My last blog covered some of the basics of coping in these strange times we’re in: looking after ourselves, the importance of touch, imagining the future whilst also remaining fully rooted in the present.
This post will offer a few more strategies and thoughts.
Many people incorporate some sort of gratitude practice into their daily life. If you don’t have one, I would thoroughly recommend it. Especially in these strange times, it is all too easy to focus on the things which are hard, scary, or unpredictable. The more you can focus on the here and now, and particularly the good things and people in your life, the more that will sustain you.
There are different ways of engaging with this – choose one that works for you:
- Each time you think of something scary / unpredictable/ sad, intentionally find one thing that you can be grateful for in the situation
- Use your journal to record 5 things you are grateful for each day
- Look back on the day before you go to sleep and recall the things you are grateful for or that brought you joy that day
- Spend time at the meal table each day sharing what you are grateful for that day (particularly good if you have children)
I’m sure there are more ways – just be creative – but be grateful!
Get to know yourself
Everyone reacts differently in lock-down or tough times. Some go into overdrive. Some are sticklers for the rules. Others love breaking them. Many go into hibernation. Some get panicky. Others struggle emotionally. I think it’s safe to say that all reactions are possible and normal. What matters is what we do with our responses and how we choose to act on what arises in us.
I work a lot with the enneagram, a self-awareness tool. It greatly helps me understand who I am, what habits I have and why, and how I can move beyond those habitual behaviours. The enneagram has been so useful in my life and that of my family – and even more now we’re locked down together.
It helps you understand why you’re reacting the way you are, and helps you to notice when you’re getting stuck in patterns. If you start noticing a behaviour, you are that much more able to do something different, to change the habit. If you don’t know it’s there, it is not possible to change it!
Knowing your habits
I would thoroughly recommend getting to know yourself better during this time. Start observing yourself, what you do, and why you do it. How do your reactions differ from those around you? What do others appreciate about the way you react, what do they wish you didn’t do?!
Are you feeling trapped and stifled during this time, or is it your idea of paradise? Are you a stickler for the rules or seeking ways to break them? Perhaps you are missing ways to help other people? Or living with the dramatic ups and downs that the news brings with it? Maybe your mood depends on that of those you are in contact with? Or your anxiety is heightened?
If you would like help working out your enneagram type, then do get in touch. I can do a “typing interview” with you and give you some pointers for things to notice about what you’re experiencing.
Finding meaning in strange times
Meaning is something that many people are struggling to find. If you are at home unable to work, you may be finding it hard to see what the purpose of your life is. I have no hard and fast answers on this issue, but it is interesting to notice where it crops up for you.
Where do you find your sense of meaning? Through your job? From your connections with other people? In what you do? Through serving others? The impact you have? Changing the world?
Changing your relationship to meaning
I’ve noticed as I’ve been at home that I am kind of addicted to doing meaningful things in my life. Now that I’ve had to stop running around like a headless chicken, I’ve noticed that drive in me to do something. To fill the time with activity so that I feel I am doing something useful. Something valuable, to someone. I then look around at my family and notice I am doing something useful for my children by supporting them during this time, and shopping for a neighbour as well as us, and and … So what is it about those activities that I don’t count as meaningful?
I’ve deliberately chosen not to write a new online course during this time. Not to do online study for my part-time teaching assistant job, or investigate something else I think might be meaningful. In fact I’ve chosen to just “potter.” To spend time being, rather than doing. Of course there is still a lot to do, but in my working time I’m not “doing” very much at all. And every day the questions pop into my head: “Am I using my time wisely? Could I do something more meaningful? Who else should I be helping?” For now, I’m just noticing them come and go, and continuing to potter.
Perhaps if I do that for a while, this drive for meaning will lead to an inner sense of meaning in just being. Not striving.
What is your relationship to meaning? What would you like it to be?
I realise not everyone has the luxury at the moment of taking life slower, so some things I have written won’t necessarily be something you can delve into just now. But I do think we are at a world-changing moment in time. We can decide who we are and how we engage with the world going forward. And we can do that with greater ease if we’re rooted in the here and now, being our best self and undefended by our personality patterns.
If you would like accompaniment working with any of these strategies or issues, then please get in touch.
5th May 2020