As we move into another week of lockdown here in the UK, what most of us are really craving right now is not another cake recipe or online Zoom yoga class (although these things are certainly helpful) – no, what we need right now is a new way of doing and being. So, this week I’m sharing with you my top 11 ideas to uplevel our coping strategies for this ‘New Normal’ we find ourselves in.
They have been influenced by what has happened in countries where Covid-19 has gone on for longer, namely Spain and Italy. There, the novelty of sharing your new baking skills with sourdough and new hobbies resurrected from something you cast aside 10 years ago is wearing thin. As Leonardo Bianchi, News Editor at VICE Rome, Italy, who has been in lockdown since March 9 says: “By the third week, music and chants stopped,” adds Leonardo. “I would say that we are experiencing a ‘lockdown fatigue’: everybody knows that it will be long, but nobody can imagine how long. And that is really stressful and mentally consuming.”
As a therapist, I know that it takes 21 days to create a new habit or routine – so after three or four weeks of lockdown, how can we stave off that fatigue? Jumping on a group Zoom call with your coffee networking group where everyone talks about their anxieties or shouts about their successes is already starting to be less fun and this week I’m giving myself permission to sign up for very little.
Because, in the calm of my weekend, spent mostly outdoors, feeding lambs and baking, I found stillness and some clarity from the noise and overwhelm of advice that has been making me anxious. I assessed what we can all learn from this current situation. The Covid crisis is a time that will trigger our greatest fears but also our best hopes. A time to revaluate our relationship with ourselves and the world around us. Stripped of our ‘regular’ world and busy routines this leaves us rather bare but here is an interesting fact. The Chinese word for crisis consists of two characters: wei, which translates “danger,” and ji, which translates as “turning or changing point” or “opportunity.” So, embracing this time of ‘crisis’ as a weiji moment instead can be a great OPPORTUNITY.
To this effect, my 11 points of learning spell this out:
Only connect. We are connected beings and are hardwired for this. Our primary and most fundamental human needs are for connection and protection. A human baby, separated from or abandoned by its mother will survive a matter of hours. Our very DNA knows this so we seek connection often at any cost.
That is why many of us feel so isolated when we retire. It is why my Great Uncle Bill went to play dominos at the Miners Welfare every week. To be connected and accepted by those he felt familiar with. This is now impossible for many. However, the reality is, that no matter what you do on the outside, you have to feel connected in the place where it matters most: inside.
Phil Connors is my hero: In my favourite movie Groundhog Day, Phil Connors is the main character (played by Bill Murray). He gets trapped in a time warp of waking up repeatedly on the same day (Groundhog Day, February 2) in a small town that he at first despises on an assignment he is contemptuous of (covering the TV reporting of Groundhog day). Phil is an ambitious TV Weatherman and likes the bright lights and big city. Trapped in this loop, Phil cannot change his external world or circumstances. It is only when he goes beyond reacting to the new normal and hating it or exploiting it and instead embracing it that he grows as a human. Phil realises that only by changing from within can he change what is around him and in so doing he starts to look out for others and see the good in them. Over time Phil turns the worst day of his life into the best. Finally, as a better version of himself he breaks the loop and wakes up in a future that is far brighter and more filled with love and joy than his past ever was.
Practice self-love and self-care. I’m a therapist and coach. I’ve had over 30 years of being around NLP and hypnotherapy and personal development and I know from my own experiences and training that you must love and look after yourself first. Like the oxygen mask analogy where you have to make sure you are breathing before you can help others this has never been more important. The mantra “I am enough” is well known and this simple statement can overcome so much self-doubt. Know that the voice you hear the most every single day is the one in your head so speak as kindly to yourself as you would your most loved and cherished relative or friend.
One of the most important aspects of a new healthy existence, and especially a new work-from-home routine, is creating boundaries. This will stop overload. At home it is tempting to check on social media whenever you like or have the radio or TV constantly on in the background. Sadly, this noise and barrage of information, opinion and chatter is very draining and distracting.
Not obsessing over the news is a good thing. You can stay informed via publications such as The Week or official sites from the WHO, CDC or similar that will give emotion-free, factual updates. Things like Breakfast TV are even more toxic as they can fill an entire show with negative conjecture. If you need to be active on social media to stay connected or to promote your business (as am I) then you can do things such as limit your time there via apps or timers (check out the Pomodoro self-timer app).
On Twitter, you can mute specific words (for example COVID-19) so that they don’t keep showing up in your feed. Here is a link: https://help.twitter.com/en/using-twitter/advanced-twitter-mute-options
O can also stand for OFF. So, do remember to log off for the day at the end of what is your working day and this isn’t just from your laptop.
Rituals are important. Don’t over-schedule yourself but create new rituals as routine helps to keep us calm and centred in the midst of chaos. In the morning, get up at a regular time and get ready for the day. Admittedly you don’t have to get ‘suited and booted’ but do get dressed out of your PJs, shower, fix your hair and make breakfast as you would if you were going into the office. Do whatever else you need to get in the right mindset. I start each day with 20 minutes of Yoga with Adrienne. You may also want to note down your to-achieve list for the day and map out a start time, break times or whatever you need to do to keep track of your workload and time. You increase your chances of being productive when you set an intention and write it down.
At the same time, don’t be too rigid. Try not to over-schedule yourself and include lots of breaks and as much fresh air and exercise as you can.
Tune into others. In times of physical distancing, connecting with others has never been more important. Take time to be compassionate towards others. Connect in as personal a way as possible. I’ve found myself signing off from emails and my newsletters with ‘Love Ros’ rather than ‘Regards Rosalyn’. It just feels right. I start conversations by asking “How are you feeling today?” or “How is the family doing?” and hold space like never before to listen to others in an authentic way.
Unite with others like never before. So many amazing connections are coming out of this situation. I’m now swapping eggs for sugar and flour with neighbours I’ve barely spoken to before whilst keeping a safe distance. What is more evident than ever is that we have to be united to beat evil, however it shows up. People need people and some of the old structures where we valued things like fame and money over service and being humble are crumbling away. I’m happy about this.
Now is the time to declutter your life and head. We’ve got a skip outside and everyday are clearing out old unwanted items from the house and garden. The question to ask for each thing is: ‘Do I love this; does it bring me joy?’ and ‘Is it useful?’. If it fails on both counts it is gone. Also, as discussed in the tip about practicing self-love, you must declutter the toxic thoughts in your head. Be still. Meditate. There are so many great apps and downloads and courses to help you. Or a therapist. My own book is packed with great ways to detox your mind.
Intimacy = Into Me See. We crave interconnectedness and this has to start with seeing into yourself. Now is the time to practice being grounded and free from too many external distractions as you grow and heal from the inside out, instead of the other way around. Having done this (repeatedly) I admit it is not easy. Jung for one, recognised that the fear of the ‘unseen’ is in reality a projection of the fear of our own unconscious, those hidden parts in us that we cannot quite understand with our conscious and habitual minds. Those wounded, broken parts of our inner child that we usually keep ourselves busy or numbed away from in order to escape uncomfortable feelings. Now is the time to do that inner work and free yourself from old unwanted patterns of thought and behaviour.
Turn your thoughts to a better future. For now, you can ask yourself: ‘What really serves me?’, ‘How do I want to spend my time now in lockdown, well?’ I’m sure that you won’t want to just jump back on the merry go round of your former existence, will you? So, the next questions are: ‘How do I want my life to be after this is over?’. I’m not an advocate of ‘New Year’s resolutions’ as they barely last beyond February but I am a huge fan of planning for success and even have an online course that combines RTT and Coaching to help you do just that. To mention Groundhog Day again, don’t you want to grow from this and take the positive things you’ve learnt (or are learning) forward? I do. Albert Eisenstein said, “To interrupt a habit is to make it visible; it is to turn it from a compulsion to a choice.” By planning now, you can use the time away from ‘normal life’ to plan for a new and better one.
Yesterday is a dream, tomorrow but a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore to this day. Sanskrit Proverb.
You have this. You can make this time into a personal time of victory for you and that is whatever is right for you.