How to Stay Calm During Chaotic Times

My fiction writing partner is very sarcastic. Lately, she’s been starting sentences with, “Well, before the world was ending…” She’s using humor to deal with what is going on in the world. But all kidding aside, I have so many clients asking me, “Krista, how do I focus when I’m working from home?” and telling me that “it’s hard to watch the news.” Most of my sessions (now all over the phone or via Zoom) start with “I’m trying my best to adjust to the new normal.”

As we navigate the rocky roads of this global pandemic, widespread social unease, and a tense upcoming election, it’s hard to ignore the flood of negativity that surrounds our home life and work life, coupled with all the bad news being blasted on television and social media. I know misery loves company, but what can we do to stay calm amidst a crisis? What better coping mechanisms can we use? What will serve us in the long term?

I’d like to share six tips to help you refocus and encourage you to find calm among the turbulent waters.

#1 Reaffirm Your Values

Our individual and societal capacity to endure is being tested, but it doesn’t need to be all negative. Perhaps we have readjusted our values. Perhaps we have made health and our family time more of a priority. Perhaps we have put our energy into supporting social justice. This seems to be a time of reflection, a time to explore the values we hold dear.

I have a values assessment on my website that you can print out this client resource at Circle your top values and use this as a gauge to help you start saying no to things that don’t align with your top values and yes to things that do. You can also reassess where you were spending your time and money (a hint to what we value) and reallocate. I decided that I prefer working out at home and didn’t miss getting my nails done. These are small “finds,” but with a little more concentrated effort, I can learn even more about my home life and the direction I’d like to move my career in.

#2 Live in Choice

One of my friends (the same one who jokes that the world is ending) described a powerful speech her son’s coach gave. “How people use this time says a lot about them,” he said. He reminded the team that they live in choice. While their sport is cancelled, they can either stay up late and sit around and play video games, or they can get up and read about their sport, watch videos on technique, go running and weight training, and do everything they can to improve themselves despite the current restrictions.

This speech instantly motivated me to use my time more wisely. Instead of focusing on what Netflix show to watch, I decided to start writing a second fiction book with my friend. I know that reading books on writing and listening to writing podcasts, posting blogs, and meeting with her to engage in creative writing will help me a lot more than sitting back and watching television—or at least make me feel less guilty when I do.

#3 Become Solution Oriented

During a crisis, our priorities inevitably shift. We realize (sometimes too late) that we didn’t have enough money in our savings account. But as we crawl out of crisis and back into ordinary circumstances (hopefully you are finding work), we can readjust our plans. Each crisis helps us to plan for the next, and focusing on the solutions as we move forward can feel empowering. If you go into lockdown again, what will you do differently? We can all find ways to beat ourselves up. But try to move away from dwelling on your mistakes, and move into planning for the future. What changes feel right with regard to your meal planning, exercise, work routine, and spiritual practices?

#4 Continue Daily Planning

Just because your day looks different doesn’t mean you can’t plan it out. Even though my days have become less structured—my kids have no camp, I have fewer one-on-one clients, we are eating at home more often, and things are moving more slowly—I still need a plan. Maybe even more than when life was running on autopilot.

Before you start your day, consider making a list that has one task connected to your long-term goal, one task that moves you forward, and one or two must-dos. If we fill our lists with goal-oriented tasks, we can fall behind on day-to-day things, and if we only tackle day-to-day tasks (I do this because it feels good to check things off of a list, right?), we can fall into that trap of “majoring in minor things,” a saying I borrow from Tony Robbins. Just because you are working from home, don’t forget to plan and use your time wisely.

#5 Ask for Help

In normal times, I ask one of my girlfriends to drive my daughter to camp all the time because between work and baseball games, I can’t seem to get organized enough to not have my kids’ activities overlap. With my oldest daughter now working and unable to help me with giving my younger kids rides, I have to ask friends, acquaintances, coaches—you name it. It’s something I used to shy away from, but now I just ask. And sometimes I feel weird that my daughter has been over to her friend’s house more than we have reciprocated the invite, but I remind myself that not everyone has the same thing on their plates. My life coach, Amy, reminds me to take a deep breath and trust that I am doing the best that I can as a working mom with four kids.

I also ask my husband for more help than I used to when the kids were little and encourage my younger clients with kids to spell out to their spouses what they need help with. When I had toddlers, I asked my husband to change our screen door to a storm door every couple of weeks until it literally became spring and I said, “Forget it now!” He turned and looked at me and said, “Well, you should have told me where the extra door was.”

I have learned that I have to be really clear with what help I need. So I have tried to be clearer with my husband, kids, and even friends. I find that the more I exercise my “asking for help” muscle, the more I think of ways to offer a helping hand to others, and I am hoping my kids see that both receiving and offering a helping hand is a good thing. If you have a friend going through a rough time, make two dinners and drop one off for her. You’ll find, more often than not, that when you need something, your act of kindness will be reciprocated just when you need it the most.

#6 Just Let Go!

Years ago, when I worked at Legoland, my colleague Lori said to me, “Some things are not worth getting stressed over. They are like gravity.” When I am faced with a problem, I always try to be solutions oriented, which is something I learned from my career and life coach training. However, I also remember Lori’s wise words. Some things are out of my own control. I can try to compassionately listen to the struggles my biracial children experience and be aware of my own biases. However, there is a lot going on in the world that is out of my control, so I’m focusing on what I can control. I can encourage my four kids to read this summer. I can help my new client find a new career she will love. I can clean out my garage (okay, I haven’t yet, but it’s on my list).

So many of my clients and colleagues have said they are having a hard time feeling productive. One colleague said she was “rage baking.” Another said that while she is physically home with her kids, she is not “giving her all to work or her kids.” I asked her what would happen if she could let go of the guilt and just accept that she’s actually doing a pretty great job at both.

As a working mother of four, I realized that I was already tiredbefore “the world ended,” so of course I still am now that I’m easing back into activities and work. Despite the undercurrent of stress, the time helping my kids learn and work from home was a reset and recharge. I plan to say no to my kids or my colleagues more purposefully and with a lot less guilt. I plan to say yes to myself more often and not feel like the world is ending if I take a day to myself to recharge. It’s okay to say no to a Zoom happy hour and work on that business idea that has been brewing just below the surface for months. Maybe it’s time to forget about what others think and focus on you.

Clarity and Calm in the Midst of Chaos

We’ve all been forced to hit the pause button. As the world opens up again, let’s rev up in a more deliberate and purposeful way. Take a moment to look at what you want healthwise, careerwise, and even spiritually. Write down your top five values, take daily actions that are related to your goals, and seek support from those around you. Instead of beating yourself up, remind yourself that there are solutions and embrace your solvable mindset. Don’t feel guilty when you need help from others.

If you find that it’s been hard to focus lately, know that you aren’t alone. Remind yourself that this too shall pass. You will get back on track toward becoming the best version of yourself that you can be.

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