I want to challenge you to find the truth in your thoughts. Oh, but all your thoughts are true, right?
Nope. Your brain is one tricky little manipulator that makes you think your thoughts are true, but they’re not.
In times of stress and anxiety (like now, with COVID-19), we tend to spiral. You hear someone else’s fear and anxiety, and you start to think scary thoughts too. Then your anxious feelings start feeding your anxious thoughts. You begin to catastrophise and look for the worst case scenario. But you forget that you’re just imagining and start to believe that it’s all true.
Our brains do this because they like to know what’s going to happen next. But here’s the problem: believing the no-so-true thoughts can lead us to create the truth from them.
Our thoughts create our feelings.
For example, “I’m going to lose my job and not be able to pay the mortgage” makes you feel anxious, worthless, demotivated, and scared.
However, “I’ll need to work hard to make sure I can maintain my mortgage” might make you feel motivated and determined.
Our feelings lead to our actions.
For example, feeling anxious, worthless, demotivated and scared might lead to inaction, procrastination, time wasting.
But feeling motivated and determined might lead you to work hard and really show your value. You might start setting up a side business. Maybe you’ll revisit your budget and start cutting non-essential spending, or putting more money away for your mortgage while you can.
Actions lead to results.
If you spend the next couple of months not doing much because you’re so caught up in your thoughts, then your employer may not remember your true value when it comes time to make those tough decisions.
But if you take this time to set yourself up and show your value, you’ll be in a better position regardless of what happens.
Finding the truth
So next time you’re having a thought that feels scary or creates any kind of distress, I want you to pick it apart. Be really critical of your thoughts and decide whether they are entirely true. Even if they’re just a little bit untrue, make sure you modify them.
For example, are you really going to lose your job? Or is it just a possibility? Change the thought to “I might lose my job”. Already, that feels different. Because it creates an alternative. Yes, you might lose your job. But also you might not. Now you can explore that truth too.
Will you really not be able to pay the mortgage if you lost your job? Or will you just have to modify your spending? Maybe you’ll have to talk to the bank to see what options you have. Maybe you’ll have to get another job, and sure, it might not be your dream job. But you’ve at least now identified that you’ll have options. And that’s already more empowering, isn’t it?
Need some help?
This is tricky work. But it’s so worth it. Forcing yourself to work out what’s true gives you the power to deal with things a bit more rationally. But finding the truth in your own thoughts can be hard. Even just identifying what your thoughts are can be really hard!
This is where coaching comes in. If your thoughts are getting out of control and you’re having a hard time, I can help you break it all down.
I’m currently offering FREE coaching, so it’s a great time to try it out!
Get in touch and let’s start finding the truth in your thoughts.
I love wine. These days I don’t often drink too much in one go. It’s usually one glass in the evening, or occasionally I’ll have a second glass if I’m really letting my hair down! But even with such a moderate intake, I feel like it sometimes builds up in my system and I find myself feeling dragged down and tired in the mornings. It also becomes a real habit for me; even though it’s only one glass, I’m having it nearly every day and often without even really thinking about it. I just get home, pour a glass, and get on with my evening routine.
I didn’t like how this habit was becoming so strong, so I decided to have a month without alcohol, just to give my body a break from it and see if I could break the habit. When I’ve done this before I’ve always felt heaps healthier and more energetic. I made it one of my #20for2020 goals so that I wouldn’t change my mind, and decided to do it in February so I could get it over and done with. Also, let’s be honest, February is a shorter month so that might have had some influence in my decision too.
I expected some health benefits, but was surprised to discover a few other things as well.
Breaking the habit
The first thing I noticed was just how ingrained this habit had become. Even though I mentally prepared myself for over a month before locking the cellar door, I still came home and went straight to the wine glasses before remembering that I wasn’t drinking. After a few days of this, the pull to the wine glasses was not as strong, and I found myself reaching for a cold glass of water instead.
Breaking that automatic pattern of behaviour was empowering. I do not like to be controlled by anyone else. Having habits that feel beyond our control is like having a little manipulative and controlling person inside you. My unconscious booze-hag was gaining a bit too much control of my evening behaviour, so it was time to reign her in.
Learning to sit with my feelings
Our unhelpful habits (eg. drinking, eating, Facebooking, bingeing on Netflix, gambling, etc) are like padding. We wear this padding so we don’t have to feel too much… or to do anything about our feelings. But when you drop those habits for a while, you find that the feelings aren’t actually that scary. Sure, at first they are. If you come home in a bad mood and can’t have your wine to ‘fix’ it, you’ll find yourself spinning a bit and wondering how on earth you will deal with this. But a bad mood is not going to kill you.
Without the wine, I found myself better able to think about why I was feeling certain things. Whether I was feeling sad, irritated, totally pissed off, or even joyful, it was helpful to think about what thoughts had led to that feeling. In some cases it meant I could do things differently from that point forward, rather than just having a cycle of negative feelings. But in other cases it was actually just helpful to realise that feeling bad was okay sometimes.
Having more confidence in myself
There were so many points in my non-drinking month where I thought about having ‘just one….’. Some of my triggers included: Going to a party where I didn’t know anyone, being invited to happy hour at my parents’ place, going out for a lovely meal with friends, and staying in a hotel by myself for a whole weekend. All of these occasions were incredibly tempting, but I resisted each time. And each time I resisted, I realised I have a pretty strong will.
By the end of the month, I felt confident. Confident in myself, and in my goals and my ability to achieve whatever I want. Resisting a habit can be the perfect stepping stone to achieving greatness. Every single time you succeed at something, you build confidence. So every time you resist a temptation, you feel more confident in your ability to do it again. And after a while, that confidence can transfer to other things. Sure, I can resist drinking for a whole month, so I can probably also commit to a new habit like getting up early to build my business. When you believe that you can commit to something, you’re more likely to do it.
Increasing my productivity
That glass of wine at the end of the day is like a signal in my brain that it’s time to wind down. By the time I get through the glass, dinner is done and the kid has (hopefully) gone to bed. Next it’s time for my cup of tea and I curl up on the couch to watch my latest Netflix addiction. But when I wasn’t having that glass, I found myself still thinking and pottering around getting stuff done. I had more energy and focus, and it was easier to keep going at the end of the day.
Look I’m going to be honest with you – I was glad to see the end of February! Even with all these positive outcomes, I wasn’t quite ready to give up alcohol completely.
But I’m now more comfortable with enjoying a glass on weekends, and having several booze-free days for the rest of the week. There are nights when I’ve put the toddler to bed and realised I ‘forgot’ to have that glass of wine I’d been looking forward to earlier in the day. When I have negative feelings, I’m better able to stop and think about that before reaching for the ‘padding’ that will help to soften the feelings. And when I doubt my ability to achieve something, I remember that I am the one in control of my behaviour and if I want to achieve it I bloody will.
How about you?
Do you have unhelpful or unproductive habits? Think about setting a short period of time where you will resist the habit and see what happens. See if you get that spark of self-confidence. You never know – it could be the first stepping stone to astounding success. Or it might just be proof that you have the power to control your own behaviour.
If you’re having trouble with some of your habits and want some coaching, get in touch. I’m currently offering 2 free sessions per person with no strings attached, so there is literally nothing to lose. During this weird time of COVID-19 isolation, think about how you want to come out the other side of it. It’s easy to indulge in our bad habits even more than normal while things are so hard. But it’s also a great opportunity to start building your success story.
It’s taken me a few weeks to process my thoughts on the crazy state of the world. Who would have thought that in our lifetime we would live through a pandemic that would restrict us to our homes, threaten our livelihoods, and take away our vulnerable loved ones? It’s like something from a sci-fi movie. A bad one!
Like many, I’ve felt really up and down about things.
Being able to work from home every day: WOO!!!
Fear of losing my job: WAAH!!
Not having to go to that boring party: WOO!!!
Having to cancel my Fiji holiday: WAAH!!
Look, to be honest, I’m still processing my thoughts on this every day. Aren’t we all? But mostly I’ve arrived at a good place for now. I had one really bad day where I let the anxiety and stress take hold, and I’ve gotta tell ya… it sucked. I felt physically ill, I was an emotional wreck, I couldn’t focus on anything productive, and everything felt doomed. But I pulled myself out of it. Because I remembered that I have the power to do that. And so do you.
I want to share my thoughts and my processes with you, but I’ve been really conscious of the fact that everyone is going to experience this differently. Some will lose jobs, others will lose parents, and some will just completely lose their minds from having their kids at home all the time.
I don’t want to be that person who tells you to “look on the bright side – you have plenty of time to exercise now!” when you may have lost a beloved grandparent or parent to this vicious virus. I think it’s so important to try and find some blessings in every single day, but it’s equally important to acknowledge that for some people, this is not just about being locked away at home for several months. It’s about fear and loss and unimaginable grief.
So here are 8 ways I am coping with COVID-19 isolation, and if you can take something from this, please do.
8 ways I am coping with hard times
Picturing my future self
When we come out the other side of all this, I want to look at myself and see a strong, resilient, resourceful, and happy woman. I don’t want to be broken, depressed, or trapped in a heap of bad habits. So when things are feeling hard and I’m tempted to curl up on the couch and scroll through Facebook, I think about which future self that is more likely to lead me to. And in most cases, that’s enough to get me off for a walk, or into the kitchen to prepare a meal for my family.
I have been doing a short meditation using Headspace every day. It only takes around 5 minutes or so, but the techniques I have learned from that pop up throughout the rest of my day. When I start feeling stressed I can take a moment to focus on my breath and feel the weight of my body sinking into the chair beneath me. I listen to the noises around me and notice the feeling of the air on my skin or the smells around me. It’s an instant relaxation technique and it brings me back to the present moment where I can then take control of my thoughts.
Controlling my thoughts
Reminding myself every day that the only thing I can control is my thoughts. And it’s my thoughts that will create my feelings which will lead to my actions and results. When I start to feel anxious or upset, I force myself to slow down and analyse what thoughts are making me feel that way.
Acknowledging my fears
When I feel afraid or anxious I don’t try to make it go away. But I do try to think about the fear and how rational it is. One useful question when analysing your fears is, “so what?” As in, “so what if that happened? What would you do then?” Quite often this leads me to realise that while it might be bad, it won’t be the end of the world. In some cases it might even present an opportunity.
Moving my body
Especially when working from home, it’s so easy to sit at my desk all day and not move. Getting up and moving every day helps to keep me active, pain-free, and most importantly, in a good mental state. Just going for a quick walk to get some fresh air and get the blood pumping through my body has been enough to completely change my mindset. I was in huge pain with my back one day and wondered what would happen now that I can’t go to my chiropractor. I did a yoga session from YouTube and voila – my back was better!
We hear about gratitude all the time and how much difference it can make. But I’m always blown away by how much difference it makes! And now more than ever I am finding so much to be grateful for. Thinking about things you’re grateful for can lift your mood, but writing them down or talking about them with someone else really amplifies the feeling.
Look, to be honest with you, I actually don’t mind a little bit of social isolation. My introverted self was secretly dancing like Elaine from Seinfeld when we were first told to isolate.
The hardest thing for me though, is being “cut off” from family. But when I feel sad about that, I remind myself that we are not “cut off” at all. We are keeping them safe, and in the meantime we have so many options for staying connected. Messages, phone calls, video calls, sending letters etc… it just takes a conscious effort to pick up the phone and stay in touch.
Not allowing boredom
Many years ago I heard the phrase “only boring people get bored”. And since then, I have not allowed boredom to ever be a part of my life. In fact, I can’t even imagine being bored! On the rare occasion that I find myself at a loose end, I ask whether there is actually nothing to do (ha, as if!) or if it’s just that I don’t feel like doing anything. If I don’t feel like doing anything, it’s probably because I feel like having a rest. And that leads me to intentionally having a rest, or finding something that I do feel like doing (or needs to be done).
Please reach out
If you are struggling with isolation, fear, grief, or boredom, please feel free to get in touch. If you just need someone to chat with, I am here. I am also offering free coaching* sessions with no strings attached. Why would I do this? Because it’s one tiny way that I can contribute to the world at this mad time. I want to help you get control of your thoughts and set a clear path forward.
If you’re interested in this, contact me and state in your message “I want free coaching!” Tell me a bit about what you’re looking for support with, and I’ll be in touch to book you in.
*Two sessions per person, subject to available appointment times, ends 30 June 2020.
You will get through this
For some people, especially those who have lost an income or a loved one, this could be the toughest time they endure in their lifetime. Others will only have to endure isolation and changes to their lifestyle for a while. Especially if you fit into the latter category, it’s important to be grateful and be kind. We will get through this, and the world may look different on the other side, but that may not be such a bad thing.