One of my closest friends and fictional writing partner is very sarcastic. She makes references to “well, before the world was ending…” and I realize that she’s used humor well to deal with what is going on in the world. All kidding aside, I have so many clients asking me, “Krista, how do I focus when I’m working from home?” and “It’s hard to watch the news.” Most of my sessions (now all over the phone or via zoom) start with, “I’m trying my best to adjust to the ‘new normal’ so I thought I would blog about how to focus in the midst of the chaos in the world. Many military spouses feel as if they have “been there, done that” and now the rest of the world is experiencing the undercurrent of stress that they have always felt. Read through my six reminders on how to stay calm while moving forward as you strive to become the best version of yourself that you can be.
It’s hard to ignore the flood of negativity that surrounds our home life and work life as we navigate the rocky roads of this global pandemic, widespread social unease, and a seemingly tense upcoming election. Couple that negativity with military spouses’ already stressful lives and no wonder we are collectively stressed and overwhelmed. I know misery loves company, but what can we do to stay calm amidst a crisis? What better coping mechanisms can we use? What will serve us in the long term? I’m going to share six tips to help you refocus and encourage you to find calm among the turbulent waters.
#1 Reaffirm Your Values
Our individual and societal capacity to endure is being tested; however, that doesn’t need to be all negative if we step back and take this time to reflect. Perhaps we have readjusted our values. Perhaps we have made health and our family time more of a priority. Others have put their energy into supporting social justice. The common theme is that the pandemic seems to be a time of reflection. It is a time to explore the values we hold dear. I have a values assessment on my website under client area; feel free to print it out and circle your top values and use this as a gauge to help you start saying no to things that don’t align with your top values and say yes to things that do. This extra time at home is a great time to reassess where you were spending your time and money (a hint to what we value) and reallocate. I decided that I prefer working out at home and didn’t miss getting my nails done. These are small “finds,” but with a little more concentrated effort, I can learn even more about my home life and the direction I’d like to move my career in.
# 2 Live In Choice
The same friend who jokes around that the world is ending said her son’s coach gave a speech and said, “How people use this time says a lot about them” and gave the team a reminder that they live in choice. He explained that while their sport is cancelled, they can either stay up late and sit around and play video games or they can get up and read about their sport, watch videos on technique, go running and do weight training, and do everything they can to improve themselves despite the world’s current restrictions. As she reiterated his speech, I was instantly motivated to use my time more wisely. Instead of focusing on what Netflix show to watch, I decided to start writing a second fiction book with this friend because I know that reading books on writing and listening to writing podcasts, posting blogs, and meeting her to engage in creative writing will help me a lot more than sitting back and watching television, or at least make me feel less guilty when I do. This leads me right into our next topic: letting go of the guilt.
#3 Become Solution Oriented
Our priorities inevitably shift during a crisis. We realize, sometimes too late, that we don’t have enough money in our savings account. But we can readjust our plans as we crawl out of crisis and back into ordinary circumstances (hopefully you are finding work). Each “crisis” helps us to plan for the next. Focusing on the solutions as we move forward can feel empowering. What will you do differently if you were to go into lockdown again? We can all find ways to beat ourselves up. I just talked about the guilt gremlin, but as we move away from dwelling on our mistakes, we can move into planning for the future. What changes feel right with regard to your meal planning, exercise, work routine, and spiritual practices?
#4 Keep Up With Daily Planning
Just because your day looks different doesn’t mean you can’t plan it out. My days have become less structured because my kids have no camp, I have less one-on-one clients, and we are eating home more often as things are moving slower; however, I still need a plan, maybe even more than when life was running on autopilot.
Before you start your day, consider making a list that has one task connected to your long-term goal, one task that moves you forward, and one or two must do’s. We can fall behind on day-to-day things if we fill our lists with goal-oriented tasks. If we only tackle day to day tasks (I do this because it feels good to check things off of a list, right?), we can fall into that trap of “majoring in minor things,” a saying I borrow from Tony Robbins. You should still plan and use your time wisely even when working from home.
# 5 Ask For Help
I ask one of my girlfriends to drive my daughter to camp all the time because, between work and baseball games, I couldn’t seem to get organized enough to not have their activities overlap. I have to ask friends, acquaintances, and coaches for help with my oldest daughter now working and unable to help give the younger kids rides. It’s something I used to shy away from but now just ask. Sometimes I feel weird that my daughter has been over to her friend’s house more than we have reciprocated, but I remind myself that not everyone has the same thing on their plates. My life coach, Amy, reminds me to take a deep breath and trust that I am doing the best that I can as a working mom with four kids. I also ask my husband for more help than I used to when the kids were little and encourage my younger clients with kids to spell out what they need help with from their spouses. I remember when I had toddlers, I had asked my husband to change our screen door to a storm door every couple of weeks until it literally turned spring out and I said, “Forget it now!” He turned and looked at me and said, “Well, you should have told me where the extra door was.” One of my girlfriends whose husband had a stroke said, “Krista, let it go; it’s not worth bickering over a storm door.” I agree, but I find that I have to be really clear with what help I need if I do ask for help. So I have tried to be clearer with him, with my kids, and even when texting friends. I find that the more I exercise my “asking for help” muscle, the more I think of ways to offer a helping hand to others. I am hoping my kids see that getting and offering a helping hand is a good thing. Have a friend going through a rough time? Make two dinners and drop one off to her; then, when you need something, your act of kindness will be reciprocated just when you need it the most.
#6 Just Let Go!
When I worked at Legoland years ago, my colleague Lori said, “Some things are
not worth getting stressed over; they are like gravity.” I always try to be “solutions oriented” when I am faced with a problem, which is something I learned from my career and life coach training. However, I also remember Lori’s wise words. Some things are out of my own control. I can try to compassionately listen to the struggles my biracial child experiences; however, there is a lot going on in the world that is out of my control, so I’m focusing on what I can. I can encourage my four kids to read this summer, I can help my new client “Sam” find a new career she will love. I can clean out my garage (okay, I haven’t yet, but it’s on my list).
So many of my clients and colleagues have said they are having a hard time feeling productive. One colleague said she was “rage baking” and another said she was physically home with her kids but not, “giving her all to work or her kids.” That is when I asked her what would happen if she could “let go of the guilt” and just accept that she’s actually doing a pretty great job at both. As a working mother of four kids, I realized that I was tired before “the world ended.” Despite the undercurrent of stress, the time helping my kids learn and work from home was a reset and recharge. I plan to try and do it more purposefully and with a lot less guilt when I say no to my kids or my colleagues. I plan to say “yes” to me more often and not feel like the world is ending if I take a day to myself to just recharge. It’s okay to say “no” to a zoom happy hour and work on that business idea that has been brewing just below the surface for months. Maybe its time to forget about what others think and focus on you.
It seems like we have all hit the pause button; but, as the world opens again, let’s rev up in a more deliberate and purposeful way. Let’s take a moment to look at what we want health wise, career wise, and even spiritually. Write down your top five values, take daily actions that are related to your goals, and seek support from those around you. Instead of beating yourself up, remind yourself that there are solutions and embrace your solvable mindset. Don’t feel guilty when you need help from others and if you find that it’s been a little hard to focus (to say the least) lately; know that you aren’t alone and remind yourself that “this too shall pass” and you will get back on track towards becoming the best version of yourself that you can be.