Looking after yourself and others in times of crisis
“It is not what happens that is important, it is the space we bring to what happens that truly matters.”
Bringing more space to what’s happening right now, given the majority of the world is practicing physical distancing and confined to their homes, sounds quite ironic. Beyond the literal sense, these words are an invitation to create more space in your heart for what you might be trying to resist: the emotions, the unknown, the consequences. It’s going to take time to adjust and it’s ok. It’s not about figuring it all out, it’s about journeying through the crisis, one day at a time, with the intention to emerge on the other side with more tools in your toolbox to navigate the winds of life.
There are multiple ways in which you can call on your resourcefulness, optimism and calm to ride out the storm. I’m offering a few options below. I hope you find something that resonates. My intention is not to add more stuff on your “to-do” list, but give you options to keep helplessness at bay. Forget about the one way, the right way, the best way to respond to the challenges. Find what suits you now, maybe just one thing to start with. It could make a world of difference to how you feel.
- “When you wish you could turn off the pain, tune into it instead”: This short video from Marie Forleo on how to turn negative vibes into positive fuel, is gold. In it, she describes a technique borrowed from Buddhist monks, called Tonglen, a quick and powerful way to soften our hearts in moments of crisis.
- In her interview on the Low Tox Life Podcast, Dr Joan Rosenberg shares how to deal with negative emotions as they arise and diffuse anxiety in 90 seconds tops.
- Box Breathing is one of my favourite ways to nip anxiety in the bud and calm the nervous system down. It’s a fast and easy technique that is simple to teach to kids as well.
- The incredible author and mama Amy Taylor Kabbaz, turned her acclaimed Happy Mama Movement podcast into a Calmcast in order to support her community of mothers with young children during these challenging times.
KEEP YOUR BODY STRONG
- I love this quote by Michael Pollan and I think we would all be quite wise to live by it, now and in the future: “Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.” Quality food is the foundation of good health. Eat fresh produce to bring in a variety of nutrients in your diet.
- I highly recommend you download the free immune health plan eBook from Georgia Harding, an awesome Naturopath who has tons of easy and nutritious recipes on her website, to keep your body strong and healthy. Another great resource is this blog post from Alexx Stuart with the everyday antivirals you can add to your meals.
- Movement is another important foundation of a strong body. A lot of gyms and pilates/yoga studios are offering their classes online. The 4 minute workout by Zach Bush MD is excellent, short and can be done pretty much anywhere. It will get your heart race up and your muscles working efficiently. It’s also a great way to incorporate active breaks throughout your day. My favourite for a gentle home workout is Yoga with Adriene – you can even get the whole family involved or try Cosmic Kids Yoga for little ones.
RAISE YOUR VIBRATION
- Yes, community spirit will come alive during these times! I’ve been ramping up the virtual catch ups with friends and family via Skype, Face Time, Zoom, checking in on everyone I think of by sending loving vibes via messages and emails. We need this more than ever to keep our spirit strong.
- Another way to raise your vibration is to LAUGH! I know you may think “easier said than done” but if you can add sprinkles of laughter throughout your day, your mood and your mindset will benefit greatly. There are tons of funny memes and videos circulating the web right now, but you could also make your own…there’s nothing like making fun of yourself to release some pressure!
- For a step-by-step method, check out The Broad Place High Vibe Program for Challenging Times an initiative launched by meditation teacher Jacqui Lewis. She created this complimentary program specially to help people deal with the current world crisis from a calm and centred place.
NURTURE YOUR MIND
I’m a big fan of meditation but if the word sends shivers down your spine, feel free to jump to the next section straight away. If you’ve always wanted to give it a try or perhaps had a few “stop/start” episodes with it, please read on. Meditation is an incredible way to lower your stress levels, experience more clarity and creativity and even build a stronger immune system. Who doesn’t need more of that? Some options to explore:
- the amazing 8 week mindfulness program online with Rod Francis, Head of Coaching Faculty at the Human Potential Institute. Rod has trained with Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program.
- Oprah and Deepak 21 day meditation challenge is a great way to get some momentum going when you start. It comes with daily guided meditations, lots of resources as well as journaling prompts for deep self-reflection.
- Belinda Davidson’s Guided Chakra Cleanse meditation will help you rebalance your energy centres while you meditate. I just read a lovely suggestion she made recently: to visualise being in nature. In her words: “If you can’t get your nature fix because you’re in isolation, visualise being in nature. Your brain doesn’t know the difference anyway!” Whether it’s the forest, the beach or the mountains, turn your visualisation into a family game where everyone gets to unleash their imagination!
- Meditating to the sound of music is rather powerful and Sacred Acoustics is a great resource for that. Each recording includes different types of beats that gently draw your brain into a meditative state.
- And of course, there’s a plethora of apps out there, my top three: Headspace, Smiling Mind or Plum Village.
SUPPORT YOUR CHILDREN
Once you’ve put your oxygen mask on with the techniques above, you’ll be better equipped to bring presence and comfort to your loved ones.
- If you’re juggling working from home and home schooling / entertaining your children, make sure you start by giving yourself some slack…it’s probably an arrangement that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy! Take time to find your groove and to bring back a sense of structure to your days. If you know that your children thrive on routines, try to invent a new routine that takes into account your new circumstances. The key word here is FLEXIBILITY: maybe it’s with screen time, maybe it’s with tidiness. Perfection isn’t generally useful to live by, and even less so right now.
- It can be challenging for some of us to find the right words to talk to our kids about what’s going on in the world right now. This a great interview with child psychologist, Dr. Dawn Huebner, where she gives tips on how to talk to children about Coronavirus (her tips start at 7’55). Dr Dawn says: “Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover from adversity. It is an important predictor of health and wellbeing. By exposing children to measured bits of real-world events and helping them process their thoughts and feelings you’re helping them build this crucial skill. (…) Together you can consciously decide to face adversity with optimism and love.” The steps that she shares are applicable to any sensitive topic we need to cover with young ones.
- Mindfulness is a fantastic way to equip your children with tools they can use to manage their feelings and emotions ongoingly. With my daughter I use the Mindful Games activity cards with plenty of choice for all ages. A favourite one is the “5 senses” exercise, to ground in the present moment: take a moment to identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. The authors of these cards both have wonderful resources on their respective websites: Annaka Harris provides free guided meditations for children and Susan Kaiser Greenland has a whole section dedicated to mindfulness videos and audios for children.
LEARN TO RISE
In her book, Dare to Lead, Brenee Brown introduces four steps to becoming a better leader, personally and professionally, a skill that we all need to sharpen strongly as we navigate these murky waters. The last step is “learning to rise”, another way to say: “becoming resilient”. Try this 3-step exercise (when you learn how to do it for yourself, you can facilitate the process for others around you too):
- Reckoning: this phase is about self-awareness. Label the challenge and the emotions. Don’t dismiss what you feel but at the same time acknowledge that you don’t need to let your emotions take over the steering wheel.
- Rumble: writing is powerful. Write out the story you’re telling yourself and how it affects your behaviour. Get the ugly feelings you feel out on the page and don’t censor yourself.
- Revolution: decide what you can do differently, ask yourself what you can learn. What is one step you can take to help shift your perspective? Right now, it may be to stop looking at the news 100 times a day for example.
When you’ve allowed time to slow down, at least for a little while, consider taking a moment to reflect on these questions.
What do you and your family need most right now? How can you create more space in your heart for what is there? How can you reinvent a sense of community in your home, at work, in your neighbourhood? How can you use your situation as a catalyst for transformation?
I hope these suggestions will help you feel more equipped to deal with your unique situation. Challenging times present opportunities: to slow down and shift our focus, to find creative solutions, to become more compassionate and to look out for each other. In each of these elements lies an opportunity for growth and transformation. If you need help to navigate these changing times, please reach out. I’m here to help you.
About the Author: Elise Clement’s mission is to enable you to reach your full potential. She has a special interest in supporting women through life transitions, both personal and professional: whether it’s going through a career change, navigating the challenges of motherhood, or any other turning point that requires facing important questions, taking perspective and moving forward with confidence.