Gain Control of Your Life During these Difficult Times

Gain Control of Your Life During these Difficult Times

2020 was challenging. Thankfully, because I have worked for myself almost 20 years, I continually plan ahead of time as finances for entrepreneurs always ebb and flow due to contracts and projects for clients. Also, the type of work that I often do — marketing — requires me to think six months to a year or more ahead of time; something that often makes it challenging for me to live in the moment (building a a twice-daily practice of meditation is helping me a lot!).

I recognize that many are now out of work, have lost clients or projects like I have or even lost their businesses, and/or are working at home for the first time. At the same time, several are also juggling family obligations and managing online schooling for children. On top of this, some of us are fighting this illness or other diseases and ailments, missing or even tragically losing friends and family members, saddened by not enjoying our preferred ways of living, and struggling with the mental and emotional strain of it all. Of course, there are countless other struggles that are ongoing. These are unprecedented times …

At the moment, I do feel lucky, blessed, and thankful. I also understand that it all could change quickly and unexpectedly. In the meantime, I am trying to keep on track with what I have learned over the years, so hopefully it can help anyone who needs ideas on how to manage during these difficult times.

In the best-case scenario — i.e., if we are not fighting disease, lack of finances, or mental struggles — we have been presented time that hopefully we can use to reset and clarify who we are, what we value, where we are going, why we are here, and how we can move ahead.

Here’s what I have been doing to maintain my sanity and gain — or regain  –what is needed now. I hope one or more of these tips helps someone:

(1) Set aside time to reflect. What I learned immediately after work full-time on my own years ago is that American work culture forces employees to “look busy” — I recall that it took me nearly five years to stop doing that even as I was working for myself and no one else was around to observe me. I recall that, when I did work for an organization, if my boss stepped into my office, I would be asked if I needed more work since it looked like I wasn’t working (I was – I was simply thinking!). Reflecting is an important part of growing and learning.

(2) List priorities and goals. Go deep — set aside quiet time and really go deep inside of yourself. Review your list and honestly answer if the way that you are spending your time now matches your priorities and goals.

(3) Keep an eye on finances. Take time to review spending and see if there are ways to reduce financial pressures that have intensified now.

(4) Find ways to minimize stress at work. One thing that this pandemic has introduced to many is how to work remotely from home or another location. Businesses are starting to realize that the old model of working together in big open (or closed) office spaces will soon be a thing of the past. Employees are starting to learn that working in pajamas is not the best way to keep focused, so they are learning how to distinguish their professional and personal lives within the same physical space. I am looking forward to this being part of whatever our “new normal” will be.

(5) Curate TV viewing. For me, I now mostly turn on my television to stream peaceful, calming music. Luckily, I’ve never been someone “glued to the tube,” anyways. When I do watch shows, I look for those that inspire me or at least, entertain me and refocus my mind to happier subject matter and avoid anything that is too dark and scary. I like to escape through my leisure activities.

(6) Read more uplifting and inspiring words. You don’t have to read a novel. Short stories are good, and for me, poetry is the best.

(7) Turn off your cell phone. The old advice was to turn off your cell phone at the end of the day, but that was when people had separate landlines at home and work. You can set the setting on your cell phone now for emergencies only, “Do Not Disturb” or simply turn off the ringer so that you don’t respond immediately. After all, we are now “trained” to answer … kind of like Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov’s research — we are now conditioned to respond to the ringing of a phone (or dinging from a text) by answering it.

(8) Limit Internet use. It is not so much as the amount of time as it is where you are going when online and what you are reading or sharing.

(9) Deepen relationships offline. Try conversation (phone is best nowadays with social distancing required), writing letters, and sharing real-time activities within safe parameters. Lately, I’m into live audio-chatting.

(10) Analyze your schedule. Could it be simplified? Reducing commuting time and limiting errands are happening already since many are now working from home. Doing chores may be an issue, or could be a good thing as long as they are not distracting you from doing required work.

(11) Sell or give away possessions. Particularly, get rid of stuff that you haven’t used in six months. I have been doing this for a few years, but I have stepped it up a notch during the pandemic.

(12) Exercise more. This is easier said than done. For the past several months, I’ve suffered from foot and wrist injuries, so my favorite pastimes of swimming and cycling have been curtailed. While it’s been challenging, I ensure that I get three walks a day with my dogs, and try to find other ways (stretching, sit-ups, trampoline, etc.) to ensure that I get the physical stuff that I desperately need.

(13) Establish a routine, not just a schedule or calendar. Aside from my daily safe-distance chats with neighbors and family members, this is the primary thing that has helped my peace of mind. At first, I struggled with the “can’t do stuff” restrictions. Then, I got too deep into my head. I finally took the magnetic white board on my fridge and wrote down basic stuff like, “make coffee, feed my dog, take a walk” etc. Now I have a routine that works for me. Then I schedule my personal and professional activities. For all, I make sure the important stuff is noted in my calendar so I don’t forget (which happens often since I have COVID-brain!).

(14) Meditate … and try sound meditation. A few years ago, I was trained to do transcendental meditation (TM) through the David Lynch Foundation. I had been assaulted, and was suffering from PTSD. A client paid for my training, and doing TM helped me get through a very trying time. I slowed down my meditation practice, but recently picked up doing sound meditation during Covid with Abigail Fischer of A Big Aum. The tuning forks, earth gongs, and singing bowls permeate through my body and my soul, relaxing me deeply.

(15) Cultivate your garden. If you don’t have one or even don’t have room for one outside of your home, grow something in a pot. For me, building a space to garden — a place that I occasionally nurture, has helped. Sometimes, we want nurturing. Other times, we just need to be left alone, and have room to breathe. Gardening helps you get into that mindset. You give your garden what it needs to grow … just as you do with yourself. Plant good seeds, feed and fertilize well, water often, provide sunshine as you can (sometimes, you need to move stuff out of the shade), and let things grow at their own pace.

How are you regaining control of your life? I welcome your comments and suggestions.

~ Melissa Richardson Banks

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