Being with the Questions
I’m sitting here thinking of all the people I’ve listened to and talked with over the past two weeks. I’m privileged to hear and share with so many; these conversations have replenished my deep appreciation for our shared humanity, the commonality of resilience, intelligence and heart of people everywhere. This means, also, that I’ve witnessed and felt so much sadness and fear, disappointment, irritation, anxiety and anger in myself and others. Undeniably, we are all in this – no one is left out – no matter how rich or poor, truly.
So, what do we do with our questions? How can we be with them so they don’t hijack our minds to places that don’t serve us? We all have our own coping mechanisms, but I’m here today to share what I’ve heard while on the Zoom calls I’ve co-hosted with my colleague Julie Cohen. We are continuing to offer these calls on Thursdays at 9am pacific/noon est.
While we’re all doing an industrious job of washing our hands and cleaning off surfaces, many have not been practicing what I call mental/emotional hygiene, ie, taking care to focus on refreshing the mind and body to be clean and rid of emotionally harmful input. This may mean limiting times of checking the news, being on social media, or in front of screens in general. But mostly this is also about how we work with our thoughts. Personally, I’m grateful to have been attempting to train my mind for roughly 40 of my years in how to return my thoughts to my physical location, the sensations I can feel in my body, and thereby interrupting my anxious thoughts to calm myself down – even if for a moment. This is new for many, many people but more people are turning to mind training – aka Mindful Awareness Practice — through use of apps like Calm, Headspace, UCLA Mindful and many free meditations that are available on YouTube, or through a google search. Leaders of companies, athletic teams, and some health insurance companies are now offering these apps and other trainings to employees because of their effectiveness.
The Body Scan meditation is a tried and true meditation used in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction classes, and I have a 30-minute guided Body Scan meditation available to send if you’d like to try it. I’ve found this to be so restful, and a wonderful way to develop a new ‘relationship’ with my body. Having more access to really feeling body sensations promotes returning to the present when your mind is off on a story that may not be helping you. If you’re interested in knowing what I mean by that, try it and see what it does for you.
One participant suggested using Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is for its paradigm shifting way to be with thoughts. Another Zoom participant talked about the benefit of recognizing thought distortions – catastrophizing, or fortune telling to name a couple – that can swirl us right out of our present – and safe- location. David Burns’ book Feeling Good is a classic and useful guide for how to recognize these mental patterns and the antidotes to them.
Getting Rest When Your Nervous System is Activated
Depending on where you are, getting outside for a walk or a run – practicing social distancing – is so good for us. Just looking at something that’s starting to bloom, or feeling fresh air on your face, moving your body, helps let go of accumulated stress. I’ve been having trouble sleeping through the night and finally let go of my afternoon coffee. I’m now, also doing what I’ve been supposed to be doing – turning off my devices and letting myself read a book for 30 mins or so before I fall asleep. So far this is helping a lot. My questions about the future are still there, but they aren’t waking me up in the middle of the night. When they do I take myself through the Body Scan.
Productivity at Home
Some folks have asked about being productive when at home and Julie shared the technique called Time Boxing. Creating scheduled ‘boxes of time’ for specific projects or tasks in increments as small at 15 minutes can help add needed structure to our days. Working with creative people in all sectors of commerce and professions for so many years, I know that we all need structure; and often it’s the most creative people who benefit the most and who push against it the most! If you’re one of those creative people, I encourage you to try something new to get yourself to accomplish what will eventually have you feeling more settled and grounded because you’re looking at the fruits of your labor.
Some sectors of our economy are in over-drive hiring mode, some are crashing, and some are holding steady. Clearly, for many environments hiring has slowed. Job searching is on the minds of so many people; it was prior to this upheaval, and now … well we know so many are being affected by lay-offs. First I want to say that we will get through this. Those of you who lived through deep recessions in the past, as well as the upheaval of 9/11, know that we can survive, and even thrive during and after disasters. Key to this is using this time to prepare for your job search by effectively updating your resume, LinkedIn profiles, and cover letter and strategically looking for the jobs you want. You may also start working on your own plan to be a consultant; many companies are laying people off, and sometimes this means you can even be hired back as a part-time consultant.
This is also the time to be tactfully networking via already established networks, or reaching out to new people being sure to check in first with respectful care, and then your reason for reaching out. We have all experienced the kindness that this disaster has brought out in so many people; perhaps it’s only ‘softening the edges’ of some but people want to help. Let others help as they can, and let them know what that looks like for you. Your job is to do your research to find where you can add the most value. How do you know your value? Look at how you’ve done what you’ve done and consider how you can add value elsewhere. Manage your expectations and also get creative as you look; brainstorming with others about what you have to offer often helps us to see who we are and how we do what we do. Don’t expect ‘head hunters’ to be the ones who help you; their job is to source people for jobs that tend to be hard to fill. They aren’t on the look-out for jobs for you, but rather are looking to fill the needs of the companies that have hired them. If someone says they’ll do the search for you do not fall for it. They will ask you for money for this service and it’s unlikely you’ll reap a reward from that investment.
Julie and I are holding another free call on Thursday, April 2nd at 9am pacific/12 est https://zoom.us/j/3260630323 You can stay quiet on the call or let yourself be heard and seen. We’ve heard how good it is to hear others and their experiences, and the conversations that have arisen. We don’t have to be alone with the questions, and everyone can contribute to the answers.
Please share if there are others who would benefit from this. Let me know if you have questions or ideas to share.