4 Life-changing skills that will help you to come back to normality after the pandemic (or any other life crisis or transition) with ease.
The world is changing in front of our eyes. Adjusting to change rarely feels natural so if you are feeling a little taken back be kind to yourself. I am curious though, how has this change been for you?
As I’m writing this blog post our hopes for the end of the pandemic are on the rise and the restrictions in most countries are easing- something we’ve been all waiting for. But it turns out that adjusting to this ‘good & welcome’ change can be as much of a challenge as adjusting to the lockdowns was a while ago.
Over the last 18 months, we’ve been asked to cope with an enormous amount of changes and they didn’t replace, but rather came on top of all the life challenges we already had on our plates before it all started.
So, wherever your personal scenario for the last few months was, this pandemic has had an impact on you. On your health, your lifestyle, the way you mix and interact with others, on your job… But first and foremost – your long-term WELL-BEING.
Adjusting To Change Is Now More Than Ever A Skill We Need To Learn
The truth is, we are still faced with a situation, where nobody really knows what’s going to happen over the next few weeks, months or even years. And uncertainty is never easy to deal with.
Adjusting to change (and learning how to do so) is something that everyone is in need of right now. Developing this skill will help us to deal with what has happened and may happen as events continue to unfold. It will not only help you to navigate this particular situation, but will prove to be life-saving in any other circumstances in which you need to adjust to changes and transitions happening in your life.
Whenever big shifts in life happen they trigger feelings of unease, anxiety or fear. It’s much easier to cope if you know how to manage all these uncomfortable feelings: frustration & anger, sadness & grief, shame & guilt…
Only when we learn how to:
- navigate all these ever-moving and shifting emotions,
- balance our overwhelmed nervous system,
- find our inner stability to anchor ourselves in the midst of the outside upheaval,
will we know how to take good care of ourselves and our loved ones during challenging times.
For myself, and for women I have worked with through this crisis (and plenty of other very different crises before) the following 4 skills have proven to be priceless. I’m sure they will help you as well.
4 Skills To Help You Get Better At Adjusting To Change
1. First things first: take good care of your nervous system.
The primary task of your nervous system is to keep you safe. It constantly scans your surroundings (outer and inner) to detect any possible threats. Once it detects a threat, the alarm system goes off and a whole cascade of physiological responses and chemical reactions follow. Your heart speeds up, your breath shortens, all the blood is pumped to your limbs – you know pretty well how it feels, right?
So imagine what’s going on now…
All your old routines have been gone for more than a year. Maybe you have been working from home and now coming back to the office. Maybe your adult kids have moved back home and are now thinking about moving out again. Maybe your younger kids have been struggling with the rollercoaster of ‘school’s closed – school’s open’ and you feel totally drained from supporting them through these ups and downs.
Maybe you stayed at home on your own most of that time and are now getting ready to get more social again. Maybe your loved ones or friends were sick, maybe you lost someone to Covid and are grieving. Maybe you’re not sure about vaccinations and whether will they work so that life can come back to some sort of ‘normality’.
All these changes are bombarding your nervous system from all around and it goes … ALARM! ALARM! ALARM!
And at the same time, life still feels far from ‘normal’ and the majority of things that used to calm and balance your nervous system before are gone or look much different.
I’m not even going to mention all the anxious/angry/sad thoughts and stories your mind might be creating right now (about both past and future). And they do matter. Your nervous system does not know the difference between something actually happening, and you just making it up in your mind. The physical reactions in your body are exactly the same.
So, just imagine the overload of your skull-brain, heart-brain and gut-brain (yes! you have 3 of them!) and the impact it has on your whole body.
Your nervous system is screaming for some tender loving care!
And let’s face it, most of the time we DO NOT WANT to know what life must be like for our nervous system. We insist we‘re OK, we clench our teeth and push through. Until…we lash out at our partner, get a full-blown panic attack, or simply get physically sick.
So, your first and most essential task is to notice! Acknowledge that it might be hard for your system to cope with all the changes that have been taking place for the last 18 months.
And then…. bring some of this tender & loving care on!
Your nervous system has a few responses to choose from when it comes to dealing with danger (and every significant change is considered ‘danger’ by your nervous system). The one you probably know well is fight or flight. But there is also a very different response available – freeze or collapse. This is when you simply play dead.
If you feel unsettled, anxious, angry (fight or flight) – find something that helps you to calm the system down. Go for a walk, take a bath, give yourself a foot massage. Try some simple breathing techniques – they work wonders!
If your energy is low, you feel falt, apathetic or helpless and find it hard to leave your sofa, you need to stimulate your system a bit. Go for a brisk walk, do some dancing, some cardio exercise would be great. Or just try to shake your body vigorously for at least 5 minutes. Strange as it may sound, it’s one of the best ways to get energy flowing really quick!
And there are things that help always, no matter whether you’re in fight/flight or freeze/collapse mode. They will allow you to ground and centre yourself and come back to balance – like nature, creativity, music and breath.
2. Be comfortable with the discomfort
I believe, this is the greatest life skill of all. The best ever. Crisis or no crisis, this is something that will change your life forever, once you incorporate it into your everyday life. No kidding. I call this skill EMBRACING.
Why do you need it so much?
Two reasons. As we grow up we learn that certain emotions feel better than others and some emotions are more socially acceptable than others. So, we quickly learn how to avoid those which are unpleasant and/or unacceptable and seek those which feel nice.
Unfortunately, there are 2 not-so-nice consequences of this learning:
1. Trying to avoid uncomfortable emotions might feel much better in the moment but often runs you into trouble in the long run.
If feeling anger is very uncomfortable for you for example, and you do your best to avoid it at all times, you bottle everything down. The result – you risk both uncontrollable ‘explosions’ and serious health problems. You may withdraw yourself from situations just because they trigger some difficult emotions in you and limit your opportunities to participate fully in life or in relationships.
And if you struggle to reach your goals, you can be sure it is trying to avoid the discomfort that is sabotaging your results.
2.If you consistently try to avoid or block uncomfortable emotions from your life, unfortunately, you block the ‘comfortable’ ones too.
You can’t block feelings/emotions selectively, so to say. Block fear, sadness and anger and you will block joy, enthusiasm and creativity as well. You wouldn’t like to do that, would you?
So, what to do instead? Simply learn how to be comfortable with the discomfort.
It’s the simplest thing on earth, the hardest part is to actually remember to practice it.
Embracing has 3 basic steps.
1.First, you need to notice when an uncomfortable emotion is coming up to the surface. That’s easy – we always know in an instant when something is off. But although we KNOW we often choose to ignore it, avoid it, pretend ‘all is grand’ etc. So, it actually requires some willingness and practice to stop for a second and simply notice.
2.And once you notice them – you just need to take a minute or two to feel it fully. Even if it’s not so nice!
You see a photo from your last holidays and there’s this shadow of sadness/fear/ disappointment flowing through your heart, as there might be no ‘fly away’ holidays this year? Perfect, take a minute or two to feel it.
Your partner said something that hurt? Take a moment to feel your reaction.
A post on FB set you off? Take a moment to notice what is going on in your body as a result.
Whatever you’re feeling is ok. You can name it if it helps but you don’t even have to. You can just stay with what your body is experiencing, focusing on the sensations. Try not to make stories about it in your mind. Just embrace the feeling – what‘s going on in your heart, in your body? Make space for it. It might be uneasy, unpleasant or even weird. So, what? Give yourself the right to feel it. No judgement, no struggle, no panic – just curiosity. You can handle it!
3.And after a minute or two, let it go. That’s all.
Once you put some effort into training yourself to notice and embrace whatever feeling is arising – it will become the easiest and most natural thing to do. As it IS the most natural thing to do. You are supposed to experience a whole range of emotions. This is what makes life so rich and full and beautiful.
3. Can I be kind to myself? Practice SELF-COMPASSION
Just take a day or two to really listen to the never-ending commentary in your head.
If you start paying attention to what’s going on in your mind, you might be surprised at how nasty you can be towards yourself. It wouldn’t even cross your mind to talk to your friend the same way you talk to yourself.
We tend to be very unkind to ourselves, we show so little understating, we always find something to beat ourselves up for. You are never good enough. Your life is never good enough. Your achievements… what? My what???
If you really take time to notice and listen to what’s going on in your mind, it can get quite scary.
I know you have somehow bought into the idea that you need to be hard on yourself to keep on track, to be efficient and motivated. But does that really work?
Do you really believe if you stop listening to this critical voice you will become lazy, lethargic and unkempt? I hope you don’t.
For most of us, this nasty way of talking to ourselves (and thinking about ourselves) is just a long-standing habit. We have been doing it for so long, we hardly pay attention anymore. And where there’s no awareness, there’s no choice.
But even a deeply rooted habit is just a habit. And habits are learnt and can be unlearnt with a bit of awareness and practice.
I know you might have gone years, talking to yourself like that. Why does it matter now? Why change it now?
As mentioned before last 18 months were tough on all of us. Adjusting to change is challenging and stressful. There is no need to add more difficulty and strain to what you have on your plate anyway. Beating yourself up, blaming yourself (or anybody else) and calling yourself names will not make you feel better and, quite contrary, will create even more struggle and pain.
What if you tried a totally different approach?
What if you tried to treat yourself with the same respect, kindness, compassion that you treat people you love most. What if you started to practice self-compassion today.?
A word of reassurance for your suspicious mind: Self-compassion has nothing to do with self-indulgence or being selfish. It has nothing to do with self-pity and finding excuses. It is just having the intention for yourself to be healthy and well and then… putting this intention into practice.
Self-compassion requires just 3 things.
1.Noticing that you are going through a hard moment.
2.Recognising that suffering, struggling, being imperfect, making mistakes is just a quality of human life. We all go through the same pain and struggle just in different versions and at different times. It not ‘just you’.
3. Practicing being kind, gentle and loving towards yourself– as you would towards your best friend.
K. Neff, who is an expert on self-compassion, teaches a very simple and easy practice. It consists of just 3 lines. Any time things do not go as you would like them to, just say to yourself:
This is a moment of suffering (or anger, or sadness or fear, or shame…).
Suffering is part of being human.
Can I be kind to myself right now? ‘
Give it a try a few times, and you will see how these few lines can shift your energy in a fraction of a second.
4. Are you laying brick or building the cathedral?
Do you know the parable about the bricklayers?
A traveller came upon three men working. He asked the first man what he was doing and the man said he was laying bricks. He asked the second man the same question and he said he was putting up a wall. When he got to the third man and asked him what he was doing he said… I am building a cathedral.
You see, you always have the choice how to interpret what’s going on around you. This choice is even more important when you go through challenging times, be it Covid 19 or any other significant life change.
That’s why it’s so essential, especially at times of change or transition to take a moment to connect to what your core values are.
What really matters to you? What do you want to stand for throughout this challenge?
Is it honesty, respect, kindness, love, independence, empowerment, commitment, open-mindedness? The list is endless. And all you need to do is to find three that deeply resonate with you at this time.
Your values are what makes your life meaningful. They are like a compass that will help you make choices that lead you in the direction in which you want your life to go. They will let you focus on what’s really important and what is the ‘small stuff’ not worth sweating about. And they will put things in perspective.
Your values help you to take your power back. Once you feel deeply connected to them, you’re no longer a victim of outside circumstances and you become a conscious and intentional participant in whatever is happening in your life right now.
(And if you still feel the victim, that’s ok too. Start with practising the previous points- soothe your nervous system, embrace all the emotions that come up and be kind to yourself. You will see that things will start to shift, very soon and adjusting to the changes around you become easier with time).
So, be sure to find out what your core values are. Best of all write them down and place somewhere you can see them often. Remind yourself about them first thing in the morning and whenever you feel challenged during the day. And remember – they are flexible – they will evolve and change as life goes on and the situation changes. (this is a free exercise I created for you to help you reconnect to your core values).
When you welcome changes in life, everything begins to flow
These simple but powerful practices will allow you to bring ease, peace and joy into your everyday life, even in the midst of all the changes and adjustments we are going through right now.
And they’ll be yours forever.
The pandemic will end sooner or later.
But however life might change, one thing is sure -it will always be a mixture of pleasure and pain, ups and downs, joy and sadness, That’s what life is.
But you… you will never be the same.
Once you learn how to navigate the waves that come your way, even the high ones, with consciousness, compassion and freedom of choice, you are set for a full, rich authentic and wholehearted life. Once and for all.
Remember, there’s no need to do it on your own. Let’s talk and I will help you adjust to any life changes you might be going through!