Resilience in Lockdown- what is your emotional response?

Covid-19 and lockdown are both emotional subjects for a lot of people.  I am noticing that there are many emotional responses as individuals, families, businesses and communities come to terms with the impact this pandemic is having on all our lives.  This varied emotional response is completely normal, natural and healthy.  And you should expect your emotional response to change over time as circumstances change.

Expressing your emotional response

Lockdown- what is your emotional response

When people take the time to speak about what is happening for them emotionally right now, the emotional charge decreases.  This alone can make it easier to manage.  Speaking about your concerns, fears and worries can help to reduce the stress, anxiety and fear you might be feeling.  Holding it in and bottling it up only exacerbates the problem.  As I said, your concerns for loved ones, finances, health, uncertainty about work, isolation, grief and loss are normal and natural emotions to have at this time.

They do not mean you are not coping.  And they do not mean there is anything wrong.  Any situation in life that leaves you with uncertainty, doubt, fear and confusion, you will have an emotional response.  But, if you do not find a way to express that emotion in SOME way, it can have an on-going negative impact on your well-being.**  Which can affect your resilience and your ability to manage the challenges you face- and that includes lockdown and Covid-19.

For many, the normal structures and habits you have in place to manage your emotional and mental well-being are often out of reach.  Speaking with family and friends over the telephone or on Zoom is not the same as being with them in the room.  And there is no substitute for a real hug or the comforting touch of a loved one.  The social joys of getting together for a drink at the pub, a coffee in town or a meal out are currently not possible.

How are you managing your emotional response?

Our minds and bodies, in response, begin to become more on edge, stressed, tense and anxious as the restrictions continue and show no signs of abating.  Which is as it should be, as the global population does what it must to contain the spread of the virus and together, we look after the health of everyone on the planet.

Without your typical resources available, perhaps it is time to explore new resources that can help support you?  It seems that these are some of the areas where people are struggling:

  • Reduced exercise and movement mean that muscles are getting tight.  Tension also comes from holding the emotional tension of stress, anxiety and worry
  • Lack of touch and the guardedness of social distancing creates its own anxiety that leads to more tension
  • Unfamiliar feelings and sensations in reaction to these unprecedented times which are challenging to express.  Such as lack of freedom, health concerns, uncertainty, more free time, overwhelm, boredom, job and financial security, isolation etc.

Here are some opportunities that I am involved in that might help to calm your anxiety, support your connection to others and share in safe and confidential spaces:

  1. Embodiment Circles Online:

Since the beginning of lockdown, I have been involved with Online Embodiment Circles.  Very quickly it has blossomed into a global community online, with over 80 one-hour sessions every week.  Most circles are in English, but there are some in other languages.  Circles were created to support well-being, learning and connection. They are practical and accessible, with three sections to them.  The first is a light, non-athletic movement session (accessible yoga or dance for example).  The second, a secular, body-based meditation.  And lastly an opportunity for sharing.

In fact, this third section is perhaps the most effective and powerful part of the hour.  People take the opportunity, if they want it, to share a little about how they are fairing right now.  Every circle addresses the three challenges I mentioned above.  So, if you’d like to be with others in a positive virtual environment, reduce your stress, and move a little to support your health, then join in.  Groups use Zoom and are free of charge.  You can find out more on the Embodiment Circle Online website.

  1. Processing on the Run

I have been an active volunteer of the Samaritans for over two years.  And now, there are also a number of organisations I am involved with on a charitable basis, including Project 5 for NHS staff and Spotlight, offering coaching for actors, give the people in these professions, the opportunity to process their emotional state on the run.  This helps them remain more resilient as well as be more present and productive at work.  It also means they can transition to and from home life more easily.  And therefore be more present to partners and children.

The benefit of speaking about how you feel

Both in the Samaritans and coaching, I see the benefit to people of expressing the emotions they feel in the moment.  Before they have the opportunity to express them, they are often agitated.  They also find it hard to concentrate and focus, feel withdrawn or find it hard to connect with others.  If they have been carrying that emotion for a while, it can impact their resilience to cope with life’s challenges.  It also impacts their creativity and productivity at work, presence at home and their ability to focus on solutions.

From personal experience as well, that inability to express emotions negatively impacts your ability to create, sustain and build relationships.  All of which are essential for thriving through these challenging times as well as in life in general.  I have noticed my improved ability to express how I am feeling makes me a better father, partner, person in business, family member and friend.  And life is just more fun, and rich, with the freedom to express how I feel.  When life is more challenging, sharing how I feel means those challenging times are easier to cope with.

A limited, free coaching offer

Therefore, I am offering individuals a single free session of life coaching to provide a safe space to explore and express their emotions or to work out how best to move forward through the pandemic.  If you’d like to take advantage of this offer, please contact me here: david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk

  1. Stress Management for Healthcare Professionals

If you are a healthcare professional, or know someone in the healthcare profession, Covid Calm is an online session, sharing tools to manage stress for medical staff under pressure.  This is a free initiative, run by volunteers who are very experienced stress management facilitators.  Each 30- minute session takes participants through the A.S.S.E.T. toolbox, which includes:

  • ABC Equilibrium Technique
  • Stretching, shaking and tapping
  • Sitting Mindfulness
  • Empathic sharing
  • Thankfulness and gratitude

These are all evidence-based techniques shown to resource people to more effectively manage stress.  You can find out more at the Covid Calm website and in this LinkedIn article, which also highlights some of the research-based evidence out there to support the effectiveness of these techniques.

Over to You

So, these are some of the things I am offering and involved with that can support people in sharing their emotions.  Allowing them to manage their stress more effectively and develop greater resilience.

Please share these initiatives where you can.

And if you would like to support Project 5 (which offers coaching and tiered psychological support for NHS staff), you can donate here.

Thank you.

** Speaking about how you feel may not be your bag.  Although it is useful to be able to express your feelings in words so that you can communicate with the people you share your life with.  Having said that, painting, drawing, dance, movement, music and poetry can all be ways in which you might prefer to process your emotions.  Having done that clarifying work, it can be easier to talk about what is going on for you.

Lockdown- Resistance and Acceptance in our Coronavirus World

How are you doing as lockdown progresses?

Are you resisting the slowing down, or the speeding up, of your life?  Do you let the sense of limbo frustrate you or are you letting it go?  Are you being drawn further into your screens and out of your body, or is it the other way around?  Do you enjoy the stillness?  Or is it driving you crazy?

I am noticing a shift in myself, and other people, as this enforced lockdown, globally, is encouraging us to say “no” to the rat race and the relentless pressures of growth, expansion and competition.  It is also giving us the opportunity to say “yes” to being more present and mindful with ourselves, others and the world around us.  It opens us to being content with what we have as well as connecting to and sustaining community.  What gifts these things are.

Resistance

At the beginning, I also noticed an initial resistance.  Maybe you felt it too?  Or perhaps you are still resisting the inevitability and uncertainty of this Coronavirus situation.  It manifests as a “I can’t believe this is happening” or “What will I do?” or “What can I do?” “How will I cope?”  The tension that comes from worrying about money, business, family and friends is another sign of the resistance around having to give up control.  And frustration that so much is on-hold: house moves, career progress, business growth, birthdays, family and business events, weddings, schooling, funerals.  “When will things return to normal?” and “How long will I have to wait?” speak to that anxiety as well.

As a society, we are in pain over the loss of our old lives and the way we used to live.  Our resistance, though understandable, only leads to suffering as we grasp for more of what is not available to us right now.  Some of our old ways may never return and we will have to make our peace with that.  But, in the short-term, resistance prevents our ability to adapt, be flexible and creative.  The tension resistance creates stops our minds from finding solutions to the problems and prevents our bodies from living in peace and harmony with the landscape of ever-changing challenges.

Acceptance

But, if you can let go of the resistance and allow it to give way to acceptance, you can let go of this struggle that is beyond your power to control.  The questions then shift to “How can I make the best of this situation?”  “What are the advantages and possibilities?”  “What can I create from this?” “Where are the opportunities and how can I make them happen?”  People are adapting to a new normal.  They are appreciating that they could use their time differently.  That this way of life might have unforeseen advantages that could be sustainable in a post-Coronavirus world.

The impact of resistance on the mind and body is one of stress, anxiety, tension and dis-ease.  In contrast, acceptance leaves the body and mind at peace, ease and tranquil.  It’s just more pleasant to live through the Coronavirus experience this way, if you can.  Let go of what you cannot control, accept the reality of your situation, pay attention to your breath and notice your body.  Then, from this grounded place, take action.  Here is a video on these four points:

Here are 4 things I have noticed in myself and my community (both on- and off-line) that have come about as people have let go of their resistance and opened to acceptance.

  1. Opportunity

Your life was going in a particular direction and focused in a specific way before Coronavirus appeared.  And now, much of that is on-hold.  Others are completely blown out of the water.  Some things are accelerating.  This is an opportunity to pivot or change direction completely:

  • Working from home, shifting face-to-face meetings and training to online platforms.
  • Now you have time and space to create new projects and complete them, perhaps start new types of work or revenue-generating opportunities.
  • Many of us are travelling less and enjoying the extra time that gives to sleep longer, exercise and move more, connect with your loved ones more frequently and deeply and enjoy your local environment.
  • Old hobbies can be done in a different way now and with the additional time you have, why not take on a new hobby? Learn a language, develop a skill, try something you’ve always wanted to do or something completely new.  The opportunities are endless.
  • We are collectively taking a breath- humanity and the planet. As we pause, new insights come to us and we can embrace the potential opening.  This is a valuable opportunity to make slight and gentle adjustments that could have profound positive impact ten years from now and beyond.  Already the air is clearing, the oceans and rivers are cleaner and wildlife is safer to roam.
  1. Community

People are being so kind.  Reaching out to acquaintances and strangers to help and support.  We are reaching out to friends we barely speak with normally and building new relationships as people come together for a common cause.

We are, for the first time in human history, united under a common threat.  Imagine that?  Many of the differences that usually divide us are being put to one side so that we may come together and collaborate and help each other. Giving us the opportunity to come together and connect regardless of faith, gender, colour, nationality, sexual orientation or political persuasion.  Humanity is coming together as one and that is priceless.   What if we could keep that going once this threat is over?

This is also an ideal time to connect to people in your personal and professional networks and cement those relationships.  And, by opening new ventures, create new relationships that might breathe new life into your business or life in general.

  1. Simple Pleasures

Hasn’t life become much simpler suddenly?

We are being given the chance to enjoy the simple pleasures of life: walking, cycling, running, the natural world, cooking, gardening and conversation to name a few.  Life was so complex before Coronavirus that many people didn’t pay attention to these things.  You may have done them.  But you may not have been as attentive as you might have been while doing them.  Rushing to move on to the next thing?  Or thinking about the future or the past rather than paying attention to the present?  These are common ways of doing things in our modern world.

Coronavirus has slowed things down.  There is less of a rush.  Less of a drive to push that extra mile or two all the time.  Without that pressure, we are better able to enjoy each task as we are doing it.  Now, in the simplicity of life, there is a mindfulness that perhaps was not there before.

Taking time to notice the simple pleasures makes tasks that feel mundane when we are rushing, more pleasurable, purposeful and powerful when life is slower and simplified.

  1. Being Present

The opportunities, the connection to community and the simple pleasures allow us to be more present.  The slowing down allows us to take notice.  There is so much you could worry about for tomorrow, but you cannot answer or control those things.  So, let them go.  The slowing down means there is less to preoccupy your mind.  If you let it.  You could always let yourself worry more and more about the unknowns and the things out of your control.  But, when you let go and only focus on what is in your sphere of influence, you realise that, for now, there are only certain things you can do.

I have heard many people say that they are on their hamster wheel of worry and concern.  When I probe deeper, they say that they are thinking about things over which they have no control.  Nor can they answer the questions they are posing.  Lockdown is imposing a long horizon.  Much of our worlds are on-hold, an enforced stillness that we can either fight and know turmoil and distress.  Or let go into so that we might know greater tranquillity and peace.

So, allow yourself to be present in all that you are doing during the Coronavirus lockdown.  Allow these special moments to keep you present with what is in front of you.  Bask in the immediacy of what you are doing.  Know that there is no rat-race today.  There is nothing to chase.  Enjoy the reprieve that Coronavirus has given you, if you can.

An Invitation

Will you accept or resist?

This enforced lockdown has encouraged these behaviours.  Whether you are doing these things or not is a choice.  Perhaps the events are making that choice easier?  But never forget that it is a choice.

My invitation is to ask you to decide which of these choices will you chose to keep after Coronavirus.  When lockdown is done and the threat to our health is significantly reduced, what of this will you decide to maintain?  Here’s an earlier blog on what you might want to be thinking about when you are making choices.

When the world changes back, if it changes back, what will you commit to keeping the same?  The community?  The presence?  Your simple pleasures?  The opportunities?  Something else entirely?  If enough of us commit to keeping some of these things, perhaps the world will not go back to how it was.  Perhaps our working lives will change so that we commute less or connect more online at work.  Maybe we’ll socialise with our friends, family and communities more?  Perhaps we’ll travel less and care for the environment more?  Maybe we’ll reassess what productivity means and what a healthy economy and financial system looks like.

I don’t know.  But something is changing for the better in amongst all the pain, fear and anxiety.  What will you change and take into your new future?