Continuing with part 2 of the five-part series on what my Cov 19 playlist has to say about thriving in tough times, I’m going to focus on three things: (1) being kind to yourself; (2) self-awareness and acceptance; and (3) taking control.
Imagine Jess Glynne jetting off on holiday. The plane has reached 10,000 feet when these lyrics come to her:
I'm standin' on top of the world, right where I wanna beSo how can this dark cloud keep raining over me?But hearts break and hell’s a place that everyone knowsSo don't be so hard on yourself, no Let's go back to simplicity, I feel like I've been missing me.
If Jess had read part 1 on perspective, she’d immediately remember that the sky’s still blue above that raincloud and she’ll see that when her view changes at 30,000 feet. But today is about her last couple of lines. The message in all aeroplane safety rituals is that only after our own oxygen mask is in place can we then help ourselves and others. Some of us need more reminding than others that it’s not selfish to make sure your needs haven’t gone missing.
Takeaways: What does putting on an oxygen mask look like for us, grounded and confined to our Cosy Prisons (a-ha)? Groundhog Day is a film I never tire of, but now we’re living it how do we handle an indeterminable number of Inbetween Days (The Cure)? Three things come up again and again in my coaching and working with people in crises. I’ve learnt how powerful these ideas are in my life, and when I’ve taken my eye off them things have got difficult. Hope some of these points help.
1: Be kind to yourself
I’ve met many more people who are naturally tough on themselves than kind to themselves. Sadly, the people who would benefit from being a bit kinder to themselves seem to be the least likely to do so. And the people who really could do with being a bit harder on themselves are the least likely to do so, until they end up in hot water and it may be too late.
Right now, what’s to be gained by having unrealistic expectations and being hard on yourself (or others) when they’re not met? My house is testing me on this at the moment. In the last two weeks, the lights have blown in the lounge, the cooker has gone on the blink, the printer’s stopped working and, as of Friday, the washing machine won’t drain. A judgemental thought crossed my mind that I’m failing on the domestic front. I chose not to engage with it. We all have that choice. We all have needs and limits, including not having to be busy all the time or to please everyone. So maybe put some boundaries in place from the starting point of having your oxygen mask well secured. I find doing at least one simple thing that’s 100% for me each day really helps – it could help you too. Today it was 10 mins of Just Dance 4 on the Wii. Just one witness, thankfully.
2. Know and accept yourself
I bet you’re brilliant and the people who know you best think so too. So play to your strengths and mitigate the things that aren’t working for you. If you’re not sure of your strengths, there are excellent online resources to help and maybe you have time to do them. I’ve found that getting the ‘must dos’ that sap my energy out of the way early gives me a warm glow all morning.
3. Take full control of yourself and your situation
To me this means accepting 100% responsibility for my choices and for what I give attention to. My career has been as a problem solver, so I’ve always had lots of things I could worry about – how to respond to the credit crunch or some other crisis, how to address dishonest, harassing or bullying behaviour by someone protected by an adoring manager, how to increase engagement under the shadow of redundancy, how to respond to a belligerent or game-playing lawyer etc. It isn’t easy – especially if you’re at the receiving end of some appalling behaviour – but I’ve learnt that focusing on the here and now was key to sleeping well at night.
Right now, there are broadly two types of people – those dealing with Cov 19 illness in their direct circle and those who are anticipating that moment. If you’re not in the thick of it, then at this precise moment the problem isn’t right in your face. Maybe, at this instant, things are ok for you. For me, the more in the moment I can be the better able I am able to deal with the problems when I need to; worrying about them in advance doesn’t give me any more control over them, it just wears me out. And if you’re not flat out all the time, you may have a chance to think about the bigger questions that can be pushed to one side as we sleepwalk at pace through life. You could do worse than read the books below.
I’ve had the privilege of time with many people going through hard times. The quicker they get away from focusing on the past and move towards a plan based on a realistic assessment of the situation, the better. Rigid or circular thinking about how the world ought to be rarely helps in normal times, let alone now.
It also helps me to be careful about what information I take on board – there are an overwhelming number of sources of well-meaning but not helpful advice. Do you sleep better after a download of doom or a bath and chapter of a good book? I wouldn’t go quite as far as Morrissey’s ‘STOP WATCHING THE NEWS!’ advice, but it certainly helps me to narrow my inputs to a small number of reliable and non-catastrophising sources. Like the NHS and the tunes below for example.
As always, if this is helpful pass it on.
Come As You Are, Nirvana
I Believe In You, Kylie or Michael Buble, take your pick
Precious, Annie Lennox, for the parents
Spent The Day In Bed, Morrissey
The Heart of Success, Rob Parsons
The Soft Stuff, Matt Dean