The entire world is dealing with an unprecedented amount of change and uncertainty right now, and everyone is doing their best to figure out how to manage and make sense of it all. Along with the pandemic, people are working from home or losing their jobs, kids are out of school, store are closed, cities are on lock-down. It’s a lot to take in and process at once. You may feel scared, isolated, anxious and fearful. As an integrative wellness and life coach, change management practitioner and author of Destiny Do-Over, I wanted to share some tips to help you navigate the range of emotions you may be going through and offer tips for making the best of this situation.
First, here are some things we know for sure…
- Reaction (and sometimes overreaction) is a normal way we process information. Human beings are programmed to react to situations, especially when it’s a sudden change and disruption to our normal way of living. It’s the fight or flight response we learned about in school. Everyone will deal with this differently, including going through a range of emotions such as fear, denial, blame and panic. Whatever you are feeling right now is completely normal. All of these emotions can also be seen via social media reactions and news stories, some even sensationalizing the situation for attention or chastising people for not following protocol. Much of this behavior is a reaction to fear, trying to control the situation the best that we can. Don’t get me wrong – people absolutely should be social distancing right now, but what good is it doing if you post on social media to berate those that are not? They don’t know you and aren’t listening to you and you are just getting yourself worked up. By posting or reading those posts, are you feeling better or does it make you feel angrier?
- Stress causes, or at least influences disease. There is scientific evidence that stress worsens or increases the risk of health conditions including, but not limited to, depression, high blood pressure, obesity and gastrointestinal issues. The more stressed you are, the higher your likelihood of getting sick or making an existing condition worse. Keeping stress levels to a minimum is super helpful in times like this. I know it’s hard when there is so much tension around us. Here’s the thing. In our lives there will always be good moments and bad moments. You can live your like as a continual train of bad times with a few good moments peppered in, or a continual train of good, with a few bad ones here and there. Both are temporary and both will happen, so why not choose to live in a ‘good-state’ knowing that, even when bad moments happen, the good will return soon enough.
- Coronavirus does not discriminate. The entire world is in this together. While certain people may be more susceptible, this virus doesn’t care about your race, religion or gender. It teaches us that we are all one human-kind, in this together. The whole is stronger than the sum of the parts and when we work together and each do our part, we could not only come out on the other side, but appreciate one another so much more. Placing blame and bullying people simply because of there ethnicity is not doing anyone any good. Be kind to others and, more importantly, be kind to yourself. Coronavirus is contagious.. but so is kindness and compassion. We truly are one world, one race, one love. I absolutely love that right now my hometown of Staten Island is rainbow central. Houses, business…and now even the Empire State Building are decorated in rainbows to help spread positivity and hope, and build community. That’s what it’s all about.
So how can you manage and deal with all of this change and uncertainty?
- Give yourself a “do-over”. You are human and are programmed to react to situations, good and bad. First and foremost, don’t be so hard on yourself. Your emotions are raw and real and the daily statistics and news are a lot to take in. Whenever you find yourself going down the rabbit hole of negative thoughts and getting sucked into panic mode, take a breath and have a do-over. Choose a different thought. In fact, for every fearful thought, think of three (3) things that make you happy and that you are grateful for today. Focus on your mind on something positive. Remember that where your thought goes your energy flows. Here’s an example, let’s say above you is a really dark cloud, and a few blocks away the sky is bright blue. Would you stand under the cloud and complain that you are getting wet from rain, or walk a few blocks and bask in the sunshine? You can choose how you see the sky and choose to change your thoughts from the clouds to the sunshine. Here’s the thing; a belief is just a thought you keep thinking, and your reality is made up of your beliefs. So if you constantly keep thinking that you only have dark days and the world is ending and you are going to get sick, etc., then your mind will believe it and it will become your reality. We cant always stop negative thoughts from popping into our head, but we can choose a ‘do-over’ and think about something more positive in our lives. Which brings me to my next tip:
- Surround yourself with the GOOD. My family is spread out around the US and always busy. We can never seem to connect with one another. Well, with social distancing in effect, for the first time ever we were all able to join a Google Hangout call and really talk to one another. It was like a family reunion. There are also less cars on the road helping with the carbon footprint. In Venice, Italy the canals are clearing up. In LA the smog is getting better. All around the world, families are spending quality time with one another. And, let’s not forget the helpers – medical personnel, delivery personnel, grocery stores, etc – so many people risking their own safety so that we can get and stay healthy. So, in a world with so much dire news, look for the good in the situation and be grateful for everything you have and everything that is going well. It can help raise your spirits and your energy.
- Distance yourself from the ‘drama mamas’. We all know the saying that misery loves company and right now there is no shortage of people spreading bad news and panicking messages. Not to mention that much of social media thrives on the drama. The best way to not get sucked into that is to let go of what is not serving you well. If there was a food that made you sick, would you keep eating it anyway? No, you would look for something else to eat and stay away from it. Same thing here. If there are people or newsfeeds or anything that makes you feel bad or mad, distance yourself from it. Unfollow friends on social media, turn off the news, read a book, have a dance party of one. Opt to only post happy stories on your own social media and don’t respond to the haters. Everyone has their perspectives (including me), but remember that too much mis-information is just as bad, if not worse, that not enough valid information.
- Focus on what you want. One of the reasons that people freak out (eg buy hoards of toilet paper) is that we don’t know what the future holds and we do our best to control the situation. The reality is we don’t know what tomorrow holds any day and we cannot control the outcome. What we can control is what we do today and what we think about today. To that point, your mindset is magic. It’s not just about what you think, but how you think. Here’s an example. If you keep saying “I don’t want that donut, I don’t want that donut, I don’t want that donut”… what are you think about? Chances are you are thinking about donuts. So, Instead of saying “I don’t want to get sick” say “I am healthy”. See the difference – you state what you want, state it in the positive, believe it is true and you state it as if you have it today. It really can make a difference on a cellular level.
- Pay attention to your choices. This is a big one. Every day I hear from people that they have already eaten a tub of ice cream or finished their contingency food supply, even though they weren’t hungry. You see, our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual systems are all interconnected, and many of us are stress eaters or bored eaters. What you believe informs what you think, which informs how you feel about something, which drives how you react – it’s all related. So, when you get stressed you eat a tub of ice cream which then makes you depressed and feel fat and then you find yourself in a negative mindset. It’s all connected and it can be a vicious cycle leaving us feeling worse than we started. Instead of reaching for the ice cream, maybe do 50 jumping jacks, or meditate, or pet the dog, or read.. Or maybe in this moment you need that ice cream. Sometimes that’s OK too. Just be mindful of your choice and why are you choosing something. Are you really hungry or is the food just a crutch for something else? Will your choice make you feel better or worse later on? The whole goal is to allow yourself to process information and emotions in a way that will empower you to feel better.
- STOP (Sit-Think-Own-Proceed). I use this acronym in my practice often and it really is a great exercise to shift your focus. When you find yourself really getting worked up and your heart is racing and you just want to crawl in a hole and cry; when it’s more than just shifting one thought and when everything is consuming you: STOP. SIT – find a quiet place to sit alone (heck go into the bathroom if you have to) and have a journal or note pad with you. THINK – think about what’s troubling you/your pain, write it down – all the gory details. OWN – own your emotions, write them down. They are real and they are now. Consider your mental, emotional and physical states. PROCEED – decide your next action. What can you do to alleviate your pain at this time? This is not about solving the whole problem, but simply enabling yourself to raise your emotions one or two notches, to maybe put that bag of potato chips down and do something more productive instead, or to recognize you are in that downward spiral of negative thoughts. The STOP method is really about pausing for a moment to examine the current state of your well-being and then taking action to help bring it just a little bit more into balance. It also helps reduce the overreaction or detrimental actions.
Remember, we can’t always control what happens to us or to the world, but we can control how we react to it. Energy is a powerful thing and every day we make choices that inform our thoughts and behaviors. It’s easy to get sucked into the social media frenzy and to become really anxious, upset or angry. Taking time to be kind to ourselves, to focus on the positive, to bring light and happy energy to our daily lives can really bring a sense of empowerment in an otherwise uncertain world. Consider this.. Either way you are safe in your house right now (notice I didn’t say “stuck” – again positive thoughts over negative). You can choose to be grateful and appreciate what’s going well or crawl into a hole in despair. Either way, you’re still in your house -how will you choose to feel?