As we begin to experience an ever-increasing easing of the lockdown restrictions here in the U.K, how are you feeling about it?
For some of us, each new lifting of a restriction brings a feeling of excitement, and relief that life is beginning to return to ‘normal’( or maybe a new ‘normal’). It may mean that you are able to reopen your business or get back to work, which will ease things financially for you. Or some of us might be thrilled that at long last we can have a socially distanced walk with a friend. You may be delighted your child can return to school so that home schooling is over, and you can stop juggling that ball.
But for some of us, we may find ourselves feeling fearful about life getting back to normal. Are you worried about going back to work? About having to commute again? Or is your child going back to school and you feel concerned about this? Are you worried about life getting busy or overwhelming again?
Others of us may be feeling anxious about the prospect of returning to a more engaged life, and may be worried about catching covid-19. Or about our child catching it as they return to school, or a parent as they go out and about a bit more. If you are concerned about this, it can feel like the only truly safe place is being home with your immediate family.
And if you have relished the quieter, slower pace of life during lockdown, you may be feeling sad about your life getting busy again with social activities, as well as demands on your time returning. You may be wanting to keep some level of this quieter pace of life, but are unsure how to politely decline getting back to ‘normal’.
It is also likely that you are experiencing a mixture of these feelings, sometimes over the course of one day. I know I am! And many more besides.
Whatever your experience of lockdown and coming out of lockdown is, it is clear that there is a huge variety of thoughts and feelings that we experience, and what I want to explore here is what those thoughts and feelings are telling us and whether we need to listen to them.
What feelings are telling us.
First things first. Whatever you are feeling is totally OK. It’s OK to have lots of different, up and down experiences during this time…and during all of life. It’s OK to be human, to be real with how we are feeling and to let those feelings come and go. Where we can get into trouble is when we believe these feelings are telling us something of value, or about who we are or how we need to control things.
For example, where I find we can get tripped up is when we believe that those feelings are always telling us something ‘true’ about our circumstances. Nothing outside of us has the ability to make us feel anything…even though it will look really true that our experience is working that way. It can seem that covid-19, and coming out of lockdown, is making us feel a certain way. Yes it is a fact that we are living with covid-19 and the effects of that within our society. This is a circumstance in our lives that our thinking mind ‘interacts’ with. However how our minds ‘show up’ to this is variable in any number of infinite ways.
Contrary to popular belief, feelings are only ever telling us about the state of our mind, or our thoughts. Feelings are not telling us about the circumstances we find ourselves in or may find ourselves in. This is how it works, 100% of the time.
Let’s look at an example: feeling worried about catching covid-19 as we have more social interaction. When we have a perceived ‘threat’ before us, the human mind does tend to go into a lot of ‘what if’ thinking so that it can try to plan for any eventuality. You might have lots of thinking about who you feel is ‘safe’ to see, and who isn’t, based on what you think their chance of having covid is. Your brain may be going to the place of “what if I get ill? What if my child gets ill? Or my partner? What if we end up with severe symptoms? Who will look after my kids?” etc. etc. You may have already had lots of worry about whether the sore throat or cough you have is actually covid….
When we are faced with the potential of something challenging in our lives, the anxious brain will try to plan for every eventuality or scenario. And sometimes our minds just seem to like scaring the sh*t out of us!
But what all this thinking means is….nothing. It is simply anxious-flavoured thinking passing through our system and it ISN’T predictive of our chances of getting covid and isn’t predictive in ANY WAY of the future.
We can view any ‘future-proofing’ thinking we have as the rumble strips on the side of the road. As we start to get overwhelmed, anxious and stressed about lockdown ending, we can see these feelings as a warning to us, like the rumble strips on the side of the road that tell us we are veering off the road. Our feelings are there to tell us that we are veering off into believing our thinking to be real and true. It is our wake-up call that we have drifted away from the present moment and off into a thought-created future that is totally made up by our own imagination.
Making decisions about life post-lockdown from a place of being in a busy mind, or feeling in an anxious state, will rarely lead to good decisions. Anytime that your thinking becomes urgent, panicky or seems like things have to be dealt with NOW, you can rest assured that it’s definitely the time to step back. We can wait until we are in a calmer, clearer state of mind before making any decisions about our actions we may take as we come out of lockdown.
And the other piece of good news is that we don’t have to do anything to change our state of mind – our psychological system does this for us. Thoughts and feelings come and go all day long, and at some point a calmer, clearer space will be present. It’s like the weather passing through the sky – we can’t do anything to change the weather, but we know that it will change.
Once again, our feelings are not telling us about our circumstances, the past or the future. Our feelings are only ever a reflection of our thought in this moment ABOUT our circumstances or the future.
Where to look other than the busy mind.
“Cut off from innate wisdom, a lost thinker experiences isolation, fear and confusion.”
~ Sydney Banks from The Missing Link book.
We have a much better guidance system than our busy mind – our wisdom or common sense. What I do know for sure, that if we were to be faced with one of the scenarios our mind may be currently imagining, that a healthy state of mind makes it much easier to deal with any challenge. We all have a connection to our own (and universal) wisdom that has seen us through every difficult situation so far and will see us through the rest of our lives. When we are worrying about the future, be it post-lockdown or further into the future, we can know that our mood is low, and that our thinking doesn’t need to be taken seriously. As human beings we are also gifted with the consciousness or awareness. This means that in a quieter space and time, our consciousness has the capacity to rise, and we will see things in our life with more clarity and perspective.
When we know we have wisdom on our side and the capacity to see things differently, it makes much less sense to listen to the anxious and fearful thoughts of our mind. We can gently let that pass through us, and simply wait for a space of clarity to appear. From this place, our wisdom or common sense will guide us, for sure.
What you may have also noticed is that all of the ideas that your mind gives you about how the future is going to be, what situations will and won’t happen, they rarely come true! And even if a challenging situation does occur, it is often easier to navigate than we had imagined; certainly it will be different in some way to how we imagined. This is why it makes no sense to allow ourselves to be taken over by worry about the future. If we can’t predict how it will be, we can’t know what we’ll need to get through something, until we are there, dealing with it in real time. And this is how our common sense and wisdom works – in the moment that we need it. Not ahead of time.
Knowing this means we get to relax, let the urgent, worrying thinking pass through. We can return to the present moment of life that is here right now, rather than being lost in some future concern. We really do have all we need in the present moment of life, and this is how life gets lived anyway. One moment at a time.
Lindsey Elliott is a Transformative Coach, and Three Principles practitioner working in Brighton and online. She offers one to one coaching in a life-changing new paradigm of understanding how human beings work. With this understanding you can move from feeling insecure, stressed, anxious or unfulfilled to happy, secure, inspired, peaceful and filled with love.
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