Throughout the course of my life I have had to work hard at something. Whether it be work, my relationships, sports, my attitude, my finances, school, or my personal health and wellbeing, there has always been a time when I have needed to be better or do better. During those times I have leaned on my family, good friends and mentors, growth opportunities, my faith, and great books. So many books! One of my favorite authors of the many books I have read is Brene Brown – I have learned so much from reading her material, listening to her podcasts, and engaging in her work. She is an amazing author, teacher, and researcher. One of Brene’s books, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, resonates with me on every level and especially during this unprecedented time. Brene focuses on many things in her work but in Daring Greatly she specifically talks about engaging in life wholeheartedly. She describes wholehearted living as “engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ It’s going to bed thinking, ‘Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging’” (p. 10).
I think this section of Brene’s book hits perfectly right now. So many of us are feeling fearful, exhausted, split, confused, and out of control. We have had to build a new normal in a situation that is not normal and that adds additional stress, frustration, and shame to an already full bucket. Working remotely used to be a way to recalibrate ourselves to a job and home schedule and now remote work has become essential to our professional and personal survival. We’re managing zoom sessions, emails, and work projects while still trying to perform our essential parenting duties, home duties, and some of us are doing all these things on top of playing teacher. Whew! That’s a ton of effort for anyone! Life looks different right now and whether you believe it or not, that is ok. The situation may be foreign to us, we might feel completely out of our comfort zone feeling worried, anxious, and tired. These feelings and emotions are normal and part of the process but even with this we can still be ok.
I don’t pretend to have the answers about how to make this all better. Like most others, I have my days of good and bad and I have moments of stress and worry. But I have found that I have been able to reframe my thinking which has eased my personal and professional burden. I am sharing my insights with you in hopes that it can help you too.
1. Give yourself permission
Give yourself permission during this time to know that you may not be functioning at your peak performance level. You have multiple priorities, you’re tired, things feel unstable, and some days are just hard. It’s ok – just accept what is, make adjustments where you need to, and realize that no matter what gets done or how much is left undone – it’s ok. You should not place expectations on yourself to behave or function as you would have before COVID-19 disrupted our lives. We are all in this situation together and everyone is just like you, making the best of the situation they are in. Be ok with doing things differently.
2. Working from home is a gift
Right now, the ability to work from home and still have a paycheck is a gift. Embrace it. It doesn’t mean it isn’t hard or that you can’t feel frustrated or tired. It just means that you are one of the people who have options and even if those options provide for a difficult work/life situation currently, it’s not a situation you will be in forever. Try to see the situation as a gift versus an obstacle. The mindset shift will help you tremendously.
3. Take time to connect – really connect
When talking with co-workers and others do a check-in and talk about how you are feeling and coping. Get all the “stuff” out. The pink elephant is already in the room. Just recognize it, make time to flush out the emotional and psychological things you are experiencing and help lift each other up. Part of what makes physical distancing so hard is that many people can start to feel isolated and lonely. Break down those loneliness and isolation barriers with a check-in. That simple “I care about you” effort will help you and your friends, families, and co-workers do better and feel better.
4. Slow down to perform better
In the sports world, taking a recovery day or a recovery period is recommended for an athlete to heal, repair, and recover. This time is used to help the athlete reach their peak performance levels in games. While this is understood and accepted in the sports world, in the world of work it is not widely accepted. Most of us don’t really take time for true rest and recovery. Right now, we have been given the gift of time. Use this time to reorganize your personal hard-wiring and reduce your speed. Maybe you have a few extra minutes in the morning for coffee and some deep breathing before you start your day. Maybe you get to take a few more minutes during lunchtime to play with your kids, dogs, or just rest. Maybe you have time for a walk each day. If you are worried about your future, your job, your family, your finances, or your heath – slow down and get some rest and recovery. You will perform better personally and professionally as a result.
As Brene Brown would say, “you have to cultivate the art of letting go” in order to really embrace all the greatness that life has to offer. To be better personally and professionally and to live a wholehearted life means to recalibrate our sense of normal and to let go of the need to control. COVID-19 has completely reshaped our world and we are all doing things differently because we must – but what if we reframed our response to the situation and decided that we are going to let this situation make us better? It really is possible.