I feel like I have been in intensive training for handling uncertainty and BIG change for the last year. As a foster parent, every 3 or 6 months we’ve had an entire new kid (or sibling set) move in our house. With new parents, new caseworker (who comes to the house weekly), new school, new personality, new food preferences – basically everything you take for granted in your regular life is turned on its head. In this time, I’ve learned some things about handling uncertainty and life changes, today I’ll be sharing them with you.
Did my description of being a foster parent sound familiar? Everything that was normal and taken for granted, like your daily work and school schedules, the stores you shopped at, when you shopped, who you see and when you see them – everything has been turned on its head as we practice social distancing and for some of us, quarantine.
I’m hoping that my experience and constant change has taught me some lessons that may help you. I don’t have all the answers, but I’m committed to bringing some hope and light into your life, while so much is hard and stressful.
For starters, the truth is, the adjustment to the changes are going to be hard and it may take a long while. You are going to feel off-center, unbalanced and wobbly. That’s totally normal for any big change in your life, you feel wobbly as you try to get your equilibrium back and adjust to the change. That may look like swinging back and forth between worry or panic and dismissal “this isn’t even happening”. It may look like having really great days, followed by days when nothing seems right.
It’s important for you to know: This is part of the process. This is not a sign anything is wrong.
On top of YOU feeling wobbly, you are surrounded by people who are also feeling off-balance, who are going through their own changes in daily routines.
So my first recommendation is: give yourself grace. Being mad or upset or judging myself harshly isn’t going to make any of it any easier.
Know that this is part of the process, and give yourself grace.
The next step is to adjust expectations – with your new schedule you may be more or less productive than you were before. Either one is ok.
Here’s the real sticking point – you may have MORE TIME to work on your business but LESS HEADSPACE. Maybe it’s because the kids are home or maybe it’s because the news is scary or you’re worried about running out of toilet paper – but you may just have less energy to think.
That’s OK. We’re giving ourselves grace…but the next part is to actually adjust your expectations. Put LESS on your to do list for the day. Hold yourself to lower standards. Give yourself a break.
There’s a real reason why you may be having a hard time getting normal stuff done – cognitive load. ANY time you make a change in your routine, your brain has to spend more time thinking about it (because it’s not yet a habit), which creates a cognitive load on your brain. Right now, it’s likely you have a HUGE amount of things that are changed, so your brain is spending quite a lot of its energy just keeping up with the changes. I always remind myself with every new placement: New Tara may not be able to what Old Tara did.
The good news, any new reality will become habitual, will become “normal”, freeing up your brain space to be creative and productive and have ideas again! Of course, you have a choice about this – you can set up routines that stay the same no matter what, routines that keep you out of the flow of news coming at you.
There’s something else to remember about your brain – it is wired to have a negativity bias. That means that it is going to pay MORE attention to threats than to opportunities. That means your brain’s natural inclination is to pay a lot of attention to the scariest thing. But we can control this by limiting how much time we give it. We can counterbalance the scary stuff by looking around and purposefully noticing what is going right. (You have a smartphone that still works if you are listening to this episode! You have enough food for today!)
Lemme be clear: I’m not saying to ignore the important information or to go on with your life as usual. You absolutely have a responsibility to limit the spread of the virus to those who are most vulnerable. Follow the guidelines, pay attention to real information and to keep noticing what is good even while you’re taking the actions you need to take (like social isolation, quarantining if positive, getting tested if sick.) If the news you’ve been paying attention to has left you rattled, you can limit yourself to the CDC or WHO websites. They have all the information you need about limiting the spread of the virus, keeping yourself safe, and taking care of your loved ones. You need not need Twitter or Facebook to be a responsible citizen.
The last suggestion I have is for when you are feeling a bit settled, and bit creative, and not in a stressed state. It is simply: Look for the opportunities to grow. Look, this is shaking up your life but it’s also shaking up the life of EVERYONE. Seriously, when does that happen? That means now is a great time to change the things that haven’t been working for you. It’s a great time to look at where you spend your time, your money, your energy, to look at your long term goals and ask: Is this the direction I want to keep moving.
If yes, what can you do within today’s limitations to get there? (there is always something)
If not, what do you need to change? What do you need to let go of? What do you need to start doing?
Maybe you need to let go of your super-high expectations of yourself or others and you need to practice more grace and forgiveness.
Maybe you need to adjust your business goal to suit the life you really want.
Maybe you need to stop letting fear hold you back from doing the scary thing.
Maybe you’re ready to commit to that scary goal and actually get yourself ready to do it.
Whatever it is, you can start to work on it and plan it NOW.
If one of the things you want to spend your time working on is your business, if you’re going to use this weird time to get right on your profitability, your marketing messages and make a plan for your goals, the Starship is open right now. As a community, the Starship is encouraging each other, inspiring each other, and getting together every week to check in and adapt and grow in this time. If that sounds like what you need, head to TaraSwiger.com/starshipbiz to learn more about it.
As a reminder, during this weird time, we are going to:
- Give yourself Grace
- Change your expectations
- Recognize the negativity bias and notice the good
- Look for the opportunities for growth.