“Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there’.” Eckhart Tolle
In my early 30’s, I had a panic attack. It was a real shock to those around me. To them I’d spent my adult life being focused, business like…in control. This control as a mechanism had taken over and so it appeared normal – this was how people saw me.
We know that control is the number one strategy used by us all at work, to stay on top of our workloads, succeed and cope. But trying to control everything can go too far, potentially creating anxiety and stress. In these times, the panic buying, preparing the home, getting everything sorted can take over. It’s something that we feel that we can control, but in an uncontrollable situation, too much control can spill into a really negative state of stress.
The problem is that none of us know what our world will be like on lockdown. When will normal life return? What will happen next? The whole situation is out of our control.
Employing a strategy of over control in times of uncertainty is unhelpful and counter-productive, feeding into our heightened feelings of anxiety, like trying to run up the down escalator.
American philosopher and psychologist William James once said, “the greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
I witnessed a similar reaction with the Icelandic volcano. We were in Cyprus on holiday. The minute that flights were cancelled people starting controlling. Calm vanished. Emotions took hold. Tears and arguments ensued.
At times of stress in my life I have found these 25 words the greatest gift in managing my stress levels, as well as a hug now and again along the way!
From the serenity prayer,
…”grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference…”
In times of stress, being conscious of our thoughts and choosing what we can and can’t control helps to reduce overwhelm. The prayer starts with the word God. I’ve removed it to make the statements more accessible for those who don’t connect with the word or principles of a “god”. So that it works for everyone.
We are being hit with enormous amounts of information and guidelines that we need to process and then respond to. Decisions and plans are changed, lost or put into question. I was booked to have a break in Rome at the end of this month, a good idea when we booked it!
Anxiety around all these issues is natural. What I learnt from my personal period of anxiety a decade (and a bit!) ago was;
- Self-care and wellbeing is a personal thing – what works for someone else might not work for you. We are all different.
If you have an iAM, use your first wave entry value on the bottom right. If you don’t have an iAM, do what works for you, try things out – try silence, action, pragmatism, humour, creativity. If others tell you how to cope, listen but make up your own mind about what works for you.
- Have at least 20 minutes silence a day. Look out the window. Walk outside as exercise if you can. Don’t talk. Try not to think, just pause.
- Take action on what you can control and let go of what you can’t. And I mean let go. Choose what you let your thoughts focus on.
- Stay in the moment – get fascinated by what you experience, see, smell and taste. Enrich simple experiences. Use simple pleasures to warm your heart and soul, bringing you comfort.
The mental health foundation has advice on their website for mental wellbeing during this time including; seeing it “as a different period of time in your life, and not necessarily a bad one, even if you didn’t choose it.” The advice includes accepting that this period will mean a different rhythm of life, seeing it as a new and unusual experience, that might have its benefits.
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