As I sit down to write this with my morning cup of tea, I have to admit that I am still buzzing from the latest instalment of our mental fitness online group catchup. I was grateful for the time and energy generated by the group, the honest sharing, the collaboration, and the lightness and humour everyone brought to the space. We had a full house of attendees, with new faces joining the group. It was definitely invigorating and rejuvenating.
Things kicked off with everyone sharing their challenges and wins during the last few weeks. The tone was set by a group member sharing a revelation. This revelation conjured up something I had read in one of my mindfulness/meditation books, which says that you should keep death close at hand, as this brings everything in your life into a sharper focus and stops you from taking anything for granted. I had thought this notion was a bit morbid when I first read it, but now see the value of it. It reminds me of the meaning behind the saying “plan like you will live forever, live like you will die tomorrow”. The sharing of this particular challenge inspired everyone to dive deeper, reflecting on the challenges they are facing, and made for a rich and engaging dialogue.
A common theme that emerged from all the challenges raised by the group was the need to better deal with uncertainty. With our members being dispersed across Europe, US and UK, we’ve finally been let out of our caves and allowed back to work, the gym, shops, restaurants etc. Dealing with uncertainty has become the new norm. And many of us are having to confront the elephant in the room, the ever-present danger of a second wave taking centre stage in our daily mental processing. Adding to the mix is the increasingly taxing safety protocols required to open things back up and keep anxiety at bay.
The fear of being forced back into our caves for another extended lockdown may be too bleak to even entertain. Can you even begin to contemplate what Xmas would be like with a second enforced lockdown? The thought is almost unbearable. And you can imagine the pandemonium that we have in store when the actual flu season kicks in. Every cough or sneeze would have an apocalyptic impact: Is this it? Has my time come? When is the second wave coming? How long will the next lockdown be for? So many questions, not enough answers.
The only thing we are certain of is that uncertainty and ambiguity are hanging over us. Uncertainty, as we have discovered, is our kryptonite and we are all feeling more like Clark Kent instead of Superman at the moment.
The intention of the community is to create homegrown solutions to help take back control of our mental fitness and move from a state of survival to one of thriving. Here is a summary of the key takeaways from our discussions:
Your sphere of influence:
We have all seen and heard the term, ‘control the controllables,’ plastered all over social media. This is easier said than done, as many of us are hardwired to overthink and stress and catastrophise over the stuff we have no control over. Everyone seems to have over-extended their sphere of influence. This has mainly been caused by watching the news on loop, and becoming fixated with the death rate in far off places such as Australia or Brazil, places where we have no control or influence over what is happening. We definitely sympathise with anyone who is suffering at the hands of COVID-19 and the death toll has been horrific. We all wish this wasn’t happening; sadly, it is happening. To then have this unfiltered news pouring into your mental space almost 24/7 is not good for your mental energy. It leaves us feeling drained, frustrated and helpless.
After much discussion, the community agreed that we would be better off focusing on our immediate pod of loved ones, friends, relatives and colleagues, and pouring our energy into taking action on things within our control and using our influence to support these efforts throughout this period. The hope is that those we support will do the same with their own inner circle, and the ripple effect spreads wider and wider--who knows, maybe even spreading as far as Australia and Brazil. Taking these steps will help give us an outlet, putting our energy to good use, and hopefully move us out of the victim mindset of feeling anxious, frustrated and helpless. Focusing on what we can control helps us move to a mindset where we feel empowered to take positive action and put our energy to good use.
(Continued on next blog post)