The second wave of Covid infections is a fact in many parts of the US and Europe. Again we are faced with its brutal consequences. And again we will have to go through this. How do we best do that? How can we surf the wave instead of trying to control the uncontrollable?
Unfortunately life is not makable. One of the biggest lies of our western society, if you ask me, is that the key to a successful and happy life is through control. This puts a lot of pressure on the individual. As a result, when something happens out of our control, we feel personally attacked and will do everything in our power to regain control over the situation. We want to control the uncontrollable. This costs us a whole lot of (mental) energy. We easily slip into a negative and potentially even dangerous chain of events. Let me illustrate that slippery slope with some examples you might recognise.
Fight or Flight
A primal response to an attack is the fight or flight response. Covid makes us feel anxious and “out of control”. It is a scary time. It is totally normal to feel that way. However, when the fear or the anger takes over to an extreme, our response can spiral into unhealthy behaviours. An overly anxious person (in flight mode) might not even dare to step outside anymore and fall into a depression due to excessive worry and social isolation. An overly angry person (in fight mode) might get so wound up over the situation that they cause physical or emotional harm to themselves or others. Both the overly anxious as the overly angry risk falling into an expression of blame (it’s the fault of…) or denial (covid doesn’t exist) in order to cope with the situation. As a result, our societies are getting more polarised, more suspicious, more depressed, and more violent. These are terrible consequences of people not knowing how to cope with uncertainty and the feelings that it triggers.
So what would be a better way for us to deal with the uncontrollable uncertainty? We could strive for acceptance. Please don’t mistake acceptance for indifference. The impact of Covid is real. Especially for people who lost loved ones or their life’s work. While recognising that, acceptance is still the best way forward. Acceptance is the capacity to simply be with uncertainty. You acknowledge your feelings of fear or anger, but don’t allow them to hijack you and become the driving force of your life. It’s the capacity of keeping a calm mind that responds empathically and logically. Not over-emotionally. When we don’t waste unnecessary energy, more mental capacity is left for positive action such as creativity, innovation, and compassion. This will enable you to surf the wave: you anticipate what’s coming, and work with it instead of against it. The quicker you are able to make the shift, the more beneficial this will be to you.
Shifting from Control to Acceptance
How do we realise such a shift? I will give you four strategies and concrete actions you can take.
STRATEGY 1: Be Present in the Here and Now
Your emotions hijack you in a split second. Your thoughts drift to fears about the future, you get anxious, you get worked up even more… STOP! This is a waste of your energy. Catch yourself when you feel anger or anxiety taking over. Regain your calm by staying mindful and in the now.
How to practice being present
Through meditation. There is scientific proof that people who meditate are less stressed, healthier, sleep better, and have a more positive outlook on life. Even if you never tried meditation before there are many easy ways to start practicing. You could install a meditation app on your phone or find free guided meditations on YouTube or Spotify. If you want to practice more intensely, see if you can join a meditation or mindfulness course. Journaling can help to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Reassure yourself and your drifting mind that things will not be forgotten or overseen. They don’t need your constant attention.
STRATEGY 2: Trust that This Too Shall Pass
If you look back at your past experiences you’ll remember good times and bad times. What they have in common: they all passed. The same will count for the current situation. We might not know when and how, but trust that it will pass. One day, it will be nothing more than a memory. See how you can make the best of this time! Maybe there are even things you will miss once we go back to normal?
How to practice this trust
Nature is the best example of coming and going. Observe nature! Get into nature and let it inspire you through its endless flow of rise and fall, creation and destruction, warmth and coldness. Maybe you can develop a mantra to remind you of nature’s wisdom when you need it most. A mantra is an affirmation to motivate you. You can use your mantra as inspiration during meditation or just in everyday moments. Write it on a sticky note and hang it on the bathroom mirror. Every morning when you are brushing your teeth and get ready for the day, you are reminded of having trust that this too shall pass.
STRATEGY 3: Stay Kind and Compassionate
Self care is extra important when you are going through a challenging time. Be kind and compassionate towards your hurting self and others. Imagine seeing someone physically hurt and wounded on the floor after an accident. You wouldn’t kick them some more, would you? You’d help them get up and care for their wounds. You’d tell them to take it easy. Mental hurt deserves the same approach. Take it easy and focus on what’s required for your healing.
How to practice kindness and compassion
Whatever it is you need to care for your wounds, allow yourself time and space to do it. Make it your nr 1 priority. One of my clients invented morning sabbaticals. She blocked 9 until 11 am for herself and allowed herself to only do things that brought her joy and inspiration. Another client bought a punching bag to allow her to release her bottled up anger. Kind and compassionate action will follow naturally as soon as you allow yourself to care for yourself first.
Kindness towards others reciprocates. Science proves that helping others doesn’t just make the world better, it also makes you better. Practice kindness through your being and your doing. Be patient, friendly, and calm, even if the other person is hijacked by their negative emotions. Anger triggers anger, so there is no bigger act of compassion than breaking that vicious cycle. Random acts of kindness can be as small as holding the door or smiling at someone. Be aware of others around you. See how lonely that neighbour is and make some small talk. Acknowledge that homeless person through your smile and perhaps a gift. Recognise the overwhelmed mother with her crying baby and let her pass the line in the supermarket.
STRATEGY 4: See the Bigger Picture
Research shows that stress makes people risk-averse and more short-sighted. We can feel hopeless when we hold a narrow and negative view of our reality. It helps to actively take a step back and see the bigger picture. Where are you heading? What is your North Star? Why are you doing what you are doing? If you see the bigger picture, then temporary setbacks are just that: a bump in the road. You can put them in perspective and you can learn from them. Even more so: it’s not rare that our most difficult experiences later turn into our biggest gift. Read more about my personal story on my double mastectomy and how it brought me so much positive growth in this Facebook post.
How to practice seeing the bigger picture
Sometimes we have to go deep down to rise back up. When you feel the dire need to change something in your life, you’ll push yourself to make it happen. These are the biggest growth opportunities. Hire me as a professional coach for your development towards the future. Get clear on your bigger life purpose and go for purposeful growth by bringing your true essence into action. Open up your horizon to new opportunities that are out there. Overcome sabotaging thoughts and develop a more positive mindset focused on chances rather than problems. Take the leap and dare to change to regain joy and empowerment in your life – as a surfer, not a controller.
Get in touch with me to work on your purposeful growth! Book a free 30 min call to get to know each other and experience coaching. I help people who are seeking change to live on purpose for a more balanced, happy and fulfilling life. Read all about it on my website.