Vulnerability, Compassion and Being Present

I am sharing what’s going on with me, because it might help others. I have not been great these last few days. In my business – training – we have, like many other industries, busy times and slow times. November things start slowing down, December to February is generally dead months and March things start picking up again. Only this year, it did not pick up. And obviously, if you work for yourself, you plan for the slow months. But not one of us could plan for the times we are living in right now. Many other industries, self-employed people, entrepreneurs, etc. are going through the same thing. I am in the 8th month of not earning money. But if you know me well, you would agree that as a rule, I am very positive. I am a very resilient person. I see the upside mostly. And yet, the last couple of days, I found myself spiraling into a place of desperation. Being in a place of desperation also brings with it paralysis, where you feel so overwhelmed you can not even think where to start or what to do. Everything becomes a challenge.

In times like this, most of us find it really difficult to focus our minds on the positive. We find ourselves stuck in negative and obsessive thinking which in turn creates feelings of fear and/or helplessness. When we are stuck in this negative place, we literally can not see or plan ahead. We have no clear vision of a better tomorrow. We are already isolated and when our minds start going crazy, we have a tendency to isolate ourselves on an emotional level as well. And so the negative spiral starts.

The thing is, it’s okay to go there. Just don’t stay there. Don’t make it your dwelling place. This morning on my walk I applied a technique that I use when I coach others, to myself. I realised that I am so focused on the future. The “What if’s” in my mind making me totally crazy. I made a decision today to focus on the present. We all know this, the future is unknown, the past is over – we can not do anything about either. But we can do something about “now” and “here”.

How do we stay present in times like this?

I am so good at allowing others to be human. I am so quick to give compassion to others. When it comes to myself I expect more. Where is the compassion in that? So from today, I will also practice radical self-compassion. I will allow myself to feel sad. I will allow myself to be slower. I will allow myself to do less. I will allow myself to focus on only one thing at a time. I will allow myself to just be in this storm. I will trust the process of life. I will consciously believe that this too will pass.

Focus on what you can control: We can not control this virus. We can not control the devastating effect it has on our economy. We can only accept this situation and then focus on the things that we CAN control. Make a list of things that you can control and things that you can not control. Then give yourself permission to not spend time feeling anxious about the things you can not control. And of course, this is much easier said than done, but having it down on paper, already gives you some level of control. Someone, somewhere said this “You've survived 100% of everything in your life so far, so there's a pretty good chance that you'll survive whatever is next.” I think in times like this, it’s a good quote to live by.

Allow yourself to feel what you feel: Sounds a bit crazy right? Acknowledging your feelings and allowing yourself to feel sad, mad, or glad is not a bad thing. Sit with the feeling, allow it to come, and then let it go. Feel sad about your loss of income. Feel sad about the fact that you could not celebrate the birth, the birthday, the wedding, the thing that you could not do because of this situation. We are all facing tremendous hardships. Not seeing friends, parents, grandparents, engaging with colleagues, not getting the hug you crave, it’s hard!

Connect with Others: As human beings, we crave human connection. Technology is amazing. Make sure that you are checking in, connecting, asking, listening, being there for other people. You will feel less isolated, you will feel as if you are giving meaning to someone else’s life and you will also feel better for the effort you make. Give of yourself and you would be amazed how it fills your cup in return. Work on your relationships with your parents, your kids, your spouse, your friends. We all need people. It is true that “no man is an island.”

Tune Your Attitude: I had to seriously tune my attitude in the last couple of days. And here’s the thing, you are the only one that can turn that dial from negative to positive. This also means that you might have to limit time spent listening to really negative people. This does not mean that you don’t want to listen to other peoples’ sorrows, but rather that you identify the ones that drain you or make you feel even worse about your situation. Most importantly, do not assume that you know what is best for other people in times like this. Do not judge or criticize. Be compassionate! To others but also to yourself.

Radical Self Care: Remember that stress affects your immune system. Make self care a big priority in times like this. If you are working from home, this is the perfect time to create new habits. I love walking but when I leave my home at 6 in the morning and get back home after 6 in the evening (what’s normal about that?), walking is very low on my list. I make a point of walking every day. The days that I do not walk, is actually the days that I find my mind focusing more on the negatives than positives. When I walk I make it a time of meditation also. Sleep is so important. I have never been a good sleeper and I also do not like taking medication to sleep. I have however told myself that if I need something to help me sleep, then this is not the time to not use it. It’s all part of being kind to myself. If you do not sleep, you can not function properly and everything looks worse than it really is. Do what you have to, to be able to get a good nights’ sleep. Make sure that you give your body good food. It is the fuel you need to run your engine well. Find ways to manage stress. For some, it is music, for others being out in nature. Use this time to find something that works for you.

Gratitude: There is always something to be grateful for. Make a list. Tomorrow, make a new list. When things are getting to you, immediately focus on something that you can be grateful for, right now, in this very moment.

I’m hoping that me showing my vulnerability makes you feel better about your own struggles. We will get through this. And best of all, we will come out stronger on the other side, because of this. Much love, Willemien

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