Yup, because I hold qualifications and teach people about how to help others get their ‘shite together’ I am considered to have mine together too. Ultimately, I have but I want you to know that even those of us with our ‘shite together’ have off days too!
I am not going to bore you with my life – we all have things going on. Things that can make us feel sorry for ourselves, things that create hardship, frustrations……. We are not on our own. It’s called LIFE.
Being an introvert, lockdowns can be a happy place of mine – rather enjoy social distancing and less people around. This one didn’t start as well for me though. Firstly, I am very averse to and over being told what to do and words like “need to” and “should” don’t help me to be compliant. Yup, like others similar to me I had to ‘suck it up buttercup’ for the greater good.
It is the fact that I didn’t start this lockdown well that I want to share. Because even those of us that do have our “shite together” have our moments. Last year I had much more important things to focus on and lockdown didn’t bother me. Even earlier this year lockdown didn’t affect me, so I was very surprised to notice that this one, August 2021, did affect my mental state of mind.
I noticed it first in the quandary of whether I stay in Cromwell to support my sister with our elderly parents as planned or whether I get one of the last emergency flights out of Queenstown and head back to Auckland. I did the latter. Auckland is the epicentre of the Covid breakout, and I had no idea how long I would be in Cromwell if I didn’t take the window. I love my family, but an indefinite lodger may not be the best thing for sibling and their partner relationships. I left feeling like I was bailing early and letting my sister down.
During the first week of lockdown, I started to question my purpose of life – why the hell am I still even here? What’s the point? Who would miss me if I left? Pretty grey thoughts I will admit.
There is much research showing that knowing and/or finding our meaning in life is a good protection against depression and suicidal thoughts. Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote about this very thing in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Noting that finding meaning in life is a primary focus for everyone. Our sense of purpose is our centre of vitality and life and fascinatingly for me, here I am questioning mine.
I often say I am my own case study. Having a good sense of myself I find it fascinating when I feel what I am least expecting. For me, it is usual to notice how I feel first, that brings awareness to what is happening within my being. In the case of lockdown it, as it normally is, was clearly my thoughts.
Thoughts impact what we feel. Once I realised how I was feeling I was provided with information that I could now intercept.
Acknowledge How You Feel
A lot of people when feeling something uncomfortable tend to suppress the feeling or ignore it.
To emote is simply to be human. We have an elaborate set of emotions (the most within the animal kingdom) yet we can be conditioned to ignore them because we should feel something other than we do. Feel sad – be happy. Feel jealous – be grateful. Feel resentful – don’t be silly.
Don’t deny how you feel – sit with it, name what you feel.
Week one of lockdown I felt trapped. I felt resentful. I felt extraordinarily annoyed and people in general annoyed me.
Accept How You Feel
They say “to name is to tame” when discussing emotions. There is something satisfying in being able to name how you feel. I have had experience of not being able to name my feeling and that was potentially one of the most exacerbating experiences I have had. Name how you feel.
Once named be curious about it. Accept that is what you feel. If we think “I shouldn’t feel like that” then we are judging how we feel. Whose rule book will you use to judge? Yours? Your parents? Your upbringings? A Social Media Influencers? Which ever rule book you apply if you judge yourself, make sure it is one that is useful for great outcomes – otherwise it will hold you back.
I recently felt jealous (an emotion I haven’t felt for a while!). It was interesting to feel it. Accepting it felt good, I understand why. Once I accepted it, I could release it.
First Comes Awareness Then Comes Choice
Bringing awareness to how we feel creates the next step (and this is the exciting step) – we get to choose. Human beings hate having no choice at all. We feel trapped. What we often do is forget to find or notice choices. And we forget that whatever we decide to do is choice. It might be choice set by social norms or “what is right” – it is still choice!
There is a very short period of time (.5 second) between what triggers our feelings and how we feel and respond. It’s a short, yet important window. Because in that .5 second we get to choose.
Once I realised what I was doing week one of lockdown I could make a choice. I could stay questioning with my grey thoughts – that didn’t sound like fun – or I could choose to make some changes.
Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole!
If thoughts were the cause of how I felt I knew what my first step was. I had just spent the past four years mastering control of my thoughts to avoid the rabbit hole and here I was falling down it.
Norman Vincent Peale said, “change your thoughts and you change your world”.
I focussed my attention to firstly changing my thoughts. Looking at things from different perspectives, different viewpoints. I knew exactly who would miss me if I left!
I set about tasks that I would enjoy. I gardened for a couple of hours each day and planted some seeds for summer. Now I have something to nurture, and watch grow.
I listed a few projects I want to achieve in lockdown. These were things I would enjoy AND that aligned with my purpose in life. I set about the first one and set daily goals to achieve it.
I watched comedies that I knew would make me laugh. I don’t mind watching things more than once.
I walked purposefully for at least 45 – 60 minutes and greeted everyone I passed.
I remembered (and wrote about) My Circle of Control and literally put it into practice.
These last two points helped connect me quickly to my Sense of Purpose as the projects will take a bit longer to be seen. Abraham Maslow noted that we are all reaching for Self Actualisation and Self Transcendency. By greeting people, saying hello and wishing them a lovely day and by writing to help others I was heading back to self transcendency. I was helping to make a difference to someone else’s world and therefore giving meaning to mine. And my thoughts were now affecting my feelings in a way that felt good.
And life changed. Not rocket science, nothing complex, no university degree knowledge – simple, life changing stuff.
It’s OK to feel down sometimes. It’s OK to feel emotion – that is what we are designed to do! It happens to the best of us! You are no different to others, you can still be complete.
The important thing to remember is there is always possibility for change – it simply comes back to choice.