Have you had enough of lockdown but find yourself struggling as it comes to a gradual end?
Are you unsure of how safe you'll be?
Don't worry, this is normal and it's unlikely you're turning into a recluse or someone who obsesses about the behaviour of those around you. You're simply working through what has been and remains a difficult and, in many cases, traumatic experience.
You need to take the time to readjust, making sure that you do what you feel comfortable with.
As the countryside, zoos, shops and outdoor eating areas reopen, some people around you may have decided to return to near normal life, but this doesn't mean that you must do the same. This is a time of transition, where taking small steps with care makes perfect sense.
You may be returning to work and feel fearful and uncomfortable around others. This is also okay. Make yourself more comfortable by ensuring that you're taking precautions, as this will help you feel more secure. If you're a vulnerable person or have someone in your household that's continuing to follow the guidelines, only do what you feel is right for you and those close to you.
Although we're returning to something that may resemble normal life, we need to remember that things will be different for some time and we'll have to develop new habits and ways of behaving. We need to accept that we're living at a time when the situation around us is difficult for both ourselves and those around us.
Acceptance is often underrated. Yes, there are many situations where we should strive for change to ensure that we live and work in an environment where we are happy and fulfilled, but equally there are situations that are difficult but that we cannot change. Acceptance allows us to move away from judgement, whether of self or of others, and into connection with ourselves and/or others.
We can make ourselves unnecessarily unhappy by resisting acceptance of situations we cannot change. The current situation "is what it is", so if we can't change it, we need to learn to accept it and live a better life alongside it.
The four step process below is an excerpt from an article by Emma-Louise Elsey, reprinted with permission from The Fierce Kindness newsletter and blog. This process has been designed to help us move from resisting to accepting situations that we cannot change.
STEP 1: Acknowledge What You're Resisting
When we acknowledge and accept the situation, we move from judgement to acknowledgement—and this allows us to reconnect to ourselves.
- BE CURIOUS: Where am I resisting reality? (things that already are).
- GET SPECIFIC: What specifically do I have an issue with? (the more specific you are, the easier it is to resolve).
STEP 2: Take Ownership of Your Needs
Next, we need to identify the need/s that are not being met. Right now, perhaps you have a need for some fun, affection, adventure, freedom, ease, or creativity.
If you're wondering what I mean by "needs"—check out this super simple needs list from the Center for Nonviolent Communication.
- BE CURIOUS: What is it that I need right now?
- GET SPECIFIC: What need is not being met?
STEP 3: Accept Reality
Before attempting action, we need to accept the reality that already is.
- ASK WITH GENUINE CURIOSITY: Can I stop (mentally) complaining or wishing—and just allow the situation to be as it is?
You may find these first 3 steps enough, and that you don't want to take further action. And if this is genuinely the case, great!
But BEWARE "Spiritual Bypassing"!
We must take care of ourselves! Our needs are an expression of who we are. Accepting reality is an important step, because it gets us out of a combative approach to the existing situation—a battle we can't win.
But there is a risk:
- Sometimes people will choose to "accept reality" but not take care of their needs, because "It's all good. I'm OK now."
- But are you? If we deny our needs or try to pretend, they're not there because we want to be spiritual, they don't magically disappear. Your needs are your needs.
- So, you should find that accepting the situation, softens or reduces your needs. This is great.
- AND we should not force ourselves to settle for accepting a situation when there ARE things, we can do to feel better.
Which leads me to…
STEP 4: Take Action
The chances are, if it was an easy situation to fix you would have already done it. So, these actions are about meeting your needs.
In this step, think about your need/s that are not being met—and take action to make yourself more comfortable.
This action can take the form of physical action AND/OR it could be a mental action to simply surrender to what is—and let go more fully.
- Take action to meet your need/s. And if there's no obvious way to meet your need—get creative! For example:
- If you need a hug, everyone is out and you're still supposed to be social distancing, grab a pillow instead.
- If you're feeling trapped and need "freedom" but can't go out, perhaps you can watch an expansive nature documentary, do a guided meditation, or write a poem about what freedom means for you.
- What inventive ways can you think of to meet your need/s?
- OR simply surrender to what IS. Perhaps you can't change the situation or meet your need in any meaningful way. Your final option is to go a step beyond acceptance to SURRENDER. You can choose to change your thoughts about the issue and FULLY ALLOW whatever is bothering you to just "BE" without resisting.
Surrender is a powerful tool. You let go of the wish that things are different—and fully embrace what is. This can be hard to do—it's a feeling thing rather than a doing. Relax your body, your muscles—those hunched shoulders, that tense jaw and/or pelvic floor muscles and ALLOW yourself to allow what is. It's OK. The situation is not going anywhere. Let it be.
You'll know this has worked when you feel some spaciousness around the issue and your body feels naturally more relaxed.
TIP: If you believe in God (in whatever form) you may also find it helpful to say something like, "I choose to let go, and give this to God" (or goddess or spirit or a higher power of your choice).
NOTE: You may also notice that once you let go, you feel sad or disappointed. In this case, sadness is good—because it connects you with your deepest self. Look at the sadness, acknowledge it and perhaps you'll see what's really going on deep down. Once truly acknowledged and felt, the sadness should pass naturally. Click here for a 3 step process to take care of "difficult" emotions.
Life doesn't always go our way (if only!) So, accepting reality is an empowering and powerful practice for our happiness and personal growth.
When faced with an unpleasant or difficult situation, choosing to do nothing, or complaining about something you can't (or won't) change, will only make you suffer more.
So, when you notice you're feeling unhappy, first acknowledge and get clear on the cause AND the need that's not being met.
Then accept the situation as it is right now. And finally, either 1) do something about it or 2) choose to surrender—let it be/go.
Eventually this crisis situation will end, and we will come out stronger if we keep learning about ourselves and our world. Remember these 3 core areas:
- Connection to ourselves: This crisis provides a unique opportunity to slow down, and get to know ourselves!
- Connection to others: We're all finding ways to increase our connection to others—especially those who matter most.
- Connection to something bigger than ourselves: This week consider that surrendering to the fact that we can't control everything can be extremely freeing.
Remember: "Change the world, start with you!"
Four step process © Simplicity Life Coaching Ltd.