What can you learn about yourself from the Covid pandemic?
One year on from the first lock-down and we are still unsure of what the future holds and what it may mean for us personally. The areas of impact it has had on many peoples’ lives include, financial, career, academia, social, leisure, travel, health and relationships. As ever, with major country-wide crises there are the “winners” and the “losers” The most obvious “winners” are the giants such as Amazon boss, Jeff Bezos, Eric Yuan, the founder of Zoom, and many courier companies, all of whom have found the surge in demand has enabled rapid and unforeseen growth. Those it has not been so great for include those who have lost their job or business, the poor, the lonely and the sick. Well, we all know that already so you may ask “and so what?”
Let’s look at what makes a winner: Some of the companies and individuals whose lives have changed dramatically for the better may have simply been in the right place at the right time perhaps? Some of them, I have no doubt, managed to manipulate circumstances in their favour, even to the extent of taking full advantage of people’s fear and panic for their own opportunism. Some had a “can do” attitude, a sharp or adventurous mind and/or a smidgen or bucket full of courage.
And what of the “losers’? Maybe they have had genuine bad luck befall them, lost loved-ones, are physically weak or ill, so less able to do very much for themselves? Maybe they don’t know how to create better times for themselves? Maybe they don’t believe they have it in them? Maybe they don’t have the support they would like?
Challenges such as we are experiencing in these times can open a window on how we view ourselves and our abilities, and what our beliefs and mindsets are. It is these that help to shape and create our present and future.
As with everything in life it is prudent to separate out and stay mindful of what is within out control, what is within our influence and what is neither of those.
There is a downloadable sheet that you may find helpful to try this out on.
For example; I may decide that within my control is:
what I eat for my dinner, what clothes I chose to put on in the morning, whether I get up early or have a lie-in, how far I walk the dog, whether I speak to my friend today or leave it till I have longer despite the fact that I know she is lonely, whether I choose to “let” my husband know I am still cross with him by not taking him the usual cup of tea in the morning and avoiding him much of the day because “ I was busy”, or at long last start the new work project I have been procrastinating on. Whether I take time out of my busty day to do self-care such as meditating, working out a healthy menu for the week, reading a book, or going for a peaceful walk.
Within my influence might be:
the decisions taken at the next board meeting (if I put some extra time into researching my ideas it may help me get my agenda through), what mood my husband is in today- (depending on whether I took him the cup of tea or not!),
how productively the children manage their homework (I know that they need to eat as soon as they get in the door so could prepare some food, and they also like to offload about their day (or not!) so I can be emotionally available for them – or conversely NOT ask them how school went!) Whether the dog’s arthritis will be bad tonight and therefore keep me awake depending on if he gets a proper and gentle walk as opposed to a rushed one. Whether my mum makes the decision to go and see her GP about her painful legs.
You get the idea.
And not in my control:
How much homework my son gets set in his least favourite subject, (and yes that may well mean tears before bedtime), whether the supermarket actually has any chicken in today (did anybody else come across that for a few weeks?),
Who gets into power at the next election (you could argue for the category of influence here, but it is so negligible that I’m ruling it out), whether my hairdresser has an appointment available in the next couple of weeks (and no they don’t!)? When I can go to visit my friends and family, book a holiday, etc. etc.
When we feel stressed and out of control, (which is almost the norm for many people at the moment with the fear of getting covid, or someone they love getting it, or the impact it is having on their social life) is easy to forget what we can do to help ourselves. We can sink into a cycle and routine of survival which may involve low energy, low output, narrow and short-term thinking and helplessness and hopelessness. We may feel powerless and victims to circumstances and forces beyond our control. As the exercise above has just shown, there are always things we can change and things we cannot, and as the AA motto goes; the wisdom lies in knowing the difference.
Even if the things you can change seem very small, such as whether you eat a chocolate bar, muesli, or nothing for breakfast today, it always has some sort of impact. If you want to develop towards your full potential then your job is to determine whether it is helpful or detrimental to you. Our thinking imparts its “wisdom” to our actions.
This is where having such an unusual year can shed a lot of light on how we operate. Did we find the advantages of the changes we have had thrust upon us, or did we succumb to the negatives (and for sure there will be both)? Think back over the last year- What have your thoughts been? How have you treated yourself? Have you noticed your resilience and flexibility? Have you managed to reassess your goals and timelines and been kind to yourself- perhaps acknowledging that the great plans you had cannot go ahead at the speed you wanted, so instead, you let yourself off the hook of intense pressure. Maybe you have been choosing instead to get out for more walks in nature, treating yourself to more " me time" and learning about the thing you have wanted understand better for years instead?
Have you felt useless, helpless, disempowered or lonely and consequently not made helpful decisions where you could? Have you given in to ruthless thoughts such as “it’s not fair” or, “I can’t do this on my own- if it weren’t for covid/ government policies/ my friends living so far away/ my partner leaving me I would have felt better and been able to get it done”? How has that thinking impacted your actions and moods? It is all too easy to give in to the difficulties – in fact it is bizarrely enticing (it takes far less energy in fact) – going “up” with our thought and actions can take a large shift in gears of thinking and behaving. Initially, at least, it can take a seemingly enormous quantum leap or energetic shift that you may feel you just don’t have. The thing is, once you make the decision not to be helpless, but to find a tiny way forward and up, the energy follows. And from this energy comes a sense of agency and belief, and then more energy flows and you can do more and will get more enthusiastic and therefore do more….etc. etc.
So, when you review how this pandemic has panned out for you notice whether you have, or could still, take advantages for personal growth and self-care; whether that is in business, relationships or practical situations. Were you kind and loving to yourself- did you build on your desire and find as many advantages as you could?
So yes, whether you eat a snickers for breakfast or a bowl of muesli will have a consequence: does it make you feel happy, strength, healthy, in control of your own actions, or weak, unable to take charge of your body? Little thoughts and behaviours build up into bigger patterns of thoughts and habits through the days, weeks, months and years; habits build and without intervention we repeat the same things over and over. But we all make choices, whether easy or hard. Even seemingly insignificant thoughts and actions have effects. “The flap of a butterflies wings in Tokyo….”. That’s not to say that it isn’t sometimes great to have chocolate for breakfast -hey what’s life if you can’t indulge at times? Would you maybe catch me eating chocolate on easter morning for breakfast? I sincerely hope so!