I guess you like many people at the moment are facing some challenges as a result of Covid-19. Whether it is concern about loved ones, supporting your children’s learning, getting enough exercise, feeling stressed or even confused and indecisive, just know you are not alone. I know that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier.
It can be hard to remember that it’s natural to have obstacles crop up from time to time, and yes, this is a somewhat more significant obstacle than normal (whatever normal is). Everyone has setbacks, disappointments, and tough times. But going through a rough patch doesn’t have to spoil your life.
The key to thriving in the face of adversity is how you respond to the obstacles in your path. So you allow yourself to learn from this event, as they say, it would be a shame to waste a crisis.
Here are 4 suggestions to help you ride through and come out on top.
1. Decide to welcome the obstacle
If you’re having a tough time, it can be easy to feel helpless, even that you’re a victim.
So it is your choice to rise to the challenge and decide that you won’t be overwhelmed. The first step in overcoming any obsctacle, is choosing to identify, take control and embrace your challenge. I know the idea of embracing Covid-19 sounds weird, but that is not really the challenge. The problem is your response to that thing - Covid-19 - outside you. This is were ‘identify’ comes from, what are you feeling: fear, confusion, uncertainty, sadness or something else, only you know. Once you identify your feeling, your response, then you can look your obstacle square in the face and resolve to meet it.
2. Be okay with discomfort
The proof that you’re embracing your obstacle is acknowledging it doesn’t feel good. It can feel uncomfortable, heavy, even painful. There are lots of life experiences that hurt at the time but end up being for your best and highest good. From marathon training to going to the dentist to public speaking, even facing your debtors, you feel so much better once you’ve encountered the worst. Remember it won’t last forever. Don’t shrink from the bad feelings, learn from them and build your resilience. You can ride them out!
3. Make sure you have a support team
You don’t have to face your obstacles alone, and this means you ask for help, support or an ear to listen to you. It can make all the difference to have people around you who are supportive, who’ll stick by you and cheer you on when you want to give up.
If you have a cheer squad, you’ll find that extra level of energy to help get you through. And when you reciprocate and are there for your family, friends and colleagues when they’re facing their challenges, you’ll feel so good about yourself. Once you’re part of a team who have each other’s backs, none of you will have to face life’s ups and downs alone. You’ll fight together and celebrate success together.
4. Be grateful for your obstacles
Feeling gratitude for the challenges in life might sound counter-intuitive. But think about it. Accepting the challenge, resolving to meet it head-on, and overcoming it makes you a better, stronger person. Think of how good it feels to deal with a problem and solve it. To face fear and overcome it or simply let it go.
Without obstacles in your life, you would not grow and learn and become even more of who you are. Obstacles, even this current one, are a natural, regular (well hopefully irregular) part of living your authentic learning life.
A question for you
Which one of these suggestions is most useful for you?
If you find yourself getting distracted and losing focus it is probably happening without you knowing how it is happening. If you don't know the process, it is challenging to do anything about it. Discover how you do it.
If you find yourself getting distracted and losing focus take the time to write down what you are thinking that takes you away from the moment (the now). The process of doing this helps you step outside yourself and observe what is really going on. It may be a worry, stress, fear or the situation.
Whatever is disrupting your thoughts or actions needs to be written down because when you write it down, it requires that you label it, by labelling it you make it more specific which can reduce the distracting thoughts power to return again and again. You can then work out how to deal with them so that those thoughts no longer affect you.
Three suggestions for you to experiment with:
Now you may be thinking to yourself that this process just magnifies the problem, but if you do nothing, nothing will shift and you will continue as before. So go on, give it a go.
If you want to create the habit of eating mindfully, it is first useful to recognise the benefits of habits. Habits are fantastic. Your habits require very little energy. They increase your efficiency leaving space in your brain for the parts of your day that require you engage your brain and think carefully and purposefully. A habit is something that you do automatically a bit like the Nike slogan you “Just do it”.
So just think for a moment; it is the morning and you leave the house, jump into your car and drive away without thinking. Instead you think about your day ahead, you do a bit of planning and maybe even plan the dinner. How much are you thinking about changing gears, indicating or anything else. Do you need to think about driving? No! Now say it with me - you just do it.
As you can guess, creating the habit of mindfulness requires practice - just like you did when you learned to drive a car - so you get into the ‘just do it’ habit of it.
Now you may be thinking to yourself; sure, but how can you remember to practice in your already hectic life. Well one method is to choose to eat mindfully. The reason this is so useful is because it is something you do every day, more than once a day and so you get multiple opportunities to practice. Even if you don’t remember every time in the beginning, you can always decide to let that go and decide you’ll eat mindfully the next time.
Each time you go to eat, take a breath in and let it all the way out. Now stop, look at your food, its colour, shape, arrangement and all the little details that you normally overlook. Now breathe in the aroma and become aware there is more than one and they are complex. Be like a wine connoisseur identifying as many different scents as you can and describe them to yourself.
Now you are ready to take your first bite, notice the texture and the different areas of your mouth where the flavours develop. Take your time chewing slowly while you eat, become aware how you move the food in you mouth with your tongue and the resistance between your teeth. You will discover you enjoy your food more. You’ll experience the full taste of what you are eating. This also helps you eat less because your brain will have the opportunity to register when you are full.
Eating mindfully give you a little oasis of calm two or three times a day. It helps you slow down and gives your body the chance to relax before the next thing and as you know well there is always a next thing.
Are you ready to experiment with eating mindfully? Let me know how you get on.
Some people assume mindfulness is something you do away from work, in your spare time. But have you ever considered what working mindfully could do for your working day? Working mindfully means paying full attention to the task at hand, whether it is writing an email, attending a meeting, strategy planning or any one of the other myriad tasks that comprise your working day.
Multi-tasking is a fallacy:
What is multi-tasking? It is jumping from this to that without really paying attention to any of those shiny attractive tasks. It is a huge time waster because each time you switch tasks your brain has a lot to do to re-orient itself, it requires effort, you may not be aware of it, but it drains your mental energy ultimately reducing your productivity.
So instead of trying to do more than one thing at a time in order to feel productive, focus purely on one task. This not only helps increase productivity but it also ensures that you are focused on what you are doing at that moment. You’ll be able to apply all your senses to what you are doing, heightening the experience and putting yourself in the moment. You may find it useful to set a time limit for each task allowing you to move on. Something to experiment with?
Give yourself a break:
Spend at least 5 minutes every day doing absolutely nothing. This will help you clear your mind and relax. You can do this anywhere. Simply stop doing whatever you are involved in and do nothing. Clear your mind and focus on what is happening at that moment. Use all of your senses to experience it:
You might even find it beneficial to take a 1 or 2 minute break between tasks to really let go the last task and bring your whole self and focus to the next one. Why not give it a go?
If you would like to know more you might find this book of value:
Mindfulness at Work: How to Avoid Stress, Achieve More and Enjoy Life!
Or this TedTalk may give you some ideas for your work.
How do you plan to work mindfully? Let me know in the comments.
Julie Silfverberg has worked in the field of personal and professional development for more than 20 years. She works with a diverse and exciting group of people. Each with their own unique talents and potential.