This COVID-19 crisis has turned our lives upside down. Just a few months ago, we had no idea our 'world' would be confined to our homes!
This crisis is a powerful reminder of how important freedom is - and how much we need human connection! Remember you are not alone. Because what is DIFFERENT here is that everyone is impacted! Your neighbor, mom, boss and friends as well as your counterparts around the world are all going through something similar.
So, it's important to remember:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. Viktor E. Frankl
This is the challenge each of us must rise to! If we're going to be stuck at home, we may as well make the most of it.
1) Create a Healthy, Supportive Routine
When we feel powerless or helpless (as so many of us do at the moment), one EXTREMELY easy thing to do is to create a routine or schedule.
While we're all stuck in anxiously waiting at home, it's easy to lose our sense of time. Days can begin to blend into each other. A routine can give us an anchor and greater sense of control over our lives. And if you have children, creating a routine is especially important to give them a sense of normality.
Be sure to include food preparation, social time, exercise and outdoor time and some learning or creativity so you get some benefit from this challenging time. It's also important to recognize weekends because it's too easy for weeks to blur together. So, make a looser schedule for your weekends.
For example, you could include:
Sleeping in/later bedtime
Movie night with popcorn
A virtual happy hour with friends or colleagues
A larger project, perhaps some art, craft, gardening or home redecoration.
So, create a routine for a sense of control and mastery over your environment and life circumstances. Reclaim what power you can over your own life, because with all this uncertainty it's important for you - and especially important for children - to have predictability.
2) Build Your Physical Strength, Fitness Levels or Flexibility!
Building your physical strength is powerful and health-boosting! Not only is physical strength and flexibility life-affirming and good for our health, but feeling more physically powerful actually helps us feel more empowered and less helpless in life too!
So add some physical activity into your schedule - as little as 15 minutes daily. Maybe by the end of this you'll be fitter or even be able to do 10 (or 100!) press-ups!
There are many options to boost your physical strength and health. Here are some ideas:
Take up a yoga practice - excellent for strength-building, flexibility - and calm! There are lots of online options. Here is one with everything from 10 minutes for beginners to an advanced practice. Sarah Beth Yoga on Youtube has more (free) yoga videos than I can count
Learn do a press-up or push-up. Then see if you can get to 10 (or more - depending on where you start)!
There are so many online fitness classes on Youtube - for beginners, experts - with equipment and also with no equipment whatsoever. PopSugar Fitness has many options to choose from.
REMEMBER: BEing stronger = FEELING stronger and more in control! And building your PHYSICAL strength or fitness = REDUCED feelings of helplessness!
3) Learn with Non-Fiction Books:
Use this time at home to educate yourself with non-fiction books. There is so much to be gained - like self-confidence, negotiation skills, health (sleep, nutrition), how to have difficult conversations and much more. What keeps you up at night? There's probably a book about that! What do you wish you were better at? There's probably a book about that too!
Here are some book ideas to get you thinking:
Be more productive or creative with "The Now Habit" by Neil Fiore or "A Whack on the Side of the Head (How You Can Be More Creative)" by Roger Von Oech and "A Whole New Mind" by Daniel Pink.
Think (or rethink?) how you live with books like "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan (also available in a young reader's version), "Slow Food: Collected Thoughts on Taste, Tradition, and the Honest Pleasures" by Carlo Petrini, "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" by Barbara Ehrenreich, "Doughnut Economics" by Kate Raworth.
Get personally inspired with "Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts" and "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown, or "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor E. Frankl.
Upskill your habits with "Atomic Habits”" by James Clear or “Triggers”, by Marshall Goldsmith.
Learn about the human mind with "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell or "The Whole Brain Child" by Daniel J. Siegel MD and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD.
Get healthier with "Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams" by Matthew Walker PhD.
Be more confident and discover your strengths with "The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance - What Women Should Know" by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman" or "Now, Discover Your Strengths (How to Develop Your Talents and Those of the People You Manage)" by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton.
Finally, read memoir! Choose someone you admire, get inspired and learn how other people think - and live their lives.
Reading one book will expand your mind, reading several of these books is going to make you more interesting, help you learn new skills - and maybe even make you more employable too!
4) Gain a New Skill with Online Learning:
There are so many opportunities online to gain a new skill and they're growing by the day! Grow your personal or creative skills or choose a new skill to learn and take back to work with online training providers like Coursera or Udemy. There are many other providers.
If there's a skill you always wanted to learn, search for it. But be sure to read the course descriptions thoroughly, check reviews if there are any - and check money-back guarantees as you need to! And with so many learning options ranging from FREE to tens of dollars to the low hundreds of dollars, there will be something out there just perfect for you.
5) Explore your Life Vision:
Rather than watching endless news streams, you can choose to focus on a bigger picture - your future. What do you want from the rest of your life? What would you be disappointed you did NOT do? Where do you envision yourself in 10 years?
Having a clear vision of how you want your life to be is a powerful motivator. A vision helps us work towards our goals, take action and make change. Soon, we'll all be super-busy again - and a vision might be just what you need stay focused!
Here are 5 questions to ponder or journal around to go deeper:
What do you desire or yearn for in your life?
How do you want to feel?
What do you really, really want to be different in your life?
What would have happened in 3 years time such that your life is spectacular, and you feel magnificent about yourself?
What's your dream for this lifetime? Imagine you're 90 years old and looking back over your life; what did you do that made you proud and happy?
TIP: Remember to think possibility not probability! Don't limit yourself and your ideas because you don't believe something is likely. Instead believe it's possible - and even if you don't get all the way there, you may get close - or even find something better along the way!
6) Be in the moment:
In THIS moment you are OK. You are safe. Take one day at a time. One hour or even one breath at a time if you need to. This tip is about being super-present, not thinking ahead or remembering the past, but practicing BEING. This is a PRACTICE - meaning you will have to do it over and over again - bringing yourself back to the NOW. Over time it gets easier, and it's a great skill to have to take back to "normal" life.
So when you notice you're worrying, feeling twitchy and want to pick up your device and find out what the "latest" is about the COVID situation, say to yourself, "It's OK. In this moment, I am safe. In this moment I am OK." You can also add or say, "In this moment, my children/husband/family are safe."
EXTRA TIP: Reduce or minimize how often you watch and read the news! And DON'T read or watch the news (or articles about COVID-19 or similar) just before bed!
Distracting ourselves from our fears is a valid technique for feeling better!
Laughter releases helpful chemicals in our bloodstream - Endorphins (our natural "happy" drug) and Dopamine (part of our bodily "reward" system).
What are your favorite comedy shows?
Is there a comedian you like?
Netflix and similar have so many watching options, so find something that makes you laugh!
IMPORTANT: We should NOT use over-use laughter as a distraction technique. And it shouldn't be used for ongoing and persistent fears in regular life. But for a situation like this, where this isn't much that any of us can do other than sit and wait - distraction can be a great coping mechanism.
8) Start a Journal!
If you've always wanted to journal, now is a good time to start. More than just keeping a record of your day, a journal can help you explore and sift through your feelings and experiences and learn from them. It's a great way to get to know you. It's great to choose a beautiful notebook, but the most important thing is to just get started.
Here are some prompts to get started with:
Today I am feeling _________. I think this is because __________.
One big thing I have learned during this crisis is _________.
I remember the last time I was stuck in the house _________.
One thing that's surprised me recently is _________.
What matters most to me in life is _________.
Describe your ideal day _________.
"A journal is expressive by nature and it contains feelings, emotions, problems, ponderings and it is more reflective on the meaning of life being lived." Lynda Monk
You may find this How to Journal article from the IAJW (International Association for Journal Writing) helpful to get you started.
9) Be Kind!
Kindness and compassion are one of the most powerful tools any of us have in our toolbox right now. Many of us are largely housebound, never mind the fear that you or a loved on might actually catch the COVID virus! So, of course we're going to feel unpleasant and weird.
Use kindness to comfort yourself when afraid or feeling anxious or fidgety. Be gentle. Imagine you're soothing a friend, small child or animal who is afraid - what would you say to them? Then say that to yourself!
Use kindness to give yourself - and others - the benefit or the doubt. Instead of getting upset when you see other people behaving badly, remember that we all do silly things when we're scared.
Imagine you have a kind, wise self. A part of you that is unflappable, intelligent and unconditionally loves ALL of you. Now, when you need it, imagine that kind, wise self is with you, supporting you, maybe giving you a hug - and saying exactly what you need to hear (not just the sugary stuff, but also the tough love and common sense).
10) Help Others
Helping others is empowering and makes us feel better. Here are a few ways you could help others.
Check in on a neighbor or friend and see if they need anything. You can do this by phone, or in person, remembering to maintain a 6 feet distance.
Offer to get someone groceries if you're going.
Help someone less technically savvy learn how to use Zoom or WhatsApp or whatever they need to get online.
Host a virtual get-together with your regular friends.
Reconnect more deeply with friends or relatives who have moved away.
11) Live Your Values
When we know your values, we understand what motivates and drives us. When we build our lives around our values, we create a life that is meaningful. Finally, when we align our actions with our values - we're being truly authentic. It's a very satisfying and fulfilling way to live. And living your values could be the single most important thing any of us can do right now.
Here's an exercise you can do:
List your values on a piece of paper or in your journal.
Give each value a score ___ / 10 as to how well you are living that value in your life now (where 0 is not at all and 10 is full-out).
For the scores that are 8 or more - great!
For the scores that are 7 or less out of 10, ask yourself, "How