“Your thoughts are just thoughts, and you have the power to change them.” —Louise Hay
There are essentially two kinds of change, planned and unplanned. Planned change is a conscious choice or decision. This may include deciding to get married, have children, or obtain your driver’s licence. Unplanned change is an unexpected event or consequence of a circumstance. For example an accident, divorce, or an illness. Sometimes though, the unthinkable can happen. The COVID-!9 pandemic is a sound example of this. Many of us understood that another pandemic could happen, however many of us never thought it would happen. In a nutshell: COVID-19 is unplanned change on steroids. Now no matter who you are, or where you live, on some level, everything seems upside down, not right-side up.
Unfortunately, rapid unplanned change such as a pandemic can also bring with it prolonged uncertainty. When this happens, it is normal to have difficulty seeing the upside of things. This is because as humans we tend to focus our time and energy on what we don’t have, rather than on what we do have. We are grieving the way things used to be (loss) and are fearful about what may, or may not, happen in the future (anxiety). Some anxiety is useful because it helps us initiate strategies like social distancing to reduce risk and keep ourselves safe. Conversely, if we let it, sadness, fear, and anxiety can quickly become panic and cast a stranglehold on our ability to cope and move forward through uncertain times.
Mastering the art of positive thinking when you don’t know what the next five minutes might bring can be challenging. However, research has shown that positive thinking gives us an extreme advantage during times of extreme stress. Just like we put those cases of water and week’s worth of groceries in the pantry, having a healthy mindset during uncertain times is emergency preparedness for our minds. A positive perspective during prolonged uncertainty can also make the difference between having a super-awesome life, or a super-rotten one, while massive upheaval plays out.
The question then becomes when the unexpected occurs, how do we successfully navigate change so we can stay positive, move forward, and land butter-side up during uncertain times?
Accepting that change is happening, especially during uncertain times, is the first step towards developing a more positive mindset and successfully navigating change. To move forward, not backward, one has to try and accept change, not resist or deny it. Accepting change has occurred does not mean that you have to like what is happening. Rather, it is the willingness to accept a change that can help you become a more flexible thinker and be better prepared to handle situations as they happen.
Focus on Your Basic Needs
How many people have you heard say “I Hate Change”? That’s because most people do- particularly the unexpected kind. When you can, eat healthy foods and rest more than you think you need to. Turn your living space into your personal sanctuary. Exercise outside when you can and enjoy the sunshine, safely. Taking care of yourself will help you take care of everyone, and everything else.
Reduce Fear With Outside In Thinking
Outside-in thinking is looking at your life as an observer rather than as a participant. This helps us take the emotionality out of situations such as fear and sadness so we can see the big picture, find clarity of thought, and identify what we can control, and not control. Outside-in thinking reinforces acceptance, reduces fear, and helps you find the upside when you need it. For example, with COVID-19, many people have, or will, experience an unforeseen employment interruption such as a layoff or job loss. Some individuals will choose to view this unplanned change as an opportunity to pause, reflect, and re-evaluate their futures. Consequently, outside-in thinking can empower us to see and explore options, and discover opportunities amidst a crisis.
Mindfulness supports you to navigate the journey. Taking things one day at a time, and staying in the present, can help reduce depression about the past and anxiety about the future, especially with a situation like a pandemic that brings with it loss and grief. Take time out each day to clear your mind and just be, even for five minutes. This exercise will help you set your compass for the day.
Be Kind & Practice Gratitude
Start each day with intention and gratitude. There is always something to be thankful for, even if it is as simple as you are still breathing today, you have food to eat, and you are healthy. We cannot control what happens during times of prolonged uncertainty, but we can control our reaction to events. Recognize that despite life’s challenges, you can manage how your day will unfold. Our intention creates our reality and gratitude illuminates the path by helping us stay positive. Treating others with respect and kindness, volunteering, keeping a gratitude journal, or bringing over a meal to someone who is alone are some simple, and wonderful ways to be kind practice gratitude.
Develop New Routines & Rituals
Try to separate and acknowledge weekdays from the weekends. Have a date night and get dressed up for dinner, schedule a virtual family Sunday dinner, or make one night a family game night. Develop an exercise routine, time for online learning, and free time. Having schedules and routines will help things seem more right side up than upside down.
Social distancing does not have to include social isolation. Even though you cannot be physically present with friends and family, you can still connect, reconnect and stay involved with people who love and encourage you via telephone, internet, letters, email, or text. Let the people in your life, near or far, remind you just how awesome you are. If the people around you are not amazing and do not love and encourage you, consider if you should be sharing time with this person or group. Anyone who makes you feel anything less than wonderful may not deserve to be a part of your life. Joining online courses and virtual Meet Up groups are healthy ways to meet like minded people and stay socially connected.
Have Fun In Your Own Space & Recognize Your Accomplishments
When we are stressed, we often try to lose ourselves with other activities such as work. Find time to bring balance to your life and enjoy things like chatting with friends via the internet, trying a new recipe, taking an online course, watching a funny movie, or reading a book that inspires you. Give yourself an attaboy/girl note every day and congratulate yourself. For example, how well you handled a situation, that you cleaned the house, exercised, made a great dinner, got your work done, spent a fun afternoon with your children. Anything that will make you smile!
To help you “tone up” your positive thinking, try including positive affirmations in your daily routine. For example, you can say the following sentences together, or focus on them separately: …I am choosing to think more positively… I am in charge of how I feel today and I am choosing happiness…I am choosing to act and react more positively in challenging situations… I have the power to create change. Our thoughts are powerful things. Living intentionally, and being mindful of what you think, feel and want will help your life reflect this.
Don’t count the days, make the days count." —Muhammed Ali
Keep The Faith
No matter if you are spiritual, religious, or none of the above, having faith and believing that everything will be okay is an integral part of successfully navigating change. Sometimes the best thing you can do is not think, not wonder, not imagine, and not obsess. Just breathe, have faith and believe that everything will work out as it should. Being an open, flexible thinker and maintaining a positive mindset will not only attract more brightness into your life, it can help you successfully handle and navigate change and create your super-awesome storyline—no matter what the situation.
Copyright©2020 by Jane Enright