As we have all navigated a global pandemic, 2020 has forced all of us to be more nimble as we braced for the next impact. With so much uncertainty, changing recommendations and timelines, it has felt like our freedom has been taken away. This can leave us feeling powerless, hopeless, resentful, sad and anxious. Though we may not have control over what will happen over the next year — or with many aspects of our lives — there are ways we can create healthy habits that improve our mood, provide grounding and calmness.
If you are feeling uncertain, afraid or frustrated, these strategies may help:
Focus on the only thing you can control — yourself
If you’re engaged, you may feel sad you can’t know how many people will be able to attend your wedding in 2021. But, you can make decisions on what you will wear and the vows you will say to your partner.
If you’re currently unemployed, you may be fearful about when you will have a steady, reliable income again. But, you can continue to update your resume, apply for jobs, and network digitally.
By finding the areas of your life you may have some control over, you are changing the way you react to unexpected disruptions, says Monica Berg, the host of the ‘Spiritually Hungry’ podcast. “We can practice being flexible and pivoting instead of resisting what cannot be changed. So much energy is spent on regret, blame, anger, and disappointment,” she continues. “They ultimately have no power to change the situation, but they do have a significant impact on how you feel and experience life.”
Create an end to your workday
If you are still working remotely for the foreseeable future, you may struggle to find a balance between your professional and personal responsibilities. Or, you could be tempted to check your email 24/7, respond to Slack messages in record-speed, or otherwise be ‘on.’ This isn’t healthy, reminds a spiritual teacher and master energy worker Christina Agro, and it’s important to establish ‘working hours’, even if your office is at home. “Without an end to your workday, your brain stays engaged. You have to create that and commit to it,” she shares. “By creating an end to your workday, you are valuing your own time, and you are reclaiming the control that has slipped away as we moved to work at our homes.”
Thoughtfully and clearly say ‘no’
Part of the reason you may feel stretched thin or out-of-whack is due to a need to please others. Though being helpful and being a joiner may be part of your nature, it can also leave you feeling drained and exhausted. Entrepreneurs like Priyanka Murthy, the founder and CEO of Access79, know this struggle all-too-well. That’s why she recommends learning how to thoughtfully and clearly say ‘no’ — and mean it. Whether it’s in your work, home, community or friendships, track how often you say ‘yes’ vs. ‘no’ to see how much you give to others. “I’ve noticed that when it is less balanced and skews more toward ‘yes’ is when I feel and am actually least in control,” she shares. “The key to executing this is to prioritize the tasks, projects and people that are most important in a given period and saying ‘yes’ to those, and saying ‘no’ to all others.”
Get yourself a mantra
Without realizing it, you may give yourself a pep talk during stressful situations instinctively. When you’re encouraging yourself, what do you say? Whether you think ‘You got this’ or ‘You can do this’ or ‘I’m doing just fine’ — this is your mantra. Berg says having a go-to phrase when you need to pause and take in a situation that feels out of control will help bring you back to the present, instead of fretting over the future or what you can’t control.
If you can’t think of yours, consider these recommendations from Berg:
- I will get through this. I always do.
- You’ve been through tough times before. You’ve got this.
- I am not in control, and that’s okay. I will do everything I can and accept that I have done my best.
- I will not be angry/sad. Anger and sadness is the response of someone who feels they don’t have choices. I have choices.
Look back at all the times you didn’t have control, and it worked out
As humans, Murthy says we crave control as a way to add predictability to what is inherently a very unpredictable thing — life and living. Because of this, we tend to prepare for any and all outcomes, seek to know answers, and become weary when something unexpected throws us off track. To help ease this anxiety, Murthy says it can be helpful to think back on all of the times in your life when you were worried, but everything worked out just fine, anyway. “Some of the most meaningful and significant occurrences are those I couldn’t have controlled even when I tried,” she continues. “Strangely, for me, taking stock like this of all the things I couldn’t control but worked out anyway makes me feel more in control.”
Set some boundaries in the kitchen
While everyone has different eating habits and needs, if you are the designated chef in your household, you may feel like you never leave the kitchen. Since fewer people eat at restaurants these days, you may have been ‘on duty’ preparing three meals a day and then tidying up, creating a whole additional job. Agro suggests setting boundaries by setting a schedule for meals. If someone in your family is hungry beyond those times, they’re on their own — and that’s okay. “This helps you reclaim your time and your sense of self. You may love cooking, but no one wants to feel like a short-order cook in their own home,” she adds.
Though many people associate the word ‘surrender’ with docility and defeat, believing that by giving up, we give something away, Berg says the opposite is true. Rather than looking at surrendering as negative, see it as a beginning and a way that you’ve decided to create space for yourself. As she explains, some things are important and can be impacted by your energy and efforts, and thus, it should be pursued with every bit of your ability and all your temerity. But others, not so much. So, Berg says if you can’t change it, consider surrendering it. “Surrendering means refocusing your energy on what is within your control and letting go of what is not,” she continues. “It means reacting in ways that support your growth when life unfolds in unexpected ways.”