We’re living unprecedented times in history. Our lives have been turned upside down basically overnight. We’ve been thrown way out of our comfort zones, each of us in our own way and paradoxically, all of us in the same way. We’re no longer stable on our own two feet and we struggle with consequences that have already become apparent: the future of our jobs, the possibility for our businesses to thrive, the health of our loved ones, challenges related to working from home or being confined to a limited space all by ourselves, or with our partner, kids, even parents. We wonder for how long is it going to be like this, when are we getting back to normal or what will the new ‘normal’ look like?
All of these are taking a huge emotional toll on us, a charge that we are more or less equipped to handle. Some of us are tempted to hit the brake, stop, downsize and wait for it to pass. Others, on the contrary, accelerate and try to do everything at once.
What’s the healthy way through this? How do we adapt, how do we take care of our health, of our businesses, our families and stay sane at the same time? How do we deal with layers upon layers of uncertainty? How about our goals? Do we stubbornly stick to them, do we change them, or forget about them altogether?
Without claiming to have any definitive answer to these questions, based on both my personal experience and my expertise, I’ve put together a few guidelines to help us better navigate these times.
Acknowledge and label your emotions. We live in a society that has promoted high levels of performance and the power of our rational thinking minds for a very long time. Emotions have been hidden under the rug, denied and sent into a corner. That doesn’t serve us and is no longer sustainable. It’s like fear, anger, anxiety, sadness, grief, confusion hit us hard so they can no longer be ignored. It’s ok. Feel them. Label them. Notice when your breathing rate changes, when your heart rushes, when your hands and feet get numb or frozen. Ask yourself ‘What emotion am I feeling right now?’, and name it. Sit with it for a while, trying to understand what perception is causing it. We are beings of meaning and the moment we label our emotions, they start shifting. Allow yourself to feel. Otherwise, ignoring them will only increase their power and make them fester.
Be kind to yourself and stay aware of yourself talk. Once you’ve labelled your emotions, talk to yourself kindly, exactly as you would to a 5 year-old who’s scared. ‘It’s ok. I’m here for you. We’ll find solutions. We’ll get through this.’ Don’t blame yourself, it will only make things worse. Be mindful of the should-s and have to’s in your language, especially when you talk to yourself. ‘I should be doing this, I shouldn’t be feeling that, I have to do this’. Stop. It is what it is. It’s normal and it’s ok, as long as you don’t plan to dwell on them forever.
Stabilize your emotional state. Once you have identified the emotions you’re feeling, find further ways to stabilize them. There are breathing techniques that have proven to be very effective in helping people get into calm, balanced states. There are tools aimed to help let go of negative emotions so you further expand your perception, access resourceful states, and therefore, be able to think creatively and find solutions. I use Time Line Therapy® techniques in working both with myself and my clients, breath work, meditation, yoga techniques. Find one that’s suitable to you and bring it to your daily practice.
Keep a few healthy routines. Talking about daily practice, our emotional body needs security and stability. When things outside us are so uncertain, it’s very useful to shift our focus towards what’s within our control and we can still be certain of. It doesn’t have to be very complex, something as simple as having our meals at the same hours every day, going to bed or waking up at the same hour, having a simple practice as a few minutes of working out or mental health related practice will prove extremely beneficial.
Renegotiate boundaries, especially with the ones you’re sharing your space with. Being confined to a limited space for an undefined amount of time can be very challenging and you can easily get to step on each other’s toes. Talk about what’s important for each of you, what your calendars are, when you need quiet time and how each of you could be supported to accommodate that.
Take time for yourself. Support groups have been created everywhere and everybody advises you to connect to other people, reach out, stay in touch, Zoom all day long, share your experience, talk. While this works for some people, it’s not a winning strategy for others. In NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) we have these things called Metaprograms, unconscious filters that determine how we think and how we work. One of them has to do with the way we process information and it can be either external, either internal. When faced with a problem, the external processors need to think in the presence of somebody else to filter and find answers. But then there are the internal processors who need to think about it by themselves so they find a solution. If you identify as external then it’s ok, reach out, talk to other people. If you identify more as an internal processor, make sure to carve time to be by yourself, with your thoughts and your emotional states so you can process them.
Define what matters to you the most. In times of crises, our values tend to shift. Values define what’s important to us. We have values in all areas of our lives: personal, family, finance, business. Make a list of what’s important to you in each area of your life, look for ways to secure what feels threatened, so you can then find ways to thrive and grow.
How about goals? I’m sure all of you had goals you were working on when the crisis began. External conditions have changed so what now? What I did was to go through my goals again and see what I can still work on these days. How can I pivot or reroute so I still get to my destination? I realized that some goals have to move further down into the future, and some of them are still achievable in the time frame initially set. At the same time, there were those goals I never found time or space for that seemed perfect to tend to right now. Write all those articles, catch up with all that reading and movie watching, learn that new language, write that book, finish all those projects that had been put on hold.
When it comes to me, before I knew it, I was even busier and more overwhelmed than before. I realized that thinking that I now had a lot of time was a trap. This is not a holiday. There is a lot of pressure on us so the best option I found was to focus on the essential ones and forget about the rest. Take action, breathe, take it step by step, focus on one thing at a time and don’t expect the highest levels of productivity ever. Give yourself time and space to process and shift wisely between action and stillness. You SO need them both. WE need them both so we collectively create the new world while learning what we need to learn about ourselves and others in the process.
Hope this helps and brings some light. I am here if you need assistance.
Until next time, be well!
Master Trainer of NLP, Founder of Crafting Minds