It was a typical Monday morning — hitting the snooze more than normal and fighting the urge to throw the clock out the window. Yet, the rest of the week was about to become anything but typical.
Splashed all over the headlines that day, a new reality was beginning to set in.
Canada, like so many other countries, would have to begin “physical distancing.”
I knew that my life, and the lives of my family and friends, would never quite be the same.
Sitting in my PJ’s the entire day on March 16, 2020 with phone in hand and the TV blaring, the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and the endless wave of government measures being imposed were overwhelming and certainly beyond comprehension.
Fear coursing through my body and a zombie state of mind, I couldn’t remember the last time I allowed myself to be immobilized by such terrifying emotions.
Surely many of you can relate.
My thoughts drifted to my 26-year-old daughter who lives thousands of miles away. It tore at my heart that I could not be there to give her a big hug.
It also hit me that my husband would be working among hundreds of Oil and Gas plant employees as an essential worker, risking exposure to this deadly virus.
Like many business owners, I also reflected on the impacts this pandemic would have on my clients whom I coach in my corporate wellness programs. They all hold a very special place in my heart and I worried how this new reality would personally impact them.
As the weeks progressed and I went into “action mode” (my way of coping in times of crises), I was constantly reminded that our moments of grief, anxiety, doubt and worry do not have an agenda or a timeline – they just are and that is okay. I needed to honor them!
In this beautifully written article, Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure, Aisha S. Ahmad states that…
“It is perfectly normal and appropriate to feel bad and lost during this initial transition. Consider it a good thing that you are not in denial, and that you are allowing yourself to work through the anxiety. … focus on food, family, friends, and maybe fitness.”
Having experienced the horrors of war, poverty, food shortages, disease outbreaks, periods of social isolation, and confinement, Aisha reminds us that as resilient human beings, we will learn to adapt to the conditions of crisis and in time, this new normal will start to feel more natural.
He also encourages us to embrace the mental shifts that will occur, as they will be both life-affirming and instrumental in our personal development and growth.
I have likewise encouraged and coached my family, friends, and clients to be attentive to, recognize, and honor all the emotions they may be experiencing, and to share their feelings openly — even if it means breaking into tears. Tears can be healing.
As a stress mastery and mindfulness practitioner, it has been my personal and professional experience that one of the best ways to build courage and regain perspective during challenging periods is by cultivating gratitude for the “sanctity of life”. One should truly respect and appreciate that it is not the “days in our life” but the “life in our days” that will really count in the end.
On days when I find myself losing my way and needing an extra reminder of the power of “living the moment”, I repeat the mantra…
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift called the present.”
So how do we make this mental shift and internalize these tenets?
The best way I know is to look for, surround ourselves with, and cultivate special moments of joy each day. This will carry us through the darker periods in our lives such as we are experiencing right now.
We can manifest these special moments by being fully present to life, hugging and cherishing our families every chance we get, and by connecting with friends as often as possible.
What is perhaps most supportive at this time in our lives is to remain ever mindful that …
“Every day in a very true way, we get to create our reality!”
Ask yourself, “Have I been living in the moment and creating joyful moments in my life lately? And in the lives of those I love?”
Victor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, became famous for his unwavering conviction that…
“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.”
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
In this time of uncertainty, we may feel directionless and stressed, and that is okay.
In these moments, we need to lean into the strength and love of others.
It is important however, that in our impulse to “rescue” those we love from the onslaught of emotions they may be experiencing, that we just be there for them. Hold space for them, ask them questions and help them explore and process their feelings.
Working through the myriad of our emotions is how we will “Recover and Rebuild” our lives and move forward in a purposeful way.
Perhaps the most impactful words I have read since this pandemic began are found in Aisha’s article where he shares…
“On the other side of this journey of acceptance are hope and resilience. We will know that we can do this, even if our struggles continue for years.
We will be creative and responsive and will find light in all the nooks and crannies. We will learn new recipes and make unusual friends….
And we will help each other.
No matter what happens next, together, we will be blessed and ready to serve.”
The following steps outline a 4-part Box Breathing technique that is my go-to coping strategy in times of anxiety and uncertainty.
This technique is especially helpful for quieting our “monkey mind” at night when we are trying to fall asleep and for promoting restorative sleep.
To begin, take a deep cleansing breath in through your nose, and then release through your mouth.
Next, inhale deeply for four counts, hold your breath for four counts, then slowly exhale through your mouth for four, and rest for four. Continue to repeat this breathing pattern until you feel your body and mind settle into a more relaxed state.
In closing, I leave you with this final thought…when moments of despair surface in the days and months to come, I invite you to hearten to the words of Hellen Keller…
“Alone we can do so little, together we can achieve so much”.
Be well, lean on your family and friends, and together we will get through this!
About the Author:
Lisa Kelly, President, Workplace Wellness Centre of Excellence (a division of KWC Inc.), has been cultivating healthy changes within workplaces and with personal clients for over 20 years. Through her “Workplace Wellness Leadership Certification Series” and Executive Wellness Leadership Programs, Lisa’s mission is to create an innovative and collaborative landscape for global workplace wellness that fosters employee-driven, results-oriented wellness solutions to benefit employers, employees, and communities at large.
Ahmad, A.S., “Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure”, The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 27, 2020.
Frankl, Viktor E. 1905-1997. Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006.