How to be well when the world is topsy-turvy


There may be a number of questions you may be asking yourself when everything has become topsy-turvy:

What’s up with the world?

Life has a different rhythm now; it really feels different, doesn’t it?

We’ve been thrown out of our comfort zone and routines, we’ve built new habits, and I am still learning a ‘new normal’ in the field of the unknown.

It seems like we are all feeling this loss of what was our normality of the work journeys and daily shopping, the connections with people we liked or just tolerated, the different family arrangements we are experiencing and the fear of the unknown economic toll, all of this is causing distress and upset at varying degrees for some people.

We are grieving and we are not used to this ‘collective grief’ in the air. We know this is temporary but it doesn’t feel that way. Our primitive mind knows it’s uncertain, we can’t see it and it breaks our sense of safety as a collective, this is new.

What’s going on with me?

As humans, we are creatures of habits and instinctive responses and, at the same time, we are all uniquely different so this is impacting us in different ways – there isn’t the right way or wrong way to feel and it’s also ok to feel or not to feel.

To make sense of the emotional rollercoaster some of us have been on, this frame may explain the ups and downs of our moods, each one of us is at different stages and every day may be unlike the day before.

Usually early on when we deal with loss, we may identify with denial: ‘This virus won’t affect me, I’m healthy, and they are exaggerating!’

For some of us there’s anger: ‘They’re making us stay home and taking away our livelihood! It’s all Xxx fault!’ (I hear this a lot when I’m queueing outside shops)

Or bargaining: ‘Ok, so if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right?’

Then there’s sadness: ‘I don’t know when this will end. I am trapped, there’s nothing I can do!’
And finally we find acceptance. ‘This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.’ Acceptance is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. ‘I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually. I can plan…’

This emotional rollercoaster is not a neat process, we go back and forth, if we also include some frustration, worry, anxiousness or apathy in the mix (remember that for some people ‘social distancing’ is a real positive), and you have a triple expresso of emotions.

How to be well – What can I do?

We can’t control things outside our home, we can generally control what we do, how we feel, who we speak to, where we get information from and our day activities – remember what our neighbours are doing is out of our control, what is in our control is staying 2 metres away and washing our hands.

Some of us have already adjusted to this new normal and using this situation to discover more about ourselves as humans, for others the loss of freedom and routine is having a huge toll. Here are a few things to try out for our Self-Care, find something that works for you:

Our thoughts

  • Find balance. If the worst image is taking shape, make yourself think of the best image. ‘We all get a little sick and the world continues. Not everyone I love dies. Maybe no one dies because we’re all taking the right steps’. Neither scenario should be ignored but neither should dominate,
  • Limit information and education if it’s effecting our wellbeing, speculation, rumours and too many News channels can fuels anxiety. The need to share negative information with others is not helpful.
  • Stay in the present moment (enjoy reading this rather than worry about what might happen tomorrow) – use your senses to see / hear 5 things around you and describe them, so you know that right now you are ok.
  • If your mind goes to the future, then use it to plan / schedule practical things.

Our Emotions

  • Pause and think. If we can name the emotion we are feeling, we can manage it. We are not used to this, it can be powerful to put a label on it, so we feel it and it moves through us, emotions need motion, and we need to acknowledge what we go through, it’s ok to feel it.
  • Work out what is needed to address the emotion, find ways to feel better, we are very good at this (but sometimes the action we take makes us feel worse, so watch out for traps!)
  • Set a limit to our ‘worry/sad-time’, 10 minutes or 30 minutes per day, we decide, the key is to set a limit that works for us, then move on.
  • Talk about how we are feeling with others, even if it’s confusing and we don’t recognise the emotion. Or find other ways to express that emotion, we can draw, sing, dance, write etc.

Our Actions

  • We may already be following our ordinary routine or we’ve created a new one, this can help us find purpose and it gives us much needed focus. (I have set a loose structure, I have a productive morning, working through a list of tasks, and an easy/lazy afternoon where anything goes).
  • Setting a time slot for a variety of activities like movement (tried dancing like nobody’s watching yet?), relaxation, connection with others or learning Sudoku is time truly well spent. Some of us are rediscovering the joy of baking with kids, fixing things, writing letters (even if we can’t post them yet) or writing a daily gratefulness journal before bed (I highly recommend this).
  • (And this is where we find out that that ‘I haven’t got time’ is not the real reason we didn’t do stuff – and be ok with this, we are human ‘beings’ not human ‘doings’!)
  • Stop and look at the blue sky through your window or front door, really notice plants, flowers and animals, change rooms you spend time in regularly.

Relationships

  • For those who enjoy their own company and the silent world out there, they could be feeling irritated by constant togetherness. In the same way that those relying on constant connections are feeling the isolation a real struggle.
  • Are you aware of which camp you are in? We are not fully aware of how our chatter, silences and other quirk behaviours may affect others so some relationships could become strained.
  • If not already done so, agree new household routines so everybody contributes. Talk about specific boundaries around privacy, ‘me-time vs family time’ and space to think and our different needs to be heard and respected, this is crucial.
  • Do not assume how the other person is feeling, avoid mind-reading and blame. Put ‘big-arguments’ on hold, chose your battles and prioritise what’s important right now.

Blog post by Paola Scandurra – Personal Development Coach, Change Leadership Training Consultant and NLP Trainer