What we do impact what we think, which influences how we feel, which affects how we relate.
The CoronaVirus puts families and systems in a tricky situation: all of a sudden, we have to rethink what was a habit, a repetitive sequence (or algorithm) of behavior that we did without thinking of it. The brain uses shortcuts to decipher the world and make sense of it while saving energy. We are wired to develop repetitive process or habits. Now we have to redefine the way we live and work together in the same space.
The Power of Habits
Habits provide predictability. When I wake up, I stretch, I feel grateful for at least two things in my life, I get out of bed, do a sun salutation and then take a shower. Another habit would be to wake up, check your phone and get a coffee. This sequence is done nearly in auto-pilot. But the result provides a set of satisfactions; one is feeling grateful, another is feeling flexible, and the last is feeling good in my skin. I have a place; I exist. Habits bring a sense of security and relief. In a volatile and demanding world, it feels good to have patterns.
CoronaVirus’ Lockdown Shakes Things Up
To help stop the propagation of this highly infectious virus, we need to stay at home. What was safe heaven might now feel invaded. We might feel lost in the now overcrowded space: where do I work out? When can I work? How can I have this difficult discussion when my child is playing loudly? All that ran smoothly has to be reassessed and redefined, which consumes a lot of energy. The brain uses 35% of the total body energy when in auto-pilot. Now that it has to crunch so much information to redefine new habits, it hijacks all the power. It is draining.
The mind is going crazy, trying to figure out how to adjust, how to run things in the new settings. But the heart also feels lost. There is a sense of panic that emerges from the idea of being lock downed, and it seems that toilet paper has become the number one provision over food. There is an array of emotions that arise from the lockdown, yours, but also those of your direct surroundings. We can get annoyed by the presence of others too close to us while we feel vulnerable. Children can get at each other; a spouse can become too noisy or demanding.
Define Who You Want to Be and How to Relate
In this unique time, more than ever, we need to be clear about how we want to relate to each other. We need to create new habits, new rituals.
- How do we manage emotions? How can we share what we feel and how do we want others to react? Maybe we want to talk about it or walk. Respect each other’s ways and needs.
- How do we define space for everyone? Where is my territory, and where is yours? How do we accommodate overlap? Where and when do I work? Where and when do I rest or recover? Use props if necessary to show you are not available. Who cleans up, when?
- How do we talk to each other? There is much to bet that at some point, we will burst. We can be accommodating at first, but then, like with cabin fever, we can’t contain ourselves. What is the protocol then? How do we share what is not working? Do we ask to discuss it? Do we put it on a board and tackle it at the same time every day? Do we have a special meeting at the end of the day?
- How do we see the bright side of life? How do we appreciate one another when we are so close, for so long? The magic ratio of relationships is five positive encounters for one negative (John Gottman). Appreciate all the little things that make you laugh, soft, in awe, happy.
- Define a clear routine that separates work and leisure. Get dressed during the week, but you can stay in pajama during the weekend. Make sure you bring cycles, some order. If you have kids, maintain as much as possible the rhythm of school: work, break, work, eat, play, work, play, work.
Trust the System to Be Naturally Creative and Intelligent
Don’t try to control everything, be clear about who you want to be and how you want to relate. For the rest, trust the system to be resilient, to come up with a surprising power to adapt. Breathe. It might be a blessing in disguise, so be ready to capture the beauty that lockdown has to offer.
Sara Bigwood | Development Coach | PCC ORSCC TLC