3 practices to thrive in the new reality [Wise Wednesdays]
Some hated January. Some loved it (probably if you’re an introvert).
No commuting. No office politics.
But difficult work-life balance, social isolation and a mounting number of Covid cases.
The death of a loved one at Christmas certainly put me out of whack.
Some of my clients have weathered geographical dislocation, social isolation, relationships ending and jobs ending (for the best). But they felt more resilient because of the work we’ve done together.
So I want to share a few simple tools to thrive in the (r)evolution that you’re being called into including the day-to-day work/life adaptations as well as the massive cultural shifts.
1) GIVE YOURSELF A SENSORY PLEASURE BATH
A thing called ‘skin hunger’ has been described in the psychological literature as missing human touch. But it’s probably just a subset of the wider ‘sensory deprivation’ that’s happening. Being wise to it, you can trick and retrain your mind to be more sensitive to the beauty around you. Things you can do to please and stimulate your senses in a healthy way include:
· Naming things you appreciate silently: do this while in conversation or going about your day e.g. ‘I love that colour, what a beautiful smile, that’s so clever, what a nice painting on the wall’. You’ll notice a swell of positive feeling!
· Finding the universe in small objects: look around you and pick an object. Let it tell you its story - all the people, things and small miracles so that it could land in your possession. It’s a practice I learned from Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn. A paperclip is, after all, repurposed stardust born at the beginning of time. As are we.
· Mimicking natural sounds: living between four walls can be anxiety generating because of the deafening silence of concrete. Play background nature tracks like this one or quiet, vibrational music like this one, or even a guided meditation of someone with a soothing voice, while you work, read or potter about. It will possibly soothe the kids too! Tim Ferris thinks it works because the sounds calm our need for belonging and remind us of times when we felt safe and watched over. It’s probably why we play the news or TV in the background but this has obvious downsides.
· Massage your senses and your mind: you can do this with a simple qi gong practice like this 10 minute morning routine from my buddy Lee Holden (my parents love it). And if you’re into reading, here are a few books I shared from writing the Success Trap on business here and the inner-life here.
2) USE YOUR EMOTIONS AS A THERMOMETER
I know the experience of loneliness has intensified for many. And, as someone who lives alone, I know how it feels and also that there are ways out of it. Again, by retraining our mind and finding new channels for connection. For what it’s worth, there’s no clear evidence that loneliness and social isolation will affect your mental capacities in the long term. It’s likely that the isolation (which creates retreat-like conditions) is amplifying any emotions day-to-day as well as pre-existing tendencies. Which is perfect to do some transformational work and uproot old demons of loneliness, abandonment and relationship difficulties for good (if you’re interested in doing deep work that transforms your career and life, reach out to me).
· Take the temperature several times a day: your emotions are a thermometer for what’s going on in your mind in terms of thoughts, memories and narratives. If they’re too hot, time to slow down and soothe. If they’re too cold, time for a little pep talk to get going! But never despair. Your emotions will tell you what medicine you need (and YOU are your first medicine). For example:
· Avoid rehashing negative narratives: watch out for taking on external narratives from the news or people around you. Don’t make their story your reality. Change the channel if you need to even if it’s just by using the ‘naming the positive’ practice above.
· Ask people to slow down in conversations: our brains are pretty much fried trying to make sense of what’s going on. So it’s OK to ask people to pause here and there while talking but also to break out into smaller (zoom) rooms to process and digest. We co-regulate our emotions so set the tone, choose your tribe, leave the room if needed. And if you can’t change the situation, just notice your emotions without judgement. This too shall pass.
· Stay in the learning zone: one thing that does seem to protect against loneliness is ‘educational attainment’. So use this phase of life as a classroom and get curious. We’re called to a (r)evolution in our way of life and conscious adaptation is the name of the game. Everything you’re experiencing has a pearl of wisdom to teach you if you let it. What will you learn, today? What will you teach to help someone else?
3) VIVIFY YOUR RELATIONAL ECOSYSTEM
In research, we often use mixed-methods to get a better grasp of reality. Numbers combined with qualitative information give a much better understanding of what’s going on in reality. While your old sources of connection may have been severely constrained, again you can retrain your mind to weave your new relational ecosystem using a range of touch points. Here are a few ideas based on the latest mental health recommendations:
· Diversify your connection channels: there’s no doubt about it, we’re in an era where we have to mix the physical and the digital. I imagine when people started reading books, their elders felt it was the end of story-telling around the fire. But would you be better off without literacy?... Focus on the ‘why’ of your relationships (what is it that you want to experience and create in the relationship) rather than the ‘how’ (meeting in person, going on holiday, etc). Your intention will infuse every interaction and create what you want to experience. What has been found to work well in lockdown: 1) meeting in parks; 2) being in contact with nature (including animals); 3) consciously reaching out to friends and family (there are SO many ways to do this now). From personal experience, this is what naturally felt good.
· Know your communication preference: we’re all different in our sensory preferences and this may also change depending on circumstances. Perhaps you prefer a voice message on WhatsApp; or you like a funny gif. You might like to see the other person and walk around with them in their home. Or perhaps you prefer a no pressure text message that you can reply to when you can. Be clear about what you prefer and tell people about it to reduce frazzle/tension and enhance empathy/connection.
· Prioritise self-check. Take your emotional temperature throughout the day. What’s your emotional state? What are you thinking, remembering, rehashing? Pause, relax and choose a better focus. I often tell my clients: if you’re going to tell a story, make sure it’s a good one. Ultimately, the most important connection as a human adult is the one with yourself. Cultivate the most ecstatic relationship you can with YOU.
We’ re in the great reset
This was going to be a short ‘tips and tricks’ but tips aren’t my best game! The deep work is what really gets me going.
However, as any entrepreneur, inventor, creator – or anyone who has walked the path of uncertainty and disruption - might tell you, we have to test and learn.
And right now we’re in one big giant classroom (or laboratory!) Nature is giving us a big assignment in human (r)evolution.
So if you’re feeling frazzled, confused (or even super-excited) and continuing to (r)evolve, you’re doing super well. You’re an excellent human. Keep learning.
You have everything you need to find the way forward.
Have a great week,
PLUS whenever you’re ready to unlock your deeper potential and live your true mission in life here are a few options:
1. Get one of the free 3 Powerful Mindset Shifts to Turn Uncertainty into Possibility mini-guide.
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