Empty your mind of all thoughts. Let your heart be at peace. ‘Tao Te Ching’ Lao-Tzu
I’m writing this in the midst of the Corona virus pandemic and a lockdown of 5 weeks in the UK (but whose counting)?. Some days I’m enjoying the peace and quiet of the city and listening to the birds of Spring. Other days I feel like I’ve been transported back to my childhood on a rainy Sunday afternoon, bored, trapped and resentful at the authority who is stifling my freedom. It can feel like an emotional rollercoaster but when I remind myself that I’ve been through worse and gotten through it, I relax.
The memory of times when life pulled the rug from underneath me and I survived to tell the tale is one of resilience. For some people locked into a battle of control, panic and hysteria at this time means they have either forgotten how resilient they are, or never experienced the opportunity to practise it before. For some who have experienced trauma (and that is everyone to a varying degree) you may have maladaptive ways of dealing with the feeling of being out of control. If those ways have been affected by lockdown, like going to the pub, then it may be tough to know what to do instead.
There are also those of you who may not have experienced anything like this before. Not this exact situation but one where we are forced into circumstances against our will, having to adapt and become resilient. Many of my clients are young adults in education or new jobs and this is their first experience of life feeling out of control. In childhood we have parents and teachers controlling us, there may have been a lack of choice but we weren’t expected to make decisions too. Learning how to motivate yourself to complete a degree or how to get on with your mother-in-law during lockdown is a steep and unexpected curveball.
As a child we have many decisions made for us, so in some ways this global situation can put us back there. What we want is curtailed and beyond our control. For those who have not built resilience they may want to push back, control others, give up or lash out. We may fall back into maladaptive habits like over sleeping, over eating, escaping into drink, drugs or the online world, avoiding relationship issues and more. An extreme situation like this can trigger unresolved trauma and send you spinning out, unable to sleep, addicted to news updates and trying desperately to hold on to the old ways of being.
The definition of resilience is ‘the ability to recover, spring back, rebound from illness, change or misfortune’. Whereas control is ‘to exercise an authoritative or dominating influence’. We live in a world that thrives on control and rarely teaches resilience. We are expected to learn as we go. It may seem easier for some than others but that can depend on how much trauma, how severe it was and how young it happened as to whether we develop healthy ways of coping. What role models did you have teaching resilience? I remember as a teenager dealing with my first heartbreak looking around at the adults for guidance of how to handle it. My conclusion? Push it down, suppress the pain, pretend it wasn’t there. Did it work? Umm no!
I ran away from it. I managed to run for another 3 years until another layer of trauma hit and I collapsed under the weight of it. In that depression it took me time to really heal. I did that through reading self help books and listening to a life coach on a cassette tape (it was the 90s). I practised yoga and meditation and gave up partying. Of course that meant giving up control. I felt beaten, like a failure, but the old way was not working so I tried something new. Thankfully this path worked for me. I have continued on that same healing journey, clearing limiting beliefs, fears, emotional pain and learning how to express my authentic self. The path has not always been easy as yoga, meditation and reiki were not mainstream 27 years ago! It was lonely at times. However the skills I have learnt have stood me in good stead for times like these.
This does not mean I never feel low, worried, resentful or any other seemingly ‘negative’ emotions. It means I know how to ride them and go with the flow. I know how to pick myself up when I get knocked down, as I’ve practised it for decades now. ‘Life is what happens when you’re making other plans’ and learning to pivot, redirect, rethink, reconsider and then take action once you’ve reassessed is a very valuable skill. The young adults I have been working with during the lockdown are learning how to do this for the first time. By learning healthy ways to manage the changes you didn’t anticipate will stand you in good stead for years to come.
What can you do to build resilience and ride this wave?
- Focus on what you can control – what time you go to sleep, what you eat, what exercise you do, contacting loved ones, how much time you spend on screens and what you watch, what you do to relax are all things within your control right now
- Find ways to manage stress – listen to meditations and uplifting music, exercise, get creative, talk honestly to someone about how you feel, spend time in nature, deep breathing are some examples of healthy ways to manage stress
- Connect with loved ones – preferably over the phone or video call as this allows a deeper connection than texts or emails as you can hear tone of voice and see body language
- Assess your values and goals – maybe this pause is a time to look at where you are at and plan on where you want to go once the world starts moving again. Tune into the values behind what you are missing and how you can create more of that in your life now and in the future. Some examples of values are love, money, health, fun, security, freedom, passion, joy, peace
How are you managing the lockdown? What are you focussed on?
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