Walking through the COVID-19 crisis
(and other major challenges)
In Part 1 of this series, I described five basic steps to start working on. Steps to help navigate any crisis, including the coronavirus and the circumstances we are currently facing.
Now in Part 2, let’s look at the next steps in this process…
These steps are not theories or ideas. They are based on my own trials and on my experiments to see what worked… and what didn’t.
I encourage you to trust that as I’ve already walked this path before, these tested steps will work for you too.
The next area to turn your attention to is a little less tangible.
It’s the valuable step of giving time to your vulnerability.
Your biggest asset in the coming weeks as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis will be your mindset. You need to work on this as much as anything.
And once mastered, you’ll be pretty much invincible!
Allow Yourself a Little Despair: Wail Like a Banshee if You Can
It’s natural. It’s human. And believe me, it is normal.
By permitting yourself short periods of despair, you allow your subconscious mind time to accept the challenges (see Part 1).
The trick is in making the room and time to express your negative feelings, without giving them the chance to overwhelm you.
I am now, probably one of the most optimistic, positive people you can come across (which my sister finds slightly annoying). But even I have times when everything that feels bad, unfair, or wrong in my life sweeps in and threatens to engulf me.
And on those days, I stop what I’m doing for one day.
I acknowledge the feelings and allow them in. I don’t try to fight them. Nor do I analyse them or try to work out a solution.
On these days, I refuse to make any decisions because I’ve found that if I do, I often regret them later.
And I don’t even try to make myself feel better (though I admit, these particular days do involve excessive chocolate consumption).
The only thing I do is find ways to make myself cry.
I watch tear-jerking films, or I put on sad songs that have brought tears to my eyes in the past.
Whatever your trigger to making yourself tearful, use it. Have a good weep, sob, an all-out breakdown. And once you’re totally spent, dry your eyes, blow your nose, square your shoulders and repeat “tomorrow is another day and I will have a good one.”
If you’re one of those people, as I once was, who put a brave face on things and act stoic, please think again. For the first 18 months of my recovery, I did exactly this, and it led, down the line, to a suicide attempt. Strong is good, but you need to make room for your weakness and vulnerability.
Trust me, you will feel much better, and more able to face that which lies ahead productively.
Stalk Negative Thoughts Like a Ninja
This is probably one of the easiest and quickest ways to completely alter your mindset and become someone who spots potential opportunities.
Watch for any, and all, negative thoughts that come into your mind. (And with the continuous media coverage of the global coronavirus crisis, negativity is pretty pervasive right now.) As soon as they appear, catch them and deliberately think them again. Then, tell yourself off; scold yourself as you might a child or a misbehaving employee.
Once you’ve repeated the thought, then deliberately replace it with a nicer, more charitable one.
For example, I can think really bad thoughts if someone cuts me up in their car or dangerously overtakes me. Each time, I censor myself and think something like
- ‘They may have a relative who’s dangerously ill in hospital that they need to get to’ or
- ‘They may have just had a horrible argument with their partner and are not thinking straight’
I come up with something that triggers my pity, empathy, or sympathy. Then I find my annoyance quickly subsides, so I can get back to being cheerful and positive.
(Oh, and if I’ve inadvertently done the deed myself, I always say ‘sorry’ by acknowledging in some way to the other driver that I was in the wrong.)
Offload Your Feelings
You will need someone you truly trust for this one.
Even if you’re someone who feels you need to provide support for others, never underestimate your need to express yourself.
Verbalising your fears, frustrations, worries, or general thoughts, can shrink the problems you’re carrying around in your head to their true perspective. (Yes, this is true even in the crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic.)
This shouldn’t be an exercise in seeking advice per se – although if you get good advice, you can take it. It’s more about speaking out how you are genuinely feeling.
(Please note the word genuinely. No-one is always fine and this is a time to let your vulnerabilities show.)
I have two or three people who know me very well as a person. Our professional paths are different, but we have personal views and values in common. And I would trust them with my life.
We have ‘offloading’ discussions. In these discussions, one of us talks while the other listens without comment, other than the occasional “uh-huh,” “I see,” etc.
Then we switch around, and the other speaks/listens.
It is not important whether the listener understands or not, that is not the purpose of the exercise. The benefit of this practice is found in the old saying, ‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’
Invite Your Inner Child Back In
This step is more tangible. And, though relevant to navigating the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown, it is good to keep this practice in your life forever.
Here’s what to do:
Think back to the time when you had no responsibilities or ties, a time before you went out to work, and ask yourself:
- What did I do for fun?
- What hobbies or past-times did I indulge in before work took over?
- Which did I enjoy but let slide because of time pressures?
Bring It Back and Do It Now
It may have been playing a musical instrument, painting, gardening, doing yoga, meditating… whatever it was, pick it up again.
Mine was listening to different music from across the world. This music makes me dance around and smile as it did when I was 11 years old.
Reintroducing an enjoyable activity creates a better work/life balance (and let’s be honest, we have the time right now).
Remember, once things settle into a new ‘normal,’ try to maintain this balance – it will continue to enrich your life.
Part 3 Coming Soon
Oops, this has turned into a very long article again!
Okay, so in Part 1, we discussed rebuilding your foundation following a life-altering crisis like COVID-19. In this article, we’ve looked at focusing your mental attentiveness.
Join me next time in Part 3, when I’ll be looking at what you can do to prepare and plan for your future… and, crucially, how to fashion it into the one you want.
As a motivational speaker, I offer several presentations designed to empower and help people learn to successfully problem-solve while boosting morale. If you would like more information on these, please click the button below: