Updated: May 19, 2020
How have you been feeling lately?
Anxious about working with COVID-19 patients?
Worried about bringing the virus home to family?
Stressed about the kids being home from school?
Scared of running out of money?
Or are you feeling strong?
The current news is a constant reminder of all of the things going on in our world that we can’t control. Even those who don’t watch the news are affected by changes with their jobs, kids being out of school, and physical distancing from loved ones.
I can't take away the COVID-19 pandemic, put your kids back in school, or change your job situation. But I can help you feel better and get more in control of your life.
Thinking on Purpose
How we feel comes from our thoughts about our circumstances, not from the circumstances themselves. This is why some people feel sad while others feel relieved or even happy about the same circumstance. Think of Osama Bin Laden’s death, for example.
Some people seem to understand this intuitively. Some of us really have to play this out over and over before we realize that it’s true. I certainly did.
As humans, we have the option to think on purpose. Humans have literally thousands of thoughts every day, some that we realize we are having and many others that are running in the background.
The large majority of our thoughts are repetitive and most are negative. But it’s the thoughts that we think over and over, the ones that we believe, that most strongly create our emotions and our reality.
The really wonderful thing is that when we start paying attention to our thoughts, we can understand why we are feeling the way we do and we can start choosing thoughts on purpose.
In order to feel a different emotion like empowerment, we just have to practice thinking believable thoughts that make us feel empowered.
And when we feel empowered, we take more empowered actions too. It creates a ripple effect through our lives.
The exercises below will help you start to think on purpose and feel empowered to thrive and not just survive during this pandemic.
Exercise 1. The Myth of “I Have To”.
Step 1 Write down something you are telling yourself you have to do but don’t want to do.
Some examples could include taking care of the kids, taking out the trash, or going to work.
Step 2 Notice that you don’t have to do it.
You don’t have to take care of the kids. Lots of people don’t.
You don’t have to go to work. You could choose to stay home.
You don’t have to take out the trash. You could let it pile up in the house.
That does not mean there aren’t consequences, but you always get to decide what you do.
Step 3 Write down why you are choosing to do what you do.
If you decide not to do the activity anymore, just make sure that you like your reasons for your decision.
Step 4 Notice how much better it feels to recognize that we are in charge of everything we do.
Exercise 2. Allowing Emotions.
Often when we experience strong emotions, we make ourselves exhausted trying to resist or avoid them.
We think if we sit with them and look them in the face then something terrible will happen, so we drink a glass of wine, have a slice of cake, or throw ourselves into our work instead.
But that's actually not true. When we name our emotions and allow them in our bodies, they're not actually all that scary.
Step 1 Take a deep breath. Notice you are in a safe space.
Step 2 Name the emotion you are feeling.
Studies have shown that the simple act of naming the emotion decreases activation of the amygdala, decreases negative emotion, and reduces stress response.
Step 3 Ask yourself "What does this feel like in my body?"
Try to be very clinical and objective about the description.
E.g. "There is a tight feeling in my chest and I am breathing shallowly" instead of "it feels like someone is squeezing me so I can't breathe".
Step 4 Notice that the emotion is just a sensation in the body.
We often make emotions way more uncomfortable because we fight against feeling them.
Sometimes we tell ourselves a story about them (e.g. this feeling isn't normal or this feeling means something is wrong). But that's just an optional story we are telling ourselves.
The emotion itself is just the sensation and is a totally normal part of the human experience.
Bonus Try to identify your thought that is causing the emotion.
Notice that if you think a different thought, it creates a different emotion.
Exercise 3. Power Questions vs Pitfall Questions.
We often waste the brilliant power of our brains by asking ourselves questions whose answers don't help us. Questions like:
Why can't clinic be more efficient?
Why aren't people taking the coronavirus more seriously?
Why can't I catch a break?
Why do I keep eating when I'm not hungry?
Why am I so worn out?
Notice that the answer to these questions is usually not empowering. They prompt our brain to come up with reasons why things don't work the way we want them to. I call these Pitfall Questions.
Contrast that to Power Questions. Power Questions are questions that, if we answer them, will provide us clear information on how to move forward in our lives. Just asking our brain Power Questions will set our brain to thinking up new possibilities.
Some example of Power Questions include:
How can I get done with charting faster?
How can I increase my family's safety during the pandemic?
How are things going right in my life right now?
How can I stop eating when I'm not hungry?
How can I be more energized?
Step 1 Ask yourself "What is a Pitfall Question I have been asking myself lately?
Step 2 Switch that Pitfall Question to a Power Question.
If you want more help feeling empowered, are struggling with something related to COVID-19, or want to create a new result in your life (e.g. weight loss, better relationship, better work life balance, support making tough decisions) sign up here for a limited time free coaching session.