live your life to the fullest.
As part of your goals for the future, I want you to look back on how fabulously well you have come through this. I suggest that once a week you can sit down and write your own Badass list. Write down all the great and good things that you have done or felt that week. Even if it seems small, remember that it is a triumph in the face of this adversity.
So Find something now that you are grateful for. However small
When you look for the positive you will find it. Once steady in the now, then you will be ready to really think about what is really important to you in life and use that to set goals.
And I would just like to leave you with one thought. You are in total control still. Once you believe that, you can do anything.