“The discomfort you are experiencing is grief,” said HBR recently. You used to have plans. Projects and trips. You used to have a support system at home, maybe grandparents, teachers or nannies. Your health and income are threatened. And you cannot go out with friends anymore.
It is OK if you feel low. It is even OK if you feel more alive than in a long time. There is not a right way to feel today.
Here are some tips about dealing with everything:
- Slow down. There is a lot of pressure right now. A lot of it comes from people trying to sell you stuff. You will be bombarded with messages that you should use this time to write a book, and learn a skill, reinvent your business, and be the perfect parent. And while these things are OK, if you want to do them, you can grant yourself time to process everything that has happened. If you have young kids and a job, your hands are fuller than ever.
- A question to ask yourself during this time is this: What am I learning? I was surprised when I did this exercise. Things from “cooking lentils was not as hard as I thought” to “I want to live closer to nature.” If we allow time for the processing and the learning to happen, the new normal will hopefully be better than the old.
- Accept your feelings. Whatever you feel, give it space. Feelings will ebb and flow, and that’s OK. You may need to go through the stages of grief, denial, and anger, negotiating, and sadness before finally you reach acceptance.
- Gratitude practice: Now more than ever. Write a list of the things you are grateful for, every single day. I shared my gratitude list on medium, in case you need some inspiration. An interesting prompt for your gratitude practice is to think: “What are the decisions I made before the pandemic that are helping me cope with the situation better now?” Norman Schwarzkopf said, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” I know all of us made some right decisions before this crisis that are carrying us through now.
- Plan for joy: I use the tobee app for affirmations. It is free. I want to plant positive thoughts in my brain. So I get a notification every hour with a positive message. Something like: “I am relaxed, and I am enjoying life.” Another activity I suggest doing is a vision-board, a collage with photos that represent your goals and dreams. Save it as a wallpaper on your laptop; nobody sees it now that you are working from home. Go through your happy photos when you need a lift-me-up. Find novel ways to connect with your loved ones. I have just downloaded the Houseparty app and spent last night playing trivia and Pictionary with my brothers, who live in a different country. That was a lot of fun.
- Manage information and technology overwhelm: There is a lot of fear-mongering on the news right now. There is also a lot of activity in your messaging groups. Be deliberate about the content you consume. Also, pause notifications so that you can do it when you choose. This will help you feel more centered.
- Adjust your work and life schedule to the new demands: One of my coaching clients mentioned that a big part of the overwhelm she was feeling was from receiving many personal notifications on her phone during working hours. Her family lived in a different timezone, so they could not contact her later. She decided to book half an hour during her working day to connect with family members, and this way, she would stop feeling overwhelmed by trying to combine both work and family at the same time. Another client decided to work some hours during the weekend as he had a more flexible schedule than his wife, and they both had to share the childcare.
- Journaling exercise: Marie Forleo suggested an exercise that I loved: Journaling for at least 15 minutes answering this question: “How could I turn this obstacle to the best thing ever happened to me?” Go deep with this question, beyond the obvious. And see what happens.
- Reading: As I was processing the situation, I found myself drawn to post-apocalyptic novels for the first time. Art can help us deal with complex emotions. Now, I have entered a more proactive stage. The book I am currently reading and love is: “The four-pillar plan: How to relax, eat, move and sleep your way to a healthier life” by Dr. Rangan Chaterjee. Focusing on our health during this time is something we can control.
That’s all for now. Stay safe and be compassionate with yourself.