Living Through Lockdown: a 5-Point Plan
Posted on 20th April 2020 at 08:23
As we are all witnessing, COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. Many of us are starting to be touched directly or indirectly by this awful virus. We have seen with our own Prime Minister that this virus can strike anyone. Today’s post is about starting the process of getting your relationships in as good a place as possible, so that whatever happens, you feel at peace with your loved ones.
We’ve come up with a 5-point plan that you can apply to any of your relationships:
2. Be present
5. Say goodbye
We will go through each point in detail, so you can apply the points to your relationships.
1. Acknowledge Everything
While many of us are at home, we’ve got more time than ever before to experience our emotions, especially if we’re on our own all day. If you’re feeling scared right now, think about what you can do about it. The answer is probably nothing. Just acknowledge it, say to yourself ‘Ok, I’m feeling frightened, and that’s perfectly normal.’ If you’re feeling sad, or frustrated, acknowledge it and let it go. If you’re struggling to get past your feelings once you’ve acknowledged them, have a shower, get dressed and go for a walk.
The easiest way to explain this is thinking of a trip to an aquarium. In the first tank, a shark swims right up to where you’re standing. Sharks are scary and it might make you jump. The next tank has some tropical fish in. Your thoughts might go to thinking about how pretty they are. The next tank has sting rays in. Most of the time they’re harmless, they look like they’re smiling, but you know they could zap you!
Acknowledging everything means having your thoughts one at a time (moving from tank to tank) and getting to the point of them being in the past and you being in the present, which brings us onto point 2. (To read more about acknowledging everything, keep reading here.)
2. Be Present
We all spend so much of our lives time travelling, we barely notice it. Travelling into the past with our thoughts to find things to beat ourselves up with, or regret, then projecting ourselves into the future to worry, creating stress, anxiety and pain, much of which could be avoided if we simply stayed in the present.
Yes, we need to go to the past from time to time – that’s where fond memories and useful lessons lie. Yes, we need to go to the future in order to plan and there can be pleasure in anticipation. Joy however is found in the now, in noticing what is happening right this second, experiencing emotions as they happen then letting them go to move to the next one.
Even if it sounds easy, many of us find it challenging to identify what we're feeling. Since we're taught to avoid or ignore unpleasant feelings, or we're numbing out with our phone, a glass of wine or raiding the fridge, we may not be conscious of what we're feeling in this moment. Now more than ever we have the time to sit down and try to identify what is going on inside - remembering that it might not be what we expect. Numbness, listlessness, irritability, or a general feeling of anxiety are very common things to be feeling right now.
How can you be present? Stand outside if you can or open a window if you can’t go out. Close your eyes. Take notice of what you can now hear. Birds, insects, cars, no cars. Then breathe in. What can you smell? What can you feel with your fingertips? You might notice that bird song gets louder, scents get more noticeable, your skin becomes more sensitive to the breeze or the fabric under your fingertips. You are now in the present moment. Find yourself time travelling again? Bring yourself back to the now by refocusing on your senses and surroundings again. Yes, it might take some practice -so don’t give up on your first attempt! (For more help, read our "Be Present" article here.)
3. Be Emotionally Honest
A quote used in the Grief Recovery Training is “Love is the product of truthful communication,” and whether we’re talking romantic love or any relationship, when we’re emotionally honest everything works better. For example, “I have a lot to do, I would really appreciate you taking the rubbish out,” is less likely to cause an argument than “Why do you never take the rubbish out?”
The first is what your feeling is on the matter, the latter is a criticism. If you try to stick to what’s true for you and express it, you are more likely to be heard and understood.
Being emotionally honest means using feeling words to express what’s going on with you first. Another example: “I hated maths too when I was at school. I worry that it will get harder if you don't do your homework, and I'm willing to sit down with you while we work through it together.”
Tell the emotional truth about yourself and people around you will know where you’re at.
‘I love you’; ‘I’m very proud of the person you’ve become’; ‘Thank you for the sacrifices you made for me’; ‘I always love spending time with you;’ I’m frustrated I can’t go dancing’; ‘I’m scared I’ll get ill’…
Telling the emotional truth isn't always easy. We've written more about it here.
4. Have an Open Heart
Now that you’re well-placed to say everything that you want to say, listen with an open heart to what the people you care about have to say to you.
The Grief Recovery Method teaches us how to listen and comfort others without trying to fix, analyse or explain (or change the topic back to ourselves!). Instead, we use the image of being a “heart with ears” – offering our full presence and listening with care and patience. If, and when we do respond, we do so without offering judgement, analysis or criticism. Rather than telling someone we know “exactly how they feel,” we can instead acknowledge their feelings, such as “It sounds like you’ve really been through it.”
By offering a friend or family member your full presence and a listening ear, you are offering them the best support and comfort you could possibly give – the chance for them to speak about their feelings with emotional honesty, without the fear of being shut down or offered platitudes.
Learn more about effective listening here.
5. Say Goodbye
When you speak to someone on the phone, it’s normal to end the conversation with ‘see you soon’ or ’see you later.’ We’d urge you to make sure you say ‘goodbye,’ and ‘I love you’ and ‘I miss you’ (if they’re true and honest statements for you to make) to those you care about as frequently as you can at the end of your conversations. In the opening paragraph of this post, we told you that COVID-19 does not discriminate. Saying goodbye at the end of every conversation means that in the event something awful happens, you at least got to say ‘goodbye’.
Read our article on saying goodbye for more.
If this process has unearthed grief and loss feelings that you need help or support with, please know we are here for you. You can start by ordering a copy of The Grief Recovery Handbook, downloading our free ebook “a guide to loss” or you can find a Grief Recovery Specialist who can help you move beyond any loss.
Check out our other articles for help during the coronavirus crisis:
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