A fundamental human need is to feel ourselves located, grounded, in place in relation to the world around us.
To lack that can feel as though we are untethered from our moorings.
Nearly two months ago I wrote this post about trying to figure out where our place in the world is when the whole world has changed “Not Knowing What to do is Fine”
I suggested that it was OK to stay in a holding pattern until we figured out where to land.
Seven weeks on and we’ve been in a holding pattern so long that many of us are running out of fuel and any attempt at air traffic control seems to have disappeared.
How is this affecting us?
For the past 12 weeks I’ve been holding daily meetings with my network. That’s coming up for 60 hours of conversation.
Those conversations have included very practical discussions about the best way to do things: the tech, the organising, keeping clients, not giving in to pressure to work for free, whether to keep marketing and if so, how to stay visible and available to clients without looking crass and using overworked clichés.
Some people’s businesses are thriving and this threw up feelings of survivor guilt until we talked about how important it is to know that there is good news. We’ve talked about pivoting businesses, and covered rescuer syndrome and how to take care of ourselves first before using all our energy to help others.
Through all this we’ve heard how people are feeling: the inability to make simple decisions, the brain fog, the anxiety and the anger – founded and unfounded, the roller coaster of emotions that can change hour by hour. They’ve included people who feel they can only survive by avoiding all media and people who deliberately seek out controversy so they can have a fight and use up some adrenalin.
The most common emotion
What has become a common thread is that everything is taking longer than it used to, most people are tired and pretty much everyone feels untethered. Some of my clients have withdrawn from business altogether to safeguard their own mental health and then suffer from a lack of purpose and direction.
When this first started there were quite a few comparisons made to the grief cycle as explained by Kübler-Ross Model:
While not everyone goes through this exact process these five stages are the most commonly observed experiences in the grieving population.
The big difference with what we’re experiencing now is that we’re not grieving for a single event – we barely have time to adjust to one change before another happens so we end up on a roller coaster of emotions And its exhausting.
If your brain is trying to adjust to constantly changing circumstances and you’re also holding business, family, and social meetings on screens don’t be surprised that the general feeling of ‘knackeredness’ that people are reporting will be affecting everyone. This is partly due to the effect that being on screen is having on us all. What has become known as “Zoom fatigue” happens because we are not only being observed by many other people, we are also continually observing ourselves in a way that we’re not used to.
The comfort of small things
The challenges for all of us getting through the next few weeks and months is immense and one of the things I’ve found to be true is what Thor A Rain describes as “Mundane Magic”.
This is the comfort that we can feel from doing everyday activities: taking a shower, the familiar smell of your shampoo, baking, gardening, ironing, walking the dog or feeding the cat. You may not have any control of the economy, the weather, or how other people behave but you can be in control of where you focus your attention and savour the way you do these things.
If that’s all you feel you can do right now, its enough.
Take comfort where you can.
Things will settle.
They’ll never be the same as they were before but we will get into a new routine and the things we take comfort in now will most likely still be there.
Trying to plan anything when we don’t know what will happen next may seem futile but the same conversation I’ve had over the years about planning still holds true. We plan for things as we expect and hope them to be but we are never in control of the big picture. We can only work on the things we can control and the most important of those is ourselves.
Our thoughts and actions are ours, and that makes us more powerful than most people imagine.