Written 5 March 2020
Adaptability is the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions. Survival (and ability to thrive after we feel safe) for all animals including us is dependent on how well we can adjust to whatever is thrown at us. Right now, in our current situation, it is our thinking which is either going to create a lot of resistance to change or can ease us into this different way of living more smoothly. We all have the ability to be flexible and adaptable in the way we think.
You may not have had to call upon this superpower before, but it is there waiting for you to utilise it, to help you ride out a period of time with the least amount of mental and emotional turmoil and suffering.
Life is different, I absolutely acknowledge that. This is an unprecedented time for all. Here in New Zealand we are on Day 11 of being in Alert Level 4 due to COVID-19 – meaning we are in a mandated nationwide physical isolation. Our leader has set us a mission – stay at home, so that we may save each other. There are many unknowns for a very large number of us. What I am not going to do is assume anyone’s feelings or situation. Whatever you are feeling is okay. I am going to offer my two cents for adapting to this unique time in our lives. Question what you are about to read and see if and how it could fit for you. If what I say resonates, take it on board and integrate it into how you show up for yourself and those around you.
Radical Acceptance – We can either accept our current situation or we can push against it and fight with it. Resistance will probably lead to more feelings of frustration, annoyance, unfairness, anger, sadness, resentment, bitterness… and the list can go on. Rejecting reality does not change it; rejecting reality turns our pain into suffering. When there is no way to change the situation – as it is for us living in our small bubbles and being very restricted in where we can go and what we can do –we can employ the skill of radical acceptance. This means accepting the things we cannot change even if we don’t like it. We stop fighting it. We accept our situation with our hearts, minds and bodies. Try this. When you speak about COVID-19 related things, speak with a half-smile and position your hands palms facing upward (willing hands). Life is worth experiencing as best as we possibly can even with painful events in it.
Optimism helps – Optimism is defined as seeking ways to emphasise the good parts of a situation and nurture hopefulness for the future. Cultivating an optimistic outlook has been proven to reduce the effects of stress on our bodies and minds (even when under strong stress). Our immune systems cope better, and it can decrease the levels of anxiety we have. Right now, I totally want more of those things for my mind and body. Many of us possibly are feeling stress – and a stress we haven’t felt before. Those who lean into optimism, are not delusional, they do see and accept the truth of reality in front of them, but they look forward to a different and brighter future. And this hope keeps moving us forward. We can create optimism by acknowledging the good parts of our situation and through practising kindness to ourselves. Here are two ways we can try on the kindness to self. One, consciously change your negative self-talk, flip the script in your head immediately and replace the unhelpful thought with a more supportive one. Two, intentionally stop unhelpful rumination. To help me do this, I usually make space to move my body, whether it is going for a run or doing some yoga and putting some loud music on and dancing it out. Distraction is also a good tool to employ – draw, bake, clean your room/bathroom, listen to music – whatever feels good to you.
Language matters – There are two bits to this point. The words we use and how we express them through tone and body language are important, they can significantly influence our own thoughts and feelings and they can impact those around us too. We are programmed by all aspects of verbal and non-verbal language that we use and those used by others. So, let’s mind our language to ourselves (our thoughts) and others. Here are a few strategies. If you need to download heavy stuff in conversation, ask the person you are speaking to if they have capacity for it now or if they would be able to listen to you later. Practice flipping the script (from the optimism helps section) when it comes to your thoughts. And lastly, it is important to bring awareness to what we are consuming around language, and question its helpfulness to our state of mind. Look into the social media channels you are following, are they helping lift you up or are they adding to the feelings of being overwhelmed and of despair? The news… is it helpful? Maybe it is in small doses but maybe not all the time. You have control over your behaviour, so adjust it. Watch less news, unfollow the accounts that are not adding value. In the last week and a bit, I have unfollowed a few accounts and muted others as I was getting tired of being tired from all the doom and gloom going around.
I invite you to practise one, some or all these skills I have written about. This work is about consistent practice. Over time you will notice a change. Over time you will strengthen your adaptability superpower and hopefully, through your actions and your different state of being, you will influence those around you in a beneficial way.
P.S. Send me a message if you want to know more. Here to support you 😊