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May 29, 2020

How to live Deliberately

Those post lockdown feels.

We bunkered down, we watched the figures rise, we watched the figures fall. We watched the world with trepidation and some macabre fascination wondering, worrying and waiting to see   going to fall inextricably prone to Covid-19. Never before have we been so grateful to be so far away from the rest of the world on an island. This has been our saving grace.

Now schools back, traffics fricken back and businesses are slowly reviving, resetting and reinventing themselves. As I take off my dressing gown and slippers and contemplate outer world wear and hair (haircut on the desperate end) I contemplate the deeper layer of the hibernation and that is HOW to BE next.

In my 51 years there’s been lots go doing and going and well Zombeing (yes I made that up for living in a daze of habits). I feel like I now sit at the crossroads where I turn left back to Zombieing or turn to the little known right and bumble and fumble my way through the reset, reimagine, reinvent read fricken scarey unknown.

As a psychologist and wellbeing coach for the last 18 years I know the mega button pressing fear that comes with change. “I don’t do change!” is the catch cry. Change is the switch flip for feeling out of control. Feeling out of control flips to fear. Fear means vulnerability. Fear sounds like…”what if it doesn’t work?”, “what if I fail?”, “what if I make a fool of myself?”, “what if no one reads this article?”

What do these stories we tell ourselves then settle into our psyche as? Well most certainly as “don’t take risks”,  but further as “I don’t trust my own capacity to cope, adjust and sit with the uncomfortable unknownness”.

That feeling when your at a party and standing there with your mini pizza in your napkin in one hand and a glass of cheap wine in the other and totally wanting to crawl under the table ’cause you don’t really know anyone and feel like there is a neon sign on your head pointing down saying “awkward dork right here”.

That is the uncomfortable feeling of sitting in the space in between, what was and what will be.

So the sixty four million dollar question is then how to tolerate the rollercoaster drop into change and then the space in between knowing there will be another big loop coming.

People want a prescription, a definitive when will I feel better. Then here’s me from the grey world of psychology saying, there aint no definitive.

It’s uncomfortable at first, then its exhilarating, then its comforting like an old pair of slippers.  Here are a few tips for the sitting in the lumpy soup of change:

  • Catch your thoughts – check the stories you are entertaining yourself with e.g. “I can’t/won’t cope”, “Its too overwhelming”, even the old favourite, “I don’t do change”, for as you say to yourself often enough it shall be.
  • Acknowledge they are just thoughts – the brain works 24 hours/day, 365 days a year, imagine all the rubbish that floats through there. Does that mean we take every thought as the gospel truth and give it as much weight as the next? No way Jose`! There is a lot of crap that spins through that brain and like any machine it must have a filter to skim this off. That essentially is your higher function to not just accept the thoughts but catch, skim and select what goes through to the keeper.
  • Challenge them – like a good argument, draw a line down the middle of a page and pose a for and against. Imagine saying the irrational, self deprecating thought out loud to a trusted friend, what  would they say? Yes, they wouldn’t let you get away with such cruelty, so why do you when you take your own counsel? Catch it, acknowledge it as an old habit or record playing and finally ask,
  • Is it useful?- Check with yourself is the thought, the story you are telling yourself helpful to you, useful to you going forward or just plain damaging, debilitating and exhausting. Don’t allow it to remain. Shoo it on its way.

As you come out of your hibernation I wish you health and a hope for you to reset and reinvent but most of all with deliberateness, choice and kindness to yourself as you navigate the dips and loops of the new rollercoaster that is life.

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