Inevitably in these times of isolation, I find my blogs veering towards topics that I am personally grappling within times of COVID.  Living on my own, only seeing “real” people when I venture out weekly to stock up on groceries, I have become reflective and philosophical.  But the constant theme of my conversations with friends is that we do not know what the outcome is going to be.  I sincerely hope we will take the opportunity to head away from the increasing inequality, greed and poverty which have become the norm, but that is a topic for another blog.

In coaching, I have chosen to work at helping people to plan and make the future more certain.  That is essentially what Retirement coaching is all about.  Yet right now, not one of us knows what the future, even 3 months hence will bring.  Heck, I don’t even know what next week will bring for me as the rumours abound that over 60’s will not be allowed out to exercise with the rest of the population, as of the first of May.

Our usual reaction to living with an uncertain future is anxiety and volatility, and the rush of people to de-stressing, enlightening, self-awareness webinars online is testament to the rising levels of anxiety.  Even my neighbourhood Whatsapp group which is prolific has a cycle of ebb and flow – they move from discussing bread recipes, and how to feed the neighbourhood homeless, whether the local Vet is open,  and suddenly without warning it will explode as somebody makes a statement that is deemed racist and a huge political row will break out and within a few hours it simmers down again as someone posts a beautiful sunset.  Emotions are heightened and volatile, and this I put down to living with Uncertainty.

So what can we do to minimise the effects of Uncertainty?  I would like to share some ideas that have worked for me.  I present the 4 that are top of my list but would love to hear how you are dealing with not knowing how this will all pan out.

  1. Be kind to yourself.  As a typical A-type personality, I had lists of jobs that I intended completing during the lockdown, but as the weeks have worn on I have started to spend more time relaxing and appreciating the quiet.  I do not mean that you should resort to eating chocolate and chips as you binge on Netflix series, but spend time reading a good book, meditating, working in the garden, or doing a jig-saw puzzle.
  2. Stay Present.  We tend to live most of our lives worrying about the future or fretting over the past and we completely ignore the present.  I have found it very powerful, whenever I find myself anxious about the future, to come back to the present and concentrate on mundane things like what I am going to have for my next meal and when I will do my exercise routine.  As soon as I bring myself back to today, I find my stress levels dropping.
  3. Avoid dwelling on things you cannot control. In the second week of Lockdown, I found my thoughts moving to the future and how I am going to sell my house during the time of COVID.  Should I consider renting it out, when should I put it back on the market, should I drop the price etc. ? I worked myself into a huge froth.  When I realised what was happening, I made a conscious decision to let go of the thoughts because the outcome is completely out of my control right now.  We have no idea what the Lockdown is going to do to the markets, let alone have a clear idea of when it is going to end.  With that decision, the anxiety began to abate.
  4. Limit your exposure to the News. This is a difficult one when every way you turn, whether it be social media, radio or TV you are smacked in the face with facts and statistics – fake or real.  I now listen to the local radio as I am getting dressed in the morning and watch the World news on BBC in the evening for maximum one hour.  The days when the house feels a little quiet and I put the radio on in the background, as I used to do, I find my stress levels rising and quickly switch to the classical music programmes.  I am not sure if it is simply the fact of rising infections and deaths that triggers my anxiety, or the way the presenters take the facts like a pit bull terrier and flesh them out as they rotate in ever-increasing circles!

Wherever you are on this cycle of Lockdown or flattening the curve as they like to call it, how are you dealing with the stress of not knowing when or how this is all going to work itself out and most importantly what the world will look like post-COVID?