There’s a country music song by Rodney Atkins that says, “When you’re going through hell, just keep going…” I’m thinking of that this morning as I’ve been reading piece after piece about how the pandemic is dragging on, and the toll that’s taking on people. So today we’ll be looking at how you can keep on going, despite the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic.
I’ve been reading article after article recently about how the pandemic is dragging on and the impact that’s having on everyone. With the slow vaccine rollout and the new viral variants, people are starting to “hit the wall” — feeling sad, depressed, even despair. The pandemic feels endless — and that’s leading to a kind of hopelessness, and a big loss of energy. Maybe you’ve been experiencing that. I know in our household, we’ve taken turns feeling that way.
I think at the heart of it is the sense of uncertainty. We don’t know whether the vaccines will be enough. We don’t know what our new normal will look like. We don’t know when we can shift to that new normal. We’ve been in the state of flux for a very long time – nearly a year now.
The human brain simply doesn’t like uncertainty, certainly not at the scale we’ve been facing. We like to know what’s going to happen. We like to be prepared and ready. Because of that, often when we’re facing uncertainty, our minds will make up negative predictions about what could happen. We start to imagine worst-case scenarios about how things could unfold. We do so that we can prepare. But those negative predictions come at a cost. Focusing on the worst-case scenarios keeps us on high alert. We respond to those stories, and feel the stress of them as if they’re happening. Over time, that becomes exhausting, as many of us are finding.
In some ways, it’s an unnecessary exhaustion. The reality is that most of the time our worst-case stories don’t actually come true.
Moreover, as much as we like to think we can plan and prepare for the future, the truth is that we’re ALWAYS living in uncertainty. Talk to anyone who’s lost a loved one to an unexpected illness or an accident, and you’ll be reminded that nothing is certain. We have no idea what’s really going to happen tomorrow. All of our plans are written in sand, vulnerable to being washed away by the tide.
That means we ALREADY KNOW how-to live-in uncertainty. We’re making our way through it every single day, whether we realize it or not. So, this period isn’t necessarily different – except that the uncertainty is staring us in the face, rather than buried below the surface, breaking the illusion that we can plan ahead.
Given that, this is a great opportunity to learn about yourself and how you cope with apparent uncertainty. It’s a great opportunity to build resilience and flexibility. And now that we’re nearly a year in, the best part is that you’re already doing it! This isn’t a new quest. You’ve been at it for a while. So now you can take stock, see what you’ve learned so far and adjust, as needed.
My guess is that no matter what your average daily experience, you’ve already had some successes. You’ve found ways to get out of bed in the morning. You’ve found ways to be productive. You’ve found ways to work creatively with other people, even if you’re not in the same place. You’ve found ways to blend your family and work lives, even in the face of new demands.
This is a great time to reflect on and appreciate that progress. Really notice all the solutions you’ve already found. Celebrate the ways you’ve made the most of this situation. Acknowledge the flexibility and resilience you’ve already developed. Give yourself a moment now to take a deep breath and focus on that.
Even if it feels like you’ve been slogging along, doing what needs to be done, take a moment now to put that into context and see it for the win that it is.
Then, for the bits that aren’t working the way you want them to, or the strategies that are starting to give out, it’s time to experiment with some new approaches.
If you’re feeling sluggish, do some experiments to see what gives you more energy. Play with new versions of movement and exercise. Try out new eating or sleeping habits. If your mind is unsettled, unhappy or anxious, experiment with changing your thought patterns, your focus, or some of the beliefs you’re holding about yourself or the situation. Maybe try meditating, breathing exercises, journaling. Try focusing on gratitude or progress or what’s going well in your life. If you feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities, run some experiments around how to create the work-life balance you want.
This is such a golden opportunity to deepen your awareness of what makes you tick. Bring a sense of exploration and play, so it doesn’t feel like a slog. Add some structure.
Remember good experimental design means knowing how you’ll measure results, in addition to identifying the behaviors you’ll change to get those results. For example, if you want to experiment, with ways of having more energy at the end of the day, see which variable you want to change first. Do you want to try going to bed earlier? Do you want to try change what you usually have for lunch? Do you want to try working out in the afternoon when the energy slump hits? Pick one strategy, try it out, and see what impact that has on your energy. As for measurement, consider using a 10-point scale and rating your energy and productivity at the end of every day. Or keep track of which days you feel like you need a nap at 3 pm.
Whatever you decide to try, take advantage of this chapter of your life. Get into action – it’s the number one antidote to feeling stuck. Make some choices about where you’ll put your energy and what you’ll learn and how you’ll move forward.
I’d love to hear what you decide to experiment with, and especially what you learn. Send me an email or post it in the comments.
If you’re finding it hard to get unstuck, or something about your work situation isn’t quite working for you, like:
- feeling you don’t have the skills you need to lead your team through this period, or
- feeling like you’re not in the right role for you, and maybe it’s time to move on…
… reach out and let’s have a conversation. That’s another experiment you can try. See whether having a conversation with me helps you feel less stuck. My hypothesis is that it will. Schedule our call at zmcoach.net/call.