I was hesitant to post this article because I worried it would be perceived as flippant or minimizing the severity of the impact that the COVID-19 crisis is having on so many people across the globe. But I felt it was important to write it for myself and I hoped others would find value. In times like this, it’s essential that we generate calm and kindness – and expressing gratitude is a wonderful way to reduce anxiety and increase compassion. In every situation, even those more horrible than this one, there are always things to be grateful for; there are moments and insights and changes and relationships and acts that deserve recognition for goodness, even – or especially - in otherwise bad times.
This post is an effort to shine a light on some of the good that has come from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for me, one or more of which you may be able to relate with.
Here are my three favorite things about the last couple of weeks so far:
1. Extra and Different Time for and with my Kids. After the first freak-out session (“Holy S#*t! No school for a month?!?”), we’ve calmed down and figured out how we’ll cover the kids while they’re home from school and try to maintain some semblance of work. Today, I worked half the day and spent the other half at home with my daughter and son – doing chores while listening to music, taking a bike ride to the park. Because they’ve been home with me while I’m working more often, they’ve learned more about what I do for work in the last week than ever before and it’s allowed me to share some of my professional life with them in ways I never had. Also, because we are fortunate enough to have parents and in-laws nearby, my children have had way more hours this week with extended family than is the norm - much of it at home, drawing, making postcards for elderly people who can’t receive visitors, doing puzzles and other simple things. I realize many parents are not nearly as fortunate as I am in terms of work flexibility and support. And I'm deeply grateful for my situation (See Number 3!).
2. The Professional Fire Under My Butt. A lot of the work we do in my organization involves bringing people together in groups. (Clearly not a desirable business model right now!) So, as with many of you who work independently or run businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic sent me into a temporary tailspin. Much of the consulting and training work we had lined up for the next few months has been postponed and many of the business development conversations that were happening have been put on hold. At the same time, internally, we’ve been asking ourselves … How can we help? So, more quickly than I ever could have imagined, we put together some relevant content to be delivered virtually called “Stepping Into Greatness: Staying Calm, Kind and Productive in Uncertain Times”. During the last week, I’ve had to overcome internal resistance and push myself to figure a few technical things out that I’d been dreading (and that I now realize weren’t really that hard after all). We’ve come up with a virtual series that I personally love, that I think will genuinely contribute positively to our clients and their employees; and that we never would have gotten to had this crisis not occurred.
3. The Ability Put in Extra Time Practicing What I Preach. A lot of my work life is spent consulting and training on topics generally related to organizational health and individual wellbeing: self-care, showing up as the highest version of ourselves, contributing at a high level without burnout, etc. In response to the natural default of fear and anxiety caused by these uncertain times, my personal daily practice of these things has been kicked into overdrive, with a particular focus on the following:
· Practice generating calm. Even when it’s hard. And even when I want to freak out and have a tantrum like a two-year old. In order for me to show up in the world the way I want to, being calm and centered is essential. So I repeatedly focus on my breath. Work the cognitive reframing. Repeat to myself “In this very moment, all is well. This too shall pass.” Sometimes I cry first to get it all out – and then do that stuff. Even better. :)
· Practice being kind. Even when it’s hard. Even when the person in the aisle in front of me plops all three of the last packages of toilet paper into her cart. Even when I’m irritated and someone needs my attention and I’d rather think about me. Even when I’m feeling nervous or defensive or worried. Even when I just don’t feel like it. In times of crisis, our natural default is to self-protect and make sure we get our own needs met. But in times of crisis, it’s essential that, to the degree we can, we consider the needs and challenges of others as equal to our own. Right now, we MUST treat each other with as much generosity and compassion as we can muster. Otherwise, we make a bad problem worse.
· Practice gratitude. That’s what this post is about. Shining my internal headlight on even just some of what there is to be grateful for. For me, practicing gratitude is one of the ways I generate calm and kindness. When we shift our perspective to being thankful for even the littlest things, we open ourselves up in a way that allows us to feel empathy, to calm ourselves down, to connect with others. In our home, our nightly dinner question of “What was the highlight of your day today?” has become even more important recently. In the midst of consistently scary news, we remind ourselves that there are many wonderful things happening this week, today, right now.
My hope is that, if you’ve been stuck in worry and dread, you’ll take a few moments to ponder and shift gears, even if just for a bit ….
Over the last few weeks, what unexpectedly positive things have happened for you or your loved ones? How are you generating calm and practicing kindness even when it’s hard? What are you grateful for?
And while you ponder these things, take care of yourself. And take care of others.
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