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What Are You Experiencing in the Pandemic? [Spoiler Alert: You’re Normal]

Wow. Wow, wow, wow. What a seismic shift we have experienced in the last few months.

How are you hanging in? What are you focusing on? 

There is so much to say, as well as a great, quick little tool to share, to help you center in what is good right now. But to start, I want to say this:

Whatever you are experiencing, however you are feeling: you are not alone.

Most everyone is experiencing significant stressors and accompanying “thought chaos” at this time. But people are having a huge range of experiences. 
Maybe you are juggling working from home, caring for and trying to essentially homeschool kids, and the articles about what to do with “all this free time” feel like a slap in the face—a face that is puffy from waking up at 3am in worry and anxiety. 

Maybe you’re dealing with the strain of being contained in your home with your partner or roommate. No matter how much you love each other, these circumstances can put a major strain on relationships. And if your relationship was already pretty strained when this pandemic hit, this additional strain could be making things even tougher. If you’re feeling driven crazy by those you’re quarantining with, you’re in good company. 

On the other end of the spectrum, maybe you’re self-isolating alone, which brings its own stressors and challenges. While other people are posting on social media their pictures of creatively filling quarantine time with family or couple quality time, you may be feeling really lonely—and your sadness of not having created your family or found your person yet may be exacerbated. “I wish I had people in these close quarters with me to drive me crazy,” you may think (or, let’s be real, say out loud—if, like many of us, you are talking to yourself by now). If you’re living in one-person isolation, you’re not alone. 

Or maybe you’re surprised to find yourself full of ideas and creative energy, or actually enjoying the recalibrated lifestyle that has been thrust upon you. Though that can feel exciting, it can also feel overwhelming and uncomfortable in juxtaposition with all the tragedy going on. I’ve had some clients tell me they feel guilty to be finding so much joy and possibility in this time, when they know so many people are suffering—and yet they are full of creative energy that must be harnessed.

You may be dealing with challenges that have nothing to do with the pandemic—like good old run-of-the-mill Thirtysomething Panic—but just happen to be dealing with them at a time where many of your normal options, supports, and potential breakthrough strategies are not there. For a lot of people, not being able to rely on our usual go-to coping (or avoidance) mechanisms comes at a particularly tough time. Maintaining your health and wellness as the world shuts down around you can be tough. If you were already trying to figure out a career change, going through a breakup or grieving a loss, dealing with Thirtysomething Panic, making a really hard decision, hoping to make new friends, wanting to get out there and date, or managing other challenges and transitions, you may be finding this time of physical distancing extra tough.

Some of you are facing sudden job insecurity or loss. Others are busier at work than ever, trying to keep moving and performing in a role that is challenging to perform in isolation. And some of you are deemed essential workers and are still going out to work, having a totally different experience on the “front lines” from the one those in isolation are having.

Some people tell me they feel guilty for feeling so miserable, when they feel they “should” feel lucky and grateful for being healthy and with a roof over their heads—“I know it is so much worse for many people.” Others have been hit hard and directly with the tragedy of losing a loved one in this time, or with the impact of becoming ill themselves. And many people find themselves overcome with anxiety, anger, fear, and frustration with the way other people–from their closest loved ones to complete strangers–are choosing to act during this time.

The point is, there are so many ways that people are experiencing this pandemic. No matter what this time is like for you, you are not alone. Don’t make yourself wrong for having the experience you are having. Lots of people are going through what you are. Lots of people have the messy, conflicting, unflattering, uncomfortable, overwhelming symphony of emotions you are experiencing.

Here’s a tool I created to help you center in what is good right now. I designed it to be accessible to you in whatever circumstances this finds you. You’ll need something to write with and something to write on. It will take you about 15-25 minutes.

Good Stuff Activator

Do this activity when you have 20 minutes in which you can be reasonably sure you won’t be interrupted. Grab something to write with and something to write on. 

Find/go to: What’s a sound I love, that I can make happen right now? Listen to it for one minute. Put your attention on nothing but the sound and the sensations it evokes. [Example: if you love the sound of the birds outside your window, go to the window. If you love the sound of ocean waves, google “ocean wave sounds” and listen. If you love the sound of your cat purring, go lay your head on his chest (if he lets you!). If there’s a song that always lifts your spirits, listen to it. You may wish to complete the rest of this Activator with that sound on.]

Find/go to: What’s a smell I love, that I can go access right now? [Go take a big whiff!]

Write: What have I done recently (tiny or big) that’s kind? 

Write, then do: What has someone else done for me recently (tiny or big) that’s kind? [Consider: right now, shoot off a quick text, email, or phone call to that person to thank them. Or be on the lookout for an opportunity to pay it forward to someone else.]

Write: What’s something kind I have done for myself recently (tiny or big)?

Write, then do: What are five things in my home (tiny or big) that I’m deeply grateful for? [Think: 5 things that, if they were to disappear, I would sorely miss. For each one you write down, take 10 seconds imagining the thing and what it does for you, and just feeling how good it feels to know it’s there for you. For the tangible things, go ahead and pick them up, touch them, or otherwise engage with them right now, spending 30-60 seconds with each one. For the less tangible things, like “hot water for a shower,” you can just imagine it or go to where it is located and feel appreciation. If you’re not at home right now, do this for things wherever you are.] 

Find and bring back: What’s a portable object in my home that makes me feel happy and/or comforted, just to look at it,  hold it, touch it, or wear it? [This may or may not be one of the things from the previous question. Go get the object and spend a few moments just being with it. Then place it next to you (or put it on you) as you continue.] 

Write: Which of my positive qualities have been brought out by this time period?

Write: What’s something hard that I have managed to get through, cope with, or adjust to, one way or another—or that I am managing, coping with, or adjusting to each day? [Then, write next to it: I AM RESILIENT! This is proof of my resilience!]

Write, then do: What are five things about my body that are working perfectly right now? [For those you can control, do them now, mindfully. For example, if you are breathing clearly, take a big breath in and out and feel gratitude for your ability to breathe. If your fingers can move, wiggle them and watch them wiggle, and enjoy it! Play! Watch those fingers wave to you! For those that are involuntary, like your heartbeat, just take about 10 seconds to send them gratitude and feel or imagine them happening and be glad they are.]

Write: What changed or happened for me in the course of doing this inventory?
I’d love to hear how this exercise was for you. Reply and let me know!

On my end, I have been focusing on three things since the coronavirus pandemic came to a head:

1. Putting on my own safety mask. Just as we are instructed to do on a plane during extreme turbulence, it’s important here on the ground to attend to our own fundamentals. Yes, we need to wear a literal mask when we go out into the world, AND, it’s important to attend to our metaphorical safety mask too, wherever we are. To that end, I have been creating, assembling, and using the structures, outlets, resources, and environment I need to care for myself and fulfill my roles at this time. 

2. Supporting my clients, who are all doing the same for themselves. It is an incredible time to be a coach. Coaching may be more vital now than ever before. I’m grateful to do the work I do and to be able to support my clients in this moment, providing structure and support to help them make this time purposeful and fruitful, as well as creating the space, safety, and tools to process and work through the challenges that emerge and persist. 

3. Digging deep into how I can best support you in new ways. I’ve done some recalibration in my planned focus, in order to best support you within this new context. I have some fantastic tools and programs in the works that I’ll be ready to share with you soon, so be on the lookout for those. 

I am creating content for you right now. So tell me, what do you need support with? What are you struggling with most right now? What question are you trying to answer that you’d like my insight on? I want to hear from you. 

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