In view of mental health awareness week, I’ve been inspired to write about wellbeing and share some of my own mental health challenges, as well as my tips and strategies to overcome them. Whilst I’m the sort of person that is forward looking and enthusiastic to know what lies ahead; I’m glad I didn’t know what was on the cards this time. If someone had told me that life would be turned upside down on a business, personal and social front due to a pandemic I’d probably have had a total melt-down. I’d describe myself as a glass half full, resourceful person; and someone not easily deterred by challenges – but it’s important to recognise that we do all have limits.
Dealing with isolation and lack of contact – As an extrovert (ENFJ personality type) I like being around people for most of the time; with some ‘me time’ thrown in for good measure. This is what makes me ‘me’ essentially. Living alone means I have to go out to be with people and get that interaction I crave. Having no one around is both dull and terribly lonely. As humans we are all built for connection – even the most introverted types. Pre-Covid I had a very busy diary with social plans every single Friday and Saturday night and group activities every day – exercise classes, dancing events, choir, coffee club. Without this in place I felt anxious and completely ‘at sea’. I also didn’t realise how important physical contact was until I had none; and I can confess I’ve been longing for hugs and physical touch (roll on next week and phase 3 of the exit strategy!)
Pro-actively plan face to face and online connection – I’ve devised as many face to face as well as virtual ways to interact with people as possible: arranging walking ‘dates’ (as many as 5 or 6 per week), organising online quizzes, holding ‘walk and talk’ lunchtime calls with friends and family and ramped up business networking on Zoom.
Loss of work and purpose – Unfortunately, the pandemic struck at a delicate time when I was in the throes of developing new client relationships and building the business; and I sadly lost some big contracts which has meant long stints of no paid work. And I’m still not out of the mire yet. This has not only impacted on my income, but my purpose, weekly structure and levels of interaction.
- Invest time in business planning and development – do the things you’ve not had time to do whilst you’ve been busy delivering projects.
- Invest in personal development activity – I’ve completed a qualification, signed up to a women leaders career bootcamp, enrolled on training webinars and been teaching myself new technical skills too.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help – reaching out to my ‘warm’ business contacts has been very helpful.
- Action plan – I’ve been writing 90 day action plans and setting weekly and daily objectives to keep focussed on ’goals’ and constantly move forward.
- Leverage your network – both to find out about opportunities but also to seek feedback, input and keep interacting.
- Volunteer – I’ve signed up to volunteer with Age UK and the NHS to re-focus on helping others way less fortunate than me.
Loss of control and uncertainty – I’m a structured and organised person who likes a good degree of certainty (e.g. to know what I’m doing and when); as well as loving a little spontaneity thrown into the mix to add some sparkle and ‘va va voom’. Things have felt totally out of control on occasions; so I’ve been working to ‘control the controllables’.
- Put in place a new structure and rituals to increase a sense of safety and security – I’ve devised a new daytime routine for the week and stuck to the same sleep pattern and twice daily exercise; created a different weekend routine including ‘treats’ for variety and fun; and fixed walking appointments twice a week (every week without fail) with my new walking buddy.
Drop in mood – Being alone a lot has meant I can start to dwell on difficulties and can sometimes unhelpfully ruminate about the negative words or actions of others. This one I find tough and it has meant digging really deep.
- Re-framing (‘Having a word with oneself ‘ as I call it) – stepping back and re-framing an issue as though I’m talking to myself as a friend who needs advice gives me a more distanced and objective perspective on issues.
- Writing a daily gratitude journal – even when the day has been really tough – I can always think of at least three things that make me grateful to be alive.
- Fresh input and insights – Listening to personal development related podcasts whilst walking is a brilliant distraction and keeps me reflecting and learning all the time.
- Meditation – When things feel overwhelming I listen to free relaxation meditations on YouTube to make me feel grounded and refreshed.
- Giving to others – acts of kindness has a wonderful ripple effect (making others more likely do kind things) and also makes me feel uplifted and purposeful.
Loss of energy or motivation – As an extrovert I get my energy from being with other people and without them it is much harder to sustain my normal ‘high energy’ bouncy state. I also find it much more difficult being creative and having those light bulb moments without having people around me to bounce ideas off.
- Strenuous exercise – running and cycling to trance music regulates my thinking and brings me a boost of positive endorphins – it helps me start my day feeling positive, energised and focussed.
- Embracing nature – being outside is a tonic in itself and the rhythm of walking makes me feel calm and centred.
What have I learned from all of this?
Well, a whole heap of things. I’m much stronger and more resilient than I think – although I do have to remind myself of what I’ve achieved thus far (especially when the inner critic starts nagging). I’ve increased my self-awareness both of what makes me tick day to day; and what brings me joy. I’m clearer on my own limitations and boundaries and when I need to step back and take time out to recover. Ultimately, the good news is that with great discomfort has come a stack of personal growth. There has also been a whole host of tangible outputs – for example: I’ve developed a website, designed a new programme offer, launched my blog and newsletter, made new friends, enhanced relationships, had many new ‘first’ experiences (running in sub-zero temperatures) and learnt to ‘take a deep breath and ride the wave’ when things are not in my favour.
I would love to hear about your experiences in lockdown and your own learning.
If you’re struggling to get your va va zoom back email me Liz@empoweringinsights.co.uk and let’s have a chat about my coaching services and find out how working with me can leave you feeling revitalised and more motivated and focussed.