On the radio this morning I tried to move the conversation surrounding the Coronavirus Pandemic in a slightly different direction. Not about politics or propaganda…but with a renewed focus how people are dealing with the situation. And the tools we have within us to cope, persevere and produce for one another in these difficult times. I hope it helped some of you. For those of you who missed it, here’s my follow up blog related to the important role creativity and activity can play in positively channeling our fear and anxiety during this challenging time.
I am by no means a mental health expert…in fact just the opposite. As a Husband, Father, Artist, and Entrepreneur I often struggle with navigating and balancing all of those responsibilities without losing my mind. I’ve tried my best to embrace all of these chosen roles…but just as in these times…some circumstances add a level of additional stress that is totally unforeseen and unanticipated. That being said, all of these experiences, including the ones I never saw coming, have in many ways taught me how to redirect my fear and anxiety into a variety of productive, rewarding and creative outcomes. This blog is my way of sharing a tool box with all of you, in hopes that you might find something to help you and your family move your life forward…even if you can’t move around much these days.
As an independent business owner for over twenty years I’ve navigated through some difficult times. Not as difficult as some, but still some pretty scary stuff. The dot.com crash, September 11th, the financial crisis of 2008 and on the personal side, the unexpected death and illness of loved ones I never saw coming. And yet through all of these life-jolting events, the lessons learned, combined with the focus and strength to channel my fears in positive ways has made all the difference. Times like these have a way of stripping us of the emotional architecture we carefully construct to protect our core on a daily basis. And when our core is revealed so are our weaknesses…which also creates the opportunity reinforce that core, with the underpinnings of truth and love. Two things as an Artist and an Entrepreneur that have both served to frighten and drive me over the years.
Social media and the connectivity shared through it, has only served to deepen my understanding of who I trust by my side in the foxhole of life in times like this…and those of you who will be designated for reassignment in my feeds after this crisis has passed. All that being said, there is some really great information out there, both new and old that I believe is worth a deeper digital dive. And along with my own thoughts, I’ve included them as well, like this wonderful entry from Good Therapy outlining 7 Creative Ways to Turn Anxiety into Productivity. Originally written in 2016, this is a great primer before reading on, and worth a quick read: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/7-creative-ways-to-turn-anxiety-into-productivity-0406167
- This is the perfect time to do an “Inventory” Rather than use technology to primarily inform and distract ourselves, consider using it to really connect. Reach out to those you may have not in some time to see how they’re coping, navigating and feeling. But it’s important to do get behind the cursory, ordinary and polite responses. In stressful situations like the one we currently find ourselves in, it’s important to ask the follow-up question. To ask not just what’s going on, or what someone is feeling but also why. It’s always the second or third layer of questioning that open up the most meaningful phases of a conversation. One cautionary note, try to resist the temptation to come to a conversation with an agenda or teachable moment. Just listen…it’s amazing the things we discover about one another when we free ourselves from judging someone’s opinion, comment or quip. Meaningful, deep and honest conversation often leads to emotional and intellectual exploration that nurtures relationships and feeds the soul. But it’s important to take an ego-free approach. So, why refer to it as an inventory? Well, it’s amazing the number of things you can discover without ever leaving the house, when you’re willing to take the journey with the purpose of actually cataloging the content of your conversations. To help you out a bit, here’s a link to several TED talks on the art of meaningful conversation: https://www.ted.com/playlists/211/the_art_of_meaningful_conversa
- Clean and organize one square foot at a time. We’re so conditioned these days to think that life is a series of dramatic makeovers, whether it be our homes or our lives, that we forget that real progress is most often made in much smaller increments. But because there’s less of a wow factor (or exciting opportunity to promote to others our willingness to change) that we dismiss the important efforts in the form of the smaller improvements as insignificant. Nothing could be further from the truth. The act of organizing, cleaning and nesting one square foot at time, for at least a small part of my day, not only gives me a feeling of control, but also a very satisfying sense of accomplishment. This suggestion might just be one of the easiest ways to channel your stress. This list of 33 Spring cleaning tips from Good Housekeeping, written in January of 2020, will most certainly get you off to a solid start: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/cleaning/g3345/spring-cleaning-tips/
- Create. Build. Play. From crafts to cooking to card games, this is one of my favorite ways to channel our cocktail of complex emotions in uncertain times. That being said, the key to embarking and enjoying these activities is to NOT to focus the success of a particular outcome…but rather to focus on the actual joy, intertest and unknown that exists in the activity itself. We get so wrapped up in seeking approval or validation for a job well done, winning the game, or a perfect process, that we leave very little room for the love of just being together and sharing in these activities. Attempting to orchestrate, control or coax a moment to a desired outcome vs. taking an organic approach to letting things and naturally evolve is where it can all go off the rails. In my most difficult of times, it wasn’t whether or not the meatballs were made perfectly for the family dinner, but rather that we were able to share in the activity together as a family…and have fun enjoying each others company…even if we failed the recipe from time to time. Here’s a great article from Cooking Light focused on recipes families can make together: https://www.cookinglight.com/food/recipe-finder/recipes-families-make-together Some great ideas here.
- Prepare, plan and position. This can be easier said than done while trying to react to circumstances that can upend the best of plans…but to continually engage in these activities can be so important. Maybe now more than ever, get in the habit of writing things down. Whether it be making lists of things to complete, or making long range plans of things I’d like to do, try or achieve. Somehow making lists and that act of recording them makes them more real. We always say we’re going to do things, but often times they’re just words. Make the time to write things down, as in the chaos of confusing times, it’s easy to become distracted and lose your place. Lastly, finding the right positioning within your plan is key. As an Entrepreneur I know this all to well. Have a direction, a purpose and a plan…but be willing to be patiently pliable, as adaptability can mean psychological survival. Here’s an article from Very Well Mind that illustrates exactly what I’m talking about: https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-make-a-life-plan-first-steps-3144639
As we all look to manage both our physical and emotional well being, I wanted to mention one additional link from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html There’s some wonderful information here aimed specifically at helping us on the mental side of things related to the Covid-19 outbreak. Some of you might find this useful as well. One last note, to all of those on the front lines fighting the pandemic, working to keep the peace and maintain access to necessary supplies…thank you for your tireless efforts. You are our true heroes, and my thoughts and prayers are with you all. As always, be safe. Be kind. And keep coaching…as we need each other more now than ever before.