Whether you’re juggling living together with your ex in lockdown, struggling to deal with single parenting 24/7 with no respite or simply just can’t deal with all that is strange and distressing in the world, now is the time to deploy some headspace hacks to help us move through this time with strength, grace and ease.
This week, I share with you Divorce Lighthouse women some of the ways you can hack your headspace at this time to ensure you come out the other side as the person you want to be.
As smart, savvy women, we all know that self care rituals involving eating nutritiously, getting exercise and enough sleep blah blah blah are important to how good we feel. These hacks aren't those sorts of things. These hacks are all about easy tricks and strategies you can do to your way of thinking that help you maintain calmness and wellbeing when the world lacks both. These can be used all the time - some of my clients who are struggling through a separation use these - but I have amped up my own deployment of these strategies during the Covid-19 response.
Avoid Comparisonitis. Nothing does one's headspace in more than comparing your life with other's. Usually, you are not even comparing your life with a realistic version of other's lives - you are only seeing their best life, the Insta-worthy part of their lives. I have a friend who has travelled lots with her young children. I used to look with envy at her happy pictures and travel stories on Facebook. Those pictures had no trace of the tired child’s tantrums or whinging and whining that used to accompany any trip, even just up the road, that I attempted with my own child. I asked her how she managed to achieve such a feat. I wanted her magic formula. She said, “Believe me, Facebook only shows the good bits!”.
More than ever, it's so easy to go on social media and end up believing “I’m not good enough” or having a major case of the guilts as you see friends doing a million amazing home school activities with an extensive curriculum, all while baking their own sourdough and up-cycling an old bookshelf. I was certainly starting to feel that way as I saw friends doing amazingly creative and considered art, home economics, drama and science lessons all day with their children. Meanwhile, I was embracing an independent learning philosophy and my son was lucky to have me throw some lunch his way as I juggled working from home demands!
Our circumstances are all different so let's not get sucked into soul destroying comparisons. A smart, savvy women recognises this and, with grace, celebrates what others are achieving during lockdown but also celebrates that she is doing things differently and that is 100% OK.
Share the Gift of Mess!
I am loving how women are not letting lockdown get in the way of getting stuff done using video calling, whether that be through holding work meetings or coming together for drinkies and catch ups with girlfriends using FaceTime, Zoom or Skype.
I have had friends and colleagues talk with me about blocking out their backgrounds while on Zoom so no one can see their messy pile of dishes or children wreaking havoc amid the unfolded laundry in the background. Do we really have to be wasting mental and emotional energy worrying about this stuff? Do we not have enough to be worrying about already?
Have I had collaborative process meetings during lockdown where my son has wandered in and thrown me a note, asking if he can raid the ice-blocks? Absolutely. Has he wandered past in his underpants during a client meeting, asking the whereabouts of clean shorts?
Absolutely. Has a colleague meeting been disrupted by my son climbing through my office window from where he was playing outside? Yes. Have I had family yelling about sluggish internet from the other room during meetings? Yep. Did it really matter? Not an iota.
I believe now is the time to give ourselves a break and let the world into our messy, chaotic, laundry-piled existences and, in doing so, give everyone the gift of seeing that our lives are also far from perfect at the moment and that’s just fine!
Keep the Faith - whether it is the emotional turmoil of a separation or the emotional turmoil of lockdown, this too shall pass. We have the ability to endure, adapt and conquer this pandemic. This too shall pass. This too shall pass. This too shall pass. Repeat after me ... (and imagine how freaking awesomely resilient and adaptive we will all be when it does!)
Keep Your Pulse on the Positive. As we entered lockdown, I realised I needed to take remedial action if I wasn’t to slip into a downward spiral in how I was thinking and feeling. My response was to very consciously and deliberately highlight the happy things at this time (and there are lots of them when we look for them!). Each day on my Facebook page, I start my day with a personal highlight – something in lockdown that brought me joy, that I am grateful for or am looking forward to. Often these things are very small and would go unrecognised for the joy they contain.
I share my morning positive each day in the hope that they may bring a smile to others or encourage them to look for their own positive highlight also. I struggled with the appropriateness of celebrating “happy” things in social media at a time of so much grief, stress and anxiety in the world but ultimately decided, I serve no one by adding to that anxiety and grief.
You may not want to put your highlights out in the world but simply having a ritual of seeking them out in a deliberate manner can create a fabulous shift in perspective and in how you feel. Sometimes it may feel a struggle to find anything. Persevere. There will be something. Even if, as it was for me one day, it was simply working out Year 6 maths!
Ignorance is Bliss: Do you really need to read every article, listen to every news item or get Covid updates pinging into your inbox all day long? What is that doing to your headspace? Is it really serving you? I like to remain well informed and up with the play on current events but my experience of doing so during Covid-19 has taught me sharply why there is the saying “ignorance is bliss”.
I quickly realised that if I was to get through lockdown with my head as clear, focused and positive as possible, I was going to have to keep my brain's intake of news and social media in check. I can't control what is happening out there in the world but I can control the number of times I let it into my bubble. A smart, savvy woman doesn't move through the world with a completely unrealistic, uninformed mindset but, rather, she limits how often she takes in information and how much she digests to just the right dose that serves her wellbeing.
Celebrate Your Choices: You have no control over the queues at the supermarket or whether there is flour. You can’t control whether others are following the social distancing rules nor do you have a crystal ball that tells you how long this will go on for and how you will fare. You can’t control whether the government says you can go mountain biking, swimming, shoe shopping or any of the other things that may bring you enjoyment.
Rather than viewing life as a series of actions you "have to do" or "can't do", thinking about them as choices you are making can create a positive sense of having power and autonomy in this situation. For example, "This is such a nuisance having to search online and navigate getting my groceries delivered. I am so over this." can become "I choose not to go to the supermarket because I choose to spend my time more productively than standing in queues and because I choose to keep my bubble safe from the risk of illness". Bam! See the difference in feeling this can create?
Work Your Biggest Choice: In a similar way to focusing on the choices you get to make, you can also work your biggest choice to good effect - the complexion you choose to put on something. Choosing to put a lighter complexion on a situation that your could easily go dark on - with thoughts of frustration / annoyance/ melancholy/ irritation - can allow you to create greater calmness and cool in your life.
For example, rather than being worried, irritated and overly fraught about the risk associated with having to move your children to your ex's bubble for a few days, how could you choose to put a more positive, lighter complexion on the situation? Perhaps you could tell yourself instead, "It's good for the kids to get to see us working together to ensure they have time with each of us. It's good for me to have a break from the kids and for them to have a break from me. We were starting to get fractious with one another. I can use this time to catch up with my girlfriend on Zoom and to some time to look after myself." Best of all, this headspace hack will be contagious. Rather than picking up on any anxiety, irritation or negativity you were feeling, your kids will pick up on your more positive way of viewing the situation.
Share the Love – Finally, no one likes to feel alone in how they are feeling so reach out, talk, and listen. If you’ve got a lovely woman in your life who you think could benefit from some headspace hacking, share this blog or speak with them about what’s going on for them.
Sometimes, even with some headspace hacking, you may still feel life is dealing you a bigger hand than you can cope with. If that's you, give a friend, family member or trusted person the gift of being able to help you.