In the last two weeks, I’ve read many emails and social-media posts from people offering advice on how to successfully deal with life during a pandemic.
These people annoyed me for having their shit together.
I don’t feel together, at all. Like many folks, I feel anxious and unfocused.
Let’s take a moment to accept this reality and offer ourselves some self-compassion. We’re in the middle of a global crisis that’s unfolding in all our homes and offices. Our world changed in a heartbeat.
If our previous world were our favorite, cozy hoodie, the Coronavirus turned it inside out. And upside down. And stomped all over it with angry, little virus-feet. We recognize threads here and there, but can’t figure out how to pop in our head and arms. Experts don’t know how long our hoodie will remain inside out, which disturbs even the most resilient folks.
Fundraisers are again saving the world, giving donors the chance to help those immediately at risk from the virus, and also to rebuild a post-pandemic world where nature, art, and science are cherished. Your work is more important than ever.
How can you keep a sense of wellbeing – even when our hoodie is inside out?
There’s a great tool for understanding the impact of a major life event on all the dimensions of our lives. It’s a wellness wheel, divided into 12 areas of wellbeing. Much of what I’m sharing is from the Wellness Inventory Coach Training, and I often use this wheel to help my clients understand the effects of burnout. Today, however, let’s talk about the pandemic.
The Coronavirus is dramatically affecting every area of our lives, from our emotions to how we play and work. Fortunately, we can use this wheel not just to understand the impact of an event, but we can also look at each dimension and discover ways to rally in the face of despair.
Keep in mind that all the dimensions affect the whole and impact each other. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, wondering how you’ll take care of yourself, I encourage you to keep reading.
Discover one or two dimensions that pique your interest and focus on those. When you improve just one area, you’ll find some relief in the other areas as well.
In our culture, we often think, I’ve got to accomplish all these goals all at once or I have zero value as a human being. But what’s actually true is we need to choose small, do-able goals, and celebrate our progress – especially during the next few months when our world is inside out.
As a coach, I help my clients identify beliefs that no longer serve them. I also help them take small, positive steps forward. To learn more about how you might benefit from coaching, click here.
While there are 12 dimensions in the wheel, I’m highlighting seven for you today.
Seven Ways to Stay Sane
1. Self-Responsibility and Self-Love – Be Your Own Best Friend
This first dimension is about taking care of yourself. If you or your family are sick, call your doctor and advocate for the care you need.
- As we learn what it means to flatten the curve, it’s our social responsibility to abide by the guidelines where we live. Whether we’re social-distancing, sheltering-in-place, or self-quarantining, precautions are necessary to stop the transmission of the virus to folks who are vulnerable.
- If you think you might have the Coronavirus, experts suggest that you NOT go to the emergency room, but instead call your doctor. You may be asked to wait in your car rather than go into the waiting room.
- Find out if your healthcare provider offers a Coronavirus hotline and have that handy. Also, check out the CDC website for information.
- Sleep. Then sleep some more. We’re anxious and our bodies need to recuperate.
2. Breathing – Calm Your Mind, With Your Breath
You can reduce your anxiety and sharpen your focus by paying attention to your breathing. Calm your mind by taking long, deep breaths, and bring more energy and oxygen into your body.
It’s easier for us to create new habits if we can fit them into our routine, so I wanted to share a breathing ritual I’ve enjoyed for years.
Every time I wash my hands (which is insanely often now), I take long, deep breaths. I linger by the sink, enjoying the bubbles and smelling the soap. You can try this too. If you do, leave the sink after you’ve enjoyed four to five deep breaths, letting everything else fall away.
Remember that our planet breathes too and consider the silver lining that reduced human activity has decreased pollution in China and Italy. Perhaps our country will benefit as well.
3. Eating – Nourish Your Body
When I think about what to eat during the next few months, I’m torn between wanting to eat healthy meals, and seeking comfort in my food.
Despite my own predilection for cheese ravioli in a can, let me encourage everyone, including myself, to plan for nourishing meals:
- Consider cooking in batches. Enjoy fresh, organic meals now, but also freeze at least half for later. (Here’s the thing. I can’t take credit for this in my house. I cook only occasionally, and by “occasionally” I mean once a year. So a giant THANK YOU to my husband who loves being in the kitchen.)
- Take advantage of being homebound and enjoy your meals with your family around the table.
- Experiment with mindful eating. Try eating slowly, paying extra attention to each bite and appreciating the mix of flavors. Minimize distractions by turning off the TV and keeping your phones in a different room.
- Check out e-cart services at your grocery store. You can possibly pick up your order outside, or even have the groceries delivered. I tried this for the first time yesterday, and it’ll take almost a week to receive my order – so be sure you plan ahead.
- Set aside at least enough food should you and your family be quarantined for 14 days. Preparing ahead is different than hoarding, but of course keep in mind that everyone else also needs enough food and supplies.
4. Moving – Enjoy Feeling Alive
I like the word “moving” because it sounds like fun, rather than exercise. Moving makes us feel vital and alive, and it builds our strength and flexibility. We have the opportunity to figure out how to move our bodies, in our own homes, now that our world is inside out.
- Fortunately, right now many of the local orders allow for walking in your neighborhood, either by yourself or with people you live with. Of course, as you pass other walkers, step aside to provide at least six feet of space.
- Consider re-arranging your work schedule, if possible, to give yourself time to move. I did this recently, to stretch more and take care of my body. I feel so tense right now and I’m looking forward to being more flexible again.
- Do you dance? Put on your favorite tunes, frolic with your dog, and give your kids a twirl. What’s fun about dancing is you can do it any time of day and it’s a great break from work.
5. Thinking – Create a Mindset of Possibility
How we think about the world creates our mindset. When we have a positive perspective, we see learning opportunities and silver linings, even in a pandemic. When we have a negative perspective, we limit ourselves as we live in fear.
One of my friends is in her sixties, and she decided to isolate herself, even before our county mandated that we shelter-in-place. Rather than feeling frustrated that she’s losing access to the outside world, she’s seeing this as an adventure, and feeling grateful to her friends who helped her with necessary preparations.
She’s pretty awesome.
It’s a scary and uncertain time, and to take care of ourselves and our families, we have to sort through the headlines to make decisions. But then we have a choice. We can dwell in the chaos and spin our own web of despair. . . or we can create a mindset of possibility.
- What if, instead of feeling scared it will all never end, you remind yourself that it’s temporary. This too shall pass.
- What if, instead of feeling anxious you haven’t squirreled away enough hand sanitizer, you share a bottle with a neighbor. You can live in abundance.
- What if, instead of silently screaming into a coffee mug because you have to shelter-in-place, you instead remember that you’re saving lives by stopping the transmission of the virus. You are a hero.
6. Intimacy – Inspiring Trust and Openness
The more we experience intimacy, the more we feel accurately seen and understood. How lovely is that?
There are many types of intimacy, including creative, intellectual, and physical. Today, I’m talking about emotional intimacy, where you inspire trust and openness. As we spend more time at home, we have a unique opportunity to enjoy greater intimacy with our favorite people. It sure feels good to be understood.
Sometimes, however, our favorite people are. . . well, prickly. They’re difficult to live with. And to be honest, sometimes our favorite people don’t live in our home.
In fact, you might be asking yourself, How do I live with these people without going batshit-crazy?
Here are a few ideas:
- Even if you think you understand them well, take the extra time to listen to their concerns and fears. Let them know you heard them and empathize.
- Find a way to safely share your own fears about the virus. Remember that it takes courage to be vulnerable, and that in vulnerability there is true strength.
- Breathe deeply, eat healthy food, and move your body.
- Make a list of all the things you’re grateful for about this person. Focus on this list (rather than on the ways they make you crazy) and add to it each day. Share with them regularly the things you appreciate about them.
- Create your own sanctuary in your home. Whether it’s a Potter-like cubby under the stairs, or a favorite spot in the garden, this is where you can rejuvenate alone.
- Try to keep in touch with folks who bring you joy, no matter where they live. Facetime or Skype them regularly. Go retro and make their day by mailing them a handwritten note.
7. Transcending – Serving the Greater Good
What is Transcending? This is the dimension where we experience our connection to something greater than ourselves. It’s where we say YES to life.
We have an opportunity now to consider what we want to take away from this experience, and how we can use it in our post-pandemic world. By focusing on the silver linings, we can transform our difficult days into something that serves the greater good.
In the world after the Coronavirus, let’s hope that:
- More people will continue to telecommute, giving nonprofit employees flexibility in their schedules. Development staff will be better able to take care of their families, as well as their own health and wellbeing.
- Leaders will learn the importance of boundaries between work and home, because it’s more important than ever. They’ll choose not to email employees after hours or on vacation, so that their staff can rejuvenate. (Employees are more productive and creative when they’ve had time away from work.)
- When people work from home, there’s less traffic, which will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
- We’ll develop greater resilience. The Greatest Generation sacrificed to win World War II, and they exhibited more grit and determination than any generation since. We have an opportunity to follow in their footsteps and persist through every setback.
- We’ll learn how to live in a state of gratitude. By giving up so much of what we love about the outside world, we’ll feel thankful for something as simple as watching the sunset with friends.
- We can choose to see everything as an opportunity to learn. How can we as a nation be more prepared for a pandemic? How can we as individuals continue to focus on social responsibility and giving back?
- We’ll focus on our core values, those things that are the most important to us in the world. We can use this time away from the office to ask hard questions. Why am I here? Who do I want to be after the pandemic? How do I want to shape my country?
I hope we’re fundamentally changed from our sacrifice of staying home so others won’t get sick. I hope our society develops new priorities. Then we can discover what truly matters – our family, our health and wellbeing, and making a difference in the world.
In a post-pandemic world, we’ll find the inside-out hoodie no longer fits, because we have grown mightily.
Stay healthy, wash your hands, and change the world—
P.S. Feeling overwhelmed by the times? I offer a free strategy session so you can understand if coaching is right for you.