A letter from LifeBuddy: March 2020.
By Sally Evans

 

These are indeed extraordinary times. During this very challenging time for us all, we may find that there is a battle going on inside our minds. What is happening is very scary; it is different, and it is alarming. We don’t know what to make of it, but the decisions we make over the coming days and weeks are going to be hugely consequential, not just for us but for our children and our community.

Maybe, we could use this opportunity to pause and reflect on how best to use our time. We may be spending time with people we love, but in a confined space and in large amounts of time. This could be a joyful time, but we may feel guilty about this. But if we are still working outside the home and supporting the country in health or retail, we will be experiencing different feelings and emotions and perhaps meeting with and talking to different people.

There will be marked differences in the lived experiences of many people through the next few weeks – try not to assume that your experience, is the same as your neighbours. But, I do believe that this is our opportunity, wherever we are and however we spend our day, to look for the best in people. For what is the alternative? To allow fear and anger to drive us apart?

Victor Frankl, a renowned psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor said, ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom’.

What connects the LifeBuddy Community, is a desire to live our best lives, so what choices do we have during the coming weeks and months? How can we live our best lives and look back on this time with no regrets?

We must believe we don’t have to be victims, but neither do we have to be bystanders.

We can share ideas with the community and with friends, family and neighbours. We can share different ways to do things and collaborate on what works for us.

We can change the outcomes from what they might have been and turn this whole horrible time into something positive. We are a community of people who want to do things differently and there has never been a better time to reflect on your life and how you are living it. We do not need to live in fear; we do not need to live in anger. But what is important is to notice these emotions and to recognise them and acknowledge them. Then decide to act to address them.

We can choose to live with hope and optimism; taking each day as it comes practising mindfulness. But what is also important is that we must not underestimate the social and emotional impact this is having on all of us. We must all try to find the inner resources and strength to manage the best we can, for this time will pass.

So, how can we best prepare ourselves for what is to come?

There is a complex interplay happening between the beauty and fragility of life. Let us all try and move beyond the thinking, logical, judging mind and into greater solidarity, courage and community. Greater compassion is needed more than ever. Did you know that the word compassion comes from com-passion, meaning ‘to suffer with’? It is rare that the difficult circumstances we face, are facing others too.

It will help if we can craft strategies that enable us to sit with any negative emotions and manage our responses carefully. Particularly if you have children. How will we parent during these times? How we will respond to our neighbours and colleagues at this time?

Be compassionate and curious with your emotions, even in the midst of fear. This is because our emotions are just doing their job. The fear we may feel at times, is trying to help us. But we don’t need to get stuck in it. We can ask ourselves, what are the courageous steps I can take to remove this fear today?

And a few tips to help with the coming days:

- Limit your access to social media commentators and ill-informed views. I know its addictive! They will not give you the answers you need, and we are more likely to be infected by emotional contagion (the negative emotions of others).

- Focus on activities that are within your control and which bring you calmness, joy, interest – why not go in search of the top ten positive emotions every day? Or bake, read, garden, knit, draw, paint, craft, play board games, bounce on the trampoline. Use this time as a precious gift to do things you don’t normally have time to do.

- If you are actively working in our Community – thankyou. We will try and support you and if you need a listening ear, please contact us at LifeBuddy.

And finally, for our children: it is important to validate their feelings. Try not to say, ‘it’s ok’, because it isn’t. We want our children to grow up resilient and to do this, they need to know that their emotions are normal. A difficult emotion (like sadness, fear, anger) needs to be noticed by them, labelled by them and called out. Only then can they start to consider how to address it and what to do about it. It is normal to be scared, so as parents its important that you show up, listen and pay attention to them, encouraging them to describe their feelings and help them think through what they can do with it. Ask them: What do you need right now? If they are not sure, offer some ideas - Would you like to organise a skype time with friends?

Everyone one of us is doing the best we can, with the resources we have at this time. Please be compassionate with others, and most importantly with ourselves. It will be our saving grace.

Sally is the Founder of LifeBuddy.

She is an Organisational Development consultant and is a Practitioner with the Association for Business Psychology.