Halfway of the NZ lockdown. Last couple of weeks have definitely brought a change, a somewhat abrupt and disruptive change. I've seen people adopt and promote mindsets about staying safe rather than stuck at home, taking advantage of the opportunity to be home with family more, and just enjoying slowing down and practicing gratitude. I've also seen people really struggle with all the uncertainty, anxiety, worries and real losses (including family members passing away). Because there are such extremes, I thought it would be most helpful to share my personal experience of how I'm staying present and empowered during this lockdown.
Before I get into it, I want to acknowledge and validate some people today:
• if you feel like you’re on a “staycation”, it’s ok to be where you are. We are all asked to stay at home and remain local.
• if you feel like you're in “crisis management” and you’re overwhelmed, it’s ok to be where you are. We are dealing with a global pandemic.
• if you’re somewhere in between the above, it’s ok to be where you are. We are all unique and have unique circumstances and unique ways of dealing with change.
• if you’re still not sure how you feel about it all and are just getting on with things (much like me), it’s ok to be where you are.
• if you’re an essential worker, I’m sure you will fall into one of the groups above - a heartfelt THANK YOU for your service amidst how you're feeling about the lockdown. You have made a huge difference to hundreds and thousands of people already. I pray for your health, safety and families every day.
My husband and I talked about the likelihood of the lockdown for weeks before it was announced. I felt prepared but I found myself not ready. Do you ever feel like that?
On the day of the lockdown I did contemplate (rather thought in panic!) that I should take the kids and go to my parents, because that would make it easier to look after the little ones and keep my work schedule. But I couldn’t do it because then my husband would be left alone in an empty home after serving people putting his health at risk, working amidst a lot of anxiety.
On day 1 of the lockdown, as usual, my husband left for work before kids and I woke up. And when I had to start the day it dawned on me that day 1 would largely repeat itself for the next 4 weeks. I did contemplate taking the kids to the beach, or the park, or... wherever! But no, the rules told me otherwise. And if I were to compromise, how would I teach my children integrity?
Day 2 I started wondering how I would continue to work with no childcare. My husband had more emergency planning meetings and was often late. I realised the most important thing would have to be a family / home environment that supports him because that would (at least should) help everyone.
Day 3 or so kids and I have started to have fun. And I only planned one new activity a day. Boredom is a creativity driver in my books. I reached out by text to most of my friends, particularly in the UK and the US, and those with family in Italy. I stayed up late that day to re-focus the 4 weeks ahead and it felt good.
Yet, Day 4 came. It was a Sunday. My husband went to work. My son woke up and asked if Grandma was coming, and tears came rolling down his cheeks when I said “no”. I felt like my world was crumbling as I started crying too feeling his pain, and then mine. I felt the weight. I felt the overwhelm. I felt how much I missed family and friends. I felt how much I was worried about my husband’s health (physical and mental as the stress levels at work were rising). I felt how upset I was about having so little time for work. I felt frustrated that my workouts were only half the usual time. I felt the anxiety about managing the household chores. I felt the pressure of doing more activities with the kids (my social media filled up with the amazing craft and learning activities which were out of reach for my boys due to their age gap). I felt the pressure to do video calls with family and friends and guilt because those calls could not happen in “social hours” with my kids around (we don’t do screen time so they just get upset when we’re on the phone for more than 2 min). I felt how I missed being by the ocean, or just getting out of the house. I felt it all.
What have you been feeling? What are you feeling now?
That acknowledgement of feelings was Step 1 of my personal method of staying present and empowered.
Step 2. Identifying what you are dealing with
For those of you who have been following me, you can look at your Wheel of Life. Write down everything that you’re dealing with: balancing working from home and caring for the kids; being social without seeing people; keeping to your usual routine; providing activities for the kids; facilitating your kids’ learning; dealing with challenges posed to your work / business; ensuring you keep on top of housework; finding time for self-care; maintaining your quiet time, prayer life, worship and Bible study in the absence of life group and church gatherings... List it all. Take time. Write out a master list of everything that's on your mind.
Step 3. Defining reality
Consider and accept that the lockdown is only a season. Yes, we don’t know how short or long it will be. But it will be only a season.
If this season has brought you losses, please allow yourself to grieve. You don’t need to compare your losses - some might have lost family members, some
- jobs, some may be really struggling spending so much time at home. Remember - you are unique. Your life and circumstances are yours. Attend to yourself. Take care of yourself. You will then be able to care for others.
Now it’s time to take a deep breath and move forward.
Step 4. Setting priorities
Ask “What is most important in this season? What is needed of me in this season? If you’re a believer, ask “What is God asking of me in this season?”
Listen. Hear it. Receive it. Accept it. Embrace it.
Look back at your list of everything you’re dealing with. What is important? What is helpful? What is needed of you? What are you grateful for?
What can you cross out? What can you re-prioritise? What can someone else get done for you? What can wait? What do you need to communicate to your family/work/friends?
I had to accept that April would no longer be the time to focus on growing my coaching practice and doing the annual Easter "spring clean". If I resisted accepting the change in the season, I'm pretty sure I would be very frustrated with the kids as well as my husband needing my attention, while I'd be willing to give my attention to other things. There is great peace in accepting reality.
In a nutshell, my priorities for the lockdown became:
• for my the boys to bond and enjoy playing together (I crossed out in my Master List creating new daily activities to stimulate my eldest)
• for me to stay loving, gracious and patient (I crossed out anxiety and worry - I acknowledge I feel these, but they won't run my life)
• for me to keep a happy home, and serve my existing and potential coachees (I crossed out extra house jobs as well as the launch of the female entrepreners group - these will have to wait).
I set specific goals under the priorities above using the Be-Do-Have-Serve model I shared with you a few days ago.
Weight off my shoulders.
Can you feel it lifting? Keep crossing things out until you feel it. It’s ok if you have just one thing left to focus on this season!
Step 5. Staying in the Now
How will you stay present? What do you need to let go of to be present? One day at a time. One thought at a time.
This is really about what goes on in our mind and with our emotions. I can't offer a one-fits-all solution, but I'll share what I do in the hope that you can find your unique way to ground yourself in the present.
I ask God and myself "What is today about?", "What's most important today? I do it the night before or first thing in the morning, and make quick notes in my daily organiser. When I try to be quiet in my head, usually a multitude of thoughts and tasks shows up. To clear my head, I write them down in my Projects or Master To-Do list (as relevant) without worrying about when I'll do these tasks. I aim for just 3 things to get done in a day. Just getting the 'clutter' out of my head enables me to focus on the now.
Step 6. Gaining the momentum
What will empower you to stay in the present and to focus on what's important only? What or who can support you?
There are many practices to empower yourself. Think about a time in your life when you have felt really empowered. What gave you that feeling? Sharing with someone, writing it down, visualizing, have a physical object as a reminder? Would it energise you to say / write what you’re thankful for? Would it focus you to have a daily routine of reading a particular scripture / meditation / inspirational quote? Would you get stronger and happier from just ticking things off your list?
I'm empowered by sharing with someone and having a visual reminder of what I’m committing to. Most often my visual is just my kids (they won’t leave my side at the moment) and my daily organiser. Nothing fancy, but enough to make me feel excited and purposeful throughout the day. Remembering - one day at a time, especially in the season of the lockdown.
I hope you find these seven steps helpful. I hope you will feel the weight lift off your shoulders and re-focus your attention on what's important. Reach out if you want to chat about the practice of staying present and empowered. I’d love to have you and your 'bubbles', as well as friends, thrive in this season!
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