All of a sudden, our lives have completely shifted.
We have found ourselves grounded in our homes, filled with uncertainty and confusion, with no real sense of what this day, next week or even the coming months will bring.
And for many of us, this mooring at home makes us feel anxious, agitated, depressed and unsure.
The first few days of the pandemic, there was great excitement in the air. Did you feel it? Finally, we were able to step out of the hubbub of our lives and take time to finally organize our homes, take a break from commuting and carpooling, stop attending to endless errands and appointments, and at long last stay home. How wonderful! How freeing! How lovely. And then, boredom sets in ...
Boredom, similar to mental fatigue, is usually set off by loss of interest in our current activities. We are looking anxiously for what happens next.
And in a culture that has adapted our lifestyle for lots of movement and change and stimulation, the slower pace can be downright painful, exacerbating the emotional states of the “kissing cousins” — anxiety and depression.
One week, two weeks of social distancing — we can wrap our heads around that. But the possibility of longer, along with the barrage of confusing media messages and information overload, has resulted in a deeper sense of unrest for many of us.
“How are you?” I ask.
“I’m great!” they respond. I shake my head and wonder, are they really?
As a professional coach, I have worked through varying states of uncertainty with hundreds of clients of the years. I have supported them as they developed businesses, healed previous emotional trauma, entered and left relationships, and moved into a deeper faith through spiritual yearning.
Because I have traveled through the darkness and light of transformation not only in my own life, but with so many others, I am acutely aware of the price that social isolation plays to both our psychological and physiological health.
The light in all of this is that by experiencing what can be considered “radical aloneness,” we will have the opportunity, if we are willing, to understand and embrace our true essential selves.
Also, from this place, we will have the additional gift of being able to create deeper and more meaningful relationships with others. Despite the fear and trepidation in our current lives, this truly is the silver lining.
In a frequently referenced study, the researchers interviewed a group of elder folks about their biggest regrets. These people didn’t mention a missed job opportunity, the amount of money lost out of their coffers or not being chosen for an athletic team. What they regretted most was not spending quality and quantity time with the ones they loved.
As a coach and concerned fellow human being, I would like to encourage us to take this opportunity to do just that. Because at the end of the day, the relationships we have with ourselves and others is really all that truly matters.
Here are a few suggestions to create more peace within yourself and in your relationships, while we wait out the current viral and economic storm:
1. Create structure and predictability around an area of your life that you have some control over. A great place to start is your health and wellness. Set an exercise routine, even if it’s just a five-minute walk or a few times up and down your stairs. Stick with this routine at the same time daily. Keep your diet healthy with minimal junk. Don’t let the stress wreak havoc on your health. Your body and your emotional well-being will thank you. There is no better time to take extreme care of yourself than this moment. You deserve it.
2. Let go of things you cannot control. Living in close quarters with others can be stressful while living alone can be duly unnerving. Just start to notice how small things trigger you. What emotion are you experiencing? Name the emotion, speak it out loud and take note of where you are feeling it in your body. Identifying the emotion is the first step to begin to release it.
3. Breathe. A great tool to help restore equilibrium is to use a mantra that you can repeat when you feel your stress creeping up. Here are some examples: I am calm. I am peaceful. I am whole. I have all that I need. I am healthy and vibrant. I am love. Peace within, peace without. Please choose one that resonates with you or use your own. Breathe deeply as you repeat the mantra over and over until you feel your stress recede. I have personally found this habit effective over the last couple of weeks.
4. Limit your media exposure. Sure, we want to be educated on what is happening in our community and our world, but it’s also important to know that with too much outside information, our level of confusion and uncertainty increases. Set a time limit to your viewing and then switch to something that soothes you. Listening to music, chatting with a friend, working on a creative project and even cleaning the basement are great ways to create peace and order during this chaotic time.
5. Create a sanctuary in your home. Find a small area where you can sit, relax and de-stress. Make it a ritual to go there when you are feeling anxious. Add items that soothe you. Let this place represent how you want to feel on the inside. Practice your mantra, and breathe. Peace is a wonderful gift you can give yourself.
6. Give yourself grace both while you are social distancing and when you eventually return back to your regular routine. Give grace to others as we reacquaint ourselves to what will be our new normal. Kindness is always the noble choice.
As stressful as this time is, my hope is that we take this opportunity to build greater connections with ourselves and others. And really, it’s OK to be honest when someone asks you how you are. “I’m pretty stressed out. Thank you for asking though. I’m really grateful to have you in my life,” is a wonderful and authentic place to start.
Healthy blessings to all!
Kate McKay is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, motivational speaker, author and business consultant. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.