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Finding Calm in Chaotic Times

There’s no doubt that these are unprecedented times and so many of us are feeling incredibly overwhelmed by situations out of our control. I read on CNN the other day that a quarter of the world’s population is in some form of a lockdown and as I write this, there seems to be no end in sight to our collective crisis. We have so many questions and no answers to any. When will the lockdown end? Am I at risk of getting Covid-19? Will my family be safe? Will the economy recover? Will my business shut down? When will schools reopen? Like most of you, I don’t have answers to any of these questions. So how can we find some calm in these chaotic times?

Focus on what you have control over. Although we can’t control a lot of what’s going we still can take charge of a few things. For instance, setting a routine to follow at least on weekdays can be productive. Personally, I’ve found this really useful. For a good 6 hours of my day I work like nothing has changed. My medium has no doubt shifted to online and work from home but I spend a big chunk of my day coaching clients, key workers and offering free coaching sessions to those who need them. I also spend time on my University work and research. Keeping some form of a personal work/study routine gives me structure and keeps me grounded. I am grateful that my daughter is 16, she is very independent but I still carve out time in my day to spend with her. We walk for 30 minutes in the afternoons, play board games and have even resorted to some indoor badminton. I understand that if you have little children, sticking to a routine is much harder, but this is a great opportunity to teach your kids things like routine, boundaries and schedules, skills that will no doubt help them in life.

Apart from setting routines, we also have control over things like sleep, mindfulness, gratitude, self-talk, nutrition and fitness. I’ll focus on the first two for today. Sleep is a big one. There are enough studies to show how sleep is connected to our mental and physical wellbeing and lack of sleep leads to extreme fatigue, irritation, anxiety and an inability to perform tasks well. It’s often so tempting to substitute sleep with more Netflix or Instagram or just repeatedly watching the news especially in these unprecedented times. But if possible prioritise your sleep and here’s a tip - for a year now, I’ve been using the app HOLD and it’s proven to be such a powerful intervention for me to stay off my phone. If you haven’t tried it, download it today and you will not regret it.

Practising mindfulness daily via meditation has also served me the most for the work I do. Mindfulness really lies at the core of emotional intelligence. By making a non-judgemental observation of your internal and external reality and then accepting the reality, you are less likely to overreact and be more in control of situations. The more we tune into our own and others’ emotions along with what’s going on around us, the more mindful we are being.

If you are not a person who is into meditation or simply don’t have the time for it, it's fine. There are other ways to get mindful. From my own experience, I can offer you some thoughts on how to make your runs or workouts meditative and more mindful. Here’s how you can get into your own flow state while exercising:

  • Scan your surroundings. Check in with your senses – ask yourself – what can I hear, smell and see?

  • Do a full-body scan. Ask yourself if you feel stiff, loose, tight or if there’s any tension in any part of your body.

  • Do a mental scan. Check what your “emotional weather” is like. What are your top thoughts?

  • Choose an anchor while exercising to be present. As a runner, I often use my foot strike or breathing.

That’s all I have for today my friends. Remember: just because the world seems to be falling apart, it doesn’t mean that you have to. Stay grounded and focus on what you have control over.

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