Finding balance

Have you been struggling with things like unusual sleep patterns, lack of motivation, and general malaise? You’re not alone. 

There are times when it seems that I have everything “under control,” despite these unprecedented circumstances associated with a pandemic. And, there are times when unexpected emotions come crashing in, like waves on a rocky shore. 

I landed on that rocky shore on Mother’s Day. I was determined to keep my spirits high, despite the cold and gloomy weather. My daughters are grown, so I was alone and that made the day seem even darker. Still, I had it all under control—until I didn’t. It was when I decided to voice-text my daughter that I was surprised by a sudden and unexpected surge of grief and sadness. My words just seemed stuck in my throat, moving me to tears as the aloneness of it all hit me hard.

As though the sadness and grief weren’t enough, I felt guilty for being sad. Guilty because others have it so much worse than I do. I am one of the lucky ones, what do I really have to be sad about?

As we do when we’re in the midst of a period of emotional indulgence, I allowed the guilt to consume me. 

Guilt (and some shame) for thinking I have it so bad when others are truly suffering. 

Guilt for allowing sadness and fear to get the best of me. 

Guilt because I felt drained and had no motivation to do something productive. 

Fortunately, what I’ve learned as a life and business coach has equipped me with tools to manage strong emotional responses in a healthy manner. I allowed the emotions to surface and felt better within 20-minutes or so.

The upside is that my Mother’s Day experience has given me additional wisdom to help my coaching clients delve into their own complex thoughts and emotions related to a crisis that few anticipated. 

You, too, could be experiencing a depth of emotion that you have never faced until now. As such, it’s tricky to understand and accept your feelings. You may push them down or deny yourself the right to experience them. The thing is, denial may help you to feel better in the moment, but in the long run, it doesn’t work well.

Do you hear yourself saying things like this?

“I shouldn’t be this upset about my situation. So many people have it far worse than I do.”

“I feel guilty because I can’t keep my mind focused on business.”

“Why can’t I get my act together? I’ve got things to do.”

Questions such as these imply you should feel guilty or ashamed of your feelings. There’s also guilt associated with not being in control or having planned better for an uncertain future. 

To regain any semblance of balance, begin with reconciling your emotions and any guilt associated with them. This process is not a one-time action step; it’s the ongoing personal development that will benefit you for the rest of your life. 

Emotions don’t make you weak, they make you human.

Naturally, you want to be strong, but don’t misinterpret what that means. Strong people don’t diminish or deny their emotions–they develop healthy ways to deal with them. 

Give yourself permission to take some downtime as you grieve and process your feelings. Minimize your guilt as much as possible by knowing that you are doing the best you can considering the circumstances before you. Be kind to yourself, acknowledge you have a right to your feelings. Everyone does.

Be firm with guilt and shame emotions.

A kind, accepting approach to your sadness, fear, and grief is healthy for you and will help you heal. Conversely, you don’t want to nurture guilt and shame. 

Any negative soundtracks in your head are nothing but lies. Now is the time to count your successes and reinforce your confidence. Kick guilt and shame to the curb and own your other emotions and your right to process them in a healthy manner.

Find balance in your thoughts.

When anxious thoughts take over, our minds reveal the worst-case scenarios of the future. This unhealthy anticipatory grief can become all-consuming. You may try to push away these visions and thoughts, but the brain doesn’t work that way. Your reptilian brain is on the lookout for danger and produces all-encompassing negative thoughts in an attempt to protect you. 

The key to managing your anticipatory grief is to create balance in your thinking. If you imagine a tragic outcome, bring your focus to a less disastrous result. Yes, everyone is faced with the frightening thought of contracting Covid-19, yet most develop few, if any, symptoms. We are all doing the best we can. Move your negative vision up the ladder to the next best thought, one rung at a time.

Bring yourself back to the present.

One of my favorite mantras is, “In this moment, I am safe and well.” If anxiety takes hold, bring yourself back into the present so your thoughts don’t run wild. 

  • Feel the contact of your back to the chair and your feet to the floor.
  • Take slow, deep breaths, counting to four on the inhale and seven on the exhale. 
  • Force a smile and straighten your posture.
  • Count the paperclips or pens and pencils in your desk drawer.

Follow these suggestions and you will become more grounded. And remember, nothing puts guilt and fear to rest like lending a helping hand to others.