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Building mental fitness in the new now (2nd instalment)

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

How to become a good marathon runner:

Our last online community call highlighted another common theme: No matter how positive, creative, centred, or flexible we try to be during these challenging times, we end up having grumpy days from time to time. Sometimes, we even have grumpy weekends. And if we were to be really honest with ourselves, there’s that quiet voice in our head asking the question of the year: “when is this all going to end?!”.

Lockdown fatigue, as I like to call it, is real. To help combat lockdown fatigue and grumpy days, we have to learn how to become good marathon runners in order to endure the next stage of lockdown, however long that new experience may be. How do you become a good marathon runner in lockdown and the new now? A few ideas came up, which I have summarised below:

Constant reframing:

With the summer in full swing in most places across the globe, and many of us now 3 months into lockdown, it is very easy for the mind to become fixated on what we have lost. We tend to focus more on the things we want when the sun is shining: Going to the beach, bbqs and swimming in a pool. To combat this tendency to dwell on what we miss, we need to learn how to continuously reframe and protect our mindset. Instead of focusing on what I want, and what I used to enjoy doing before lockdown, try reframing this to ‘what do I need right now?’ Don’t dwell on what you have lost. Focus instead on all that you have gained.

Building out your gratitude practice helps with the reframing process. In my case, both my wife and I would have given anything to be able to spend extended time home with our son after he was born. We dreamed of both being able to spend 3 months, but knew this would be tough in a new market, where one of us would have to get a job. We have now had 8 months with our son, something we couldn’t have even fathomed before this period. Don’t get me wrong, it has been tough but equally so rewarding. By changing your mindset to accept the ‘new now’ instead of approaching this period as something you just have to survive and get through, you will be better able to accept and reframe your mindset. Once you learn to consistently reframe your thoughts, you can start looking for new ways to create joy, develop yourself and thrive.

Beginner's mind:

This relates to bringing childlike curiosity to anything you are doing. To increase creativity and emotional energy, we need to rediscover the child in us that sees everything with wonderment and joy. My 8 month old son really helps me with this. I find that tuning into his boundless energy and laughter every morning is the best way to kickstart my day. When I try and see things through his eyes, going for walks in nature becomes a magical adventure. When I am cooking, I pay more attention to the textures as I introduce him to new foods, and this completely changes the experience for me.

A big part of approaching things with a beginner’s mind is relearning the art of play—doing things just for the fun of it. I was listening to a podcast recently that mentioned how Winston Churchill had suffered a mental breakdown after the end of the first world war. The way he recovered from this illness was by using a colouring book that his sister gave him from her kids’ collection. Rumor has it that by practicing that simple act of colouring each day, Churchill learnt the healing power of doing something just for the sake of it, with no other purpose.

Bringing your full attention to whatever you are doing switches the thinking mind off, helping you to reignite your creative spark.

Monitoring your emotional tank:

With the impact of coronavirus and #blacklivesmatter, it is fair to say we are living in a period of high stress and anxiety. I have raised this point in my videos and emphasized how crucial it is to monitor your emotional energy, especially now. Trying to understand what level your emotional energy is at, requires taking stock of yourself regularly. Whenever I ask people, ‘how are you doing?’ I get a varied range of responses. But if I ask the question, ‘what level is your emotional energy?’ I get puzzled looks. Typically, by the time I inquire further with ‘what’s the critical level on your emotional tank?’, I have completely thrown off the few people still attempting to respond.

In my practice, most of the people that I have worked with could not answer that question accurately at the start of our work together. Now that we have even fewer emotional outlets available to us due to the lockdown, we are having to become increasingly creative if we are to top-up our emotional tank.

But the demands on our emotional energy are growing ever larger, with more complexities impacting us in ways we never imagined. It doesn’t require a rocket scientist to know that if outflows from the tank are greater than inflows, you will soon be running on empty. And we all know what happens to a machine that runs on empty for too long. It crashes and after the crash, it’s not a pretty site.

A great question was raised during our focus group call: If you are running below your critical level, but still have a load of obligations depleting your emotional energy, including demands from your kids, jobs, partners, or businesses, how do you top-up your emotional tank and raise your emotional energy when you can’t call off your obligations?

In light of these insights, the focus of our next focus group will be: How to develop strategies to raise your emotional energy when you can’t take a break from your obligations; and how to accurately tell what level your emotional energy is and get better at spotting triggers for your tipping point so that you can proactively course-correct when you’re approaching the critical level.

Stay tuned! And as always, please share, comment and like this post if you find it helpful!

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