A howling April storm is knocking things against my house at this moment, which I find strangely comforting. As our world has shrunk in the past few weeks, I’ve relied on getting outside each day to simultaneously enjoy nature and exercise. Today, I will ingest my dose of the great outdoors from the large picture window that allows me to watch the storm from a place of warmth and safety. I am fortunate.
As a reformed planner extraordinaire, my awareness has shifted from investing significant energy into the future to living in the present. In fact, focusing on the day in front of me has been my saving grace during this pandemic. I wake up each morning with gratitude for the day. I am here. My family is safe. How can I use my time today to find that sweet spot of flow between my life coach work, book writing, parenting, partnering and supporting others? What can I do for myself today to make sure I am in a good place emotionally and physically?
Obviously, there is no single answer. Each day looks different. A couple of days ago I found my groove with my clients and making volunteer calls to check on elders in my local community. Yesterday, I gave myself permission to read for hours then shifted my focus to the 1000-piece puzzle that adorns the living room coffee table amid detritus of shelter-in-place family life. And today, I am driven to writing an overdue blog post and ignore the nagging voice inside me urging me to work on my book in that “I told you so” cadence. Thankfully, I have learned how to talk back to that uppity echo inside my head and turn it into one that is supportive rather than antagonistic – a nod to coaching.
How does one balance the need for routine during a time when so much is not schedulable?
The answer rests in working with what we can control and allowing ourselves permission to simply be with our feelings. With so much that we cannot control these days, we can still choose how we respond to our current reality. One of my absolute favorite questions that I adapt to negative feelings that creep in is: How does being angry/worried/resentful at the current situation serve me? Guess what? It does not. Here I share what I do to reframe the current situation while we shelter-in-place for an indefinite amount of time:
1) Check-in with your feelings. Acknowledge them. If negative, remind yourself they do not add value to your mood and day.
2) Ask yourself what in your power would make today feel even a wee bit better. Is it productivity you crave? Connection with others via phone, zoom, writing a letter, etc.?
3) Recharge your battery every single day. Restated: practice self-care. My faves: long walks; yoga; relaxing shower/tub; getting lost in a good book.
4) Establish a routine, even a loose one. This will look vastly different from before Covid-19 days, and is equally if not more important to our emotional health. Mine includes something that resembles the following, remembering flexibility at this time is key:
My routine takes into account that all of my work is remote, incorporates previous goals I can still work towards (e.g. completing a book) with modifications to do things important to me in ways that are doable (ex. experiment with new healthy meals based on whatever food is available). It also includes letting go of things important to me such as hugging my family and friends who live elsewhere; enjoying a social evening at a vibrant restaurant; celebrating important milestones in ways I want to honor them.
Finally, two reminders to help us through this period with a bit more ease:
1) It is okay to let go of expectations that are carryovers from before Covid-19 days.
2) Allow yourself space to just be without the negative self talk. Our level of productivity will not match what it used to be. How can it? And that is okay.
Let us all be gentle with ourselves and generous with each other.