Control the controllables
As I write this first post it is mid-week and late in the evening. We’re less than a quarter of the way through 2020, and we’re in a lock down. In a bid to control the spread of coronavirus.
Like many professionals across the UK today I’ve been working remotely. Which has been made particularly interesting now that schools have been closed, so all four of my children are being home schooled. And apart from getting some fresh air (mainly in the garden) they are unable to leave the house due to government guidance.
Non-essential shops have been closed as part of the lock down which is having a knock on effect in the stock market. The FTSE is tumbling, as are many of the world’s major markets, and many businesses are in a precarious situation financially.
Working within ecommerce and the online retail market, I am very aware of how fragile some businesses may be if this situation is prolonged. Our initial expectation was that lock down will last for three weeks. But the truth is, we just don’t know when we’ll be back to (what we used to know as) normal.
It’s fair to say there is a lot of stress around right now. And many people are reporting that they are suffering from anxiety.
It is times like this that I am reminded of the Serenity Prayer.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and Wisdom to know the difference God,
While the events that are occurring in this moment are very real we have to be conscious about how we engage with them. Many of us have heard the explanation before that events are neither positive or negative. They just are. It is our interpretation of them which assigns it a positive or negative value.
It is not easy to control our emotional reaction to a stimulus. I know from my own experience that I’m far from perfect in this area. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be completely devoid of emotion anyway. However, it is important in these moments to manage our emotional response. This way we can focus on the areas we can influence, and make a difference.
Stress and anxiety lead to a weakened immune system, and a reduction in creative thought. When you consider that in this particular scenario we’re combating a global health pandemic, with significant changes to business and employment, you can see how this accumulation of stress will only magnify the problem.
So what can you do to improve your situation right now?:
- Get a good nights sleep – As simple as it sounds a good nights sleep will solve a lot of things. Stress and anxiety can easily lead to the kind of worry that keeps you awake at night. And you may even start to justify the late nights, as you strive to think of solutions to make everything ok. But the best thing you can do for yourself is to rest the body, allow yourself to repair, and give your mind the break it needs.
- Eat healthy regular meals – There is no need to dictate what a healthy meal is in this post, as I’m sure you are more than aware of how to eat well. In this tip I simply want to remind you to eat your meals, and maintain your routine. Once stress takes over, and we find ourselves ‘out of routine’, it may not be long before meals are being skipped. From missing breakfast, to losing track of the time and working through lunch, it’s easy to fall into a poor pattern. Maintaining regular meals and focusing on quality nutrients will make a big difference to how you feel.
- Practice gratitude – When life throws you lemons it is easy to feel a little bit hard done by. We all have that feeling at some time or another. But a simple way to raise your vibration is to practice daily gratitude. Remind yourself of what you have to be grateful for right now.
- Get up and move – There are many things in your body which simply need movement in order to work effectively. From removing toxins from your system, to processing all of that pent up emotion. When you’re stressed it’s easy to think you don’t have the time. But the truth is that you don’t have the time not to. So get moving.
- Clear your mind – When you find yourself overwhelmed with everything that is going on, you need to clear your mind. Martial arts masters know that they must release the tension in their body, and find that place of relaxation, in order to move with speed and precision. Finding this point provides the space to gain focus and clarity. So the subsequent action(s) can be effective and efficient. It’s exactly the same with the mind. Until you are able to clear your mind there will be too much noise hindering you from being productive. I don’t regard myself as the best teacher to share meditation techniques, however if you look online there are plenty of resources available. As a starting point simply find yourself a quiet space to be still periodically, and focus on your breath to center yourself.
- Focus on what you can influence – Not much exacerbates stress and anxiety more than the feeling of being out of control. In fact, the very reason that I personally embodied the Serenity Prayer into my own lifestyle was because I have first hand experience in worrying about things I could never change. Needless to say nothing good ever came from it. It is an incredibly destructive practice which can literally eat you up inside if you allow it to. For this reason it is important to find a level of acceptance for what is outside of your sphere of influence, so that you can focus on the things that you can do. Control the controllables.
You may well be amazed at the strides you are able to make, once you harness your energy toward being proactive. Something that isn’t very easy to do when your energy and attention is being hijacked by things that are not serving you. Such as negative stress, fear, worry, and anxiety.
None of us are robots of course. And none of us are immune to feeling those negative emotions well up inside of us. Through awareness though, we can learn strategies to manage them.
It would be wrong to deny how we feel though. Emotions are very real, and provide valuable feedback which can guide us. The goal is not to shut down and become an island.
Our opportunity is to work on developing our mindset. So we are better equipped to process everything that is going on, and be ready for the challenges that come our way.
Stay safe out there people. And control the controllables.
“The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master”
– Robin Sharma
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