Recently I find myself in a position of feeling incredibly calm in a time when the world around me seems to be moving a hundred miles a minute. It is not that things are wrong or that something terrible happened there is just a lot happening that leaves us all worn out at the end of the day. Let me give you a glimpse of what is going on in our world right now, and why it doesn’t stress me a bit.
My office has still not reopened since March as a result of Covid. I am grateful that we’re able to work remotely and have flexibility around it so that we can all be safe. Simultaneously, we are getting to the point where people can no longer run on adrenaline and are taking on new identities in their roles as a result of the change. This is a natural progression when you go through this major shift of how you accomplish your work and even what you do in some circumstances. Everyone is in a different place in the transition and requires a different kind, frequency, and focus in their communication with you. The focus on employee engagement, while always important, takes on an even bigger role as we continue to forge new ground. This is the kind of work that I love, but leaves me breathless at the end of every day. To compound this increased demand in engagement, communication, and change management, all of the work that would need to get done outside of that, still needs to get done, and it is increased. Covid increases demands from customers, regulatory agencies, and stakeholders. Combine this, full ‘normal’ workload, increased work and strategy requirements due to Covid, and increased need for situational leadership skills in each and every interaction to ensure active engagement is maintained, and you have a recipe for some long days and potential burn out.
Our children are back in school. As in, they are in one of the few districts that allowed kids to return to face-to-face learning. The district is very small and our particular school is even smaller boasting class sizes of less than 20 and in some instances less than 10. They are wearing masks and the faculty and staff have done an incredible job finding creative ways to keep our kids safe, meet health standards set by governmental agencies, and foster learning and social environments where kids flourish. I am unbelievably grateful for the fortunate situation we find ourselves in. My kids come home in masks every day. They miss some of the high contact games they used to play and aren’t able to any longer. They have all sorts of different rules about lining up, recesses, lunch schedules, and classes. They are no longer able to combine grade levels to provide a more dynamic learning experience and promote mentorship and leadership with the kids. The custodian has increased their outdoor classroom spaces so on nice days the kids can be outside (and mask free) during the day. We’re in Wisconsin though so lets be honest, this is coming to a quick end. They have even added a new ‘drill’ to what has become the normal cadence of fire, tornado, and active shooter drills, the classes now practice accessing and working through their portals and apps that would be required should they be sent to learn virtually. Kids are crazy resilient but this does sometimes lead to frustrations, acting out, and attempts to control little things in their own big, out of control, world.
We recently sold our home, as in, a few weeks ago. Selling was not a difficult decision as we knew we had a great opportunity in building a home in the perfect location for our family. It required numerous showings throughout the summer, countless emails, calls, and meetings with the relator, and finally a move to a rental while we complete construction on our new home. None of that is out of the ordinary for selling and building a home. However, each area was a little different because of Covid. I kept all lights on and doors open so to limit people’s need to touch anything inside the house. I also sanitized all surfaces that might be touched by those doing the showing before and after each one. Working from home, I had to get a little creative too. Getting out of the house during a showing meant scheduling meetings that were calls only at strategic times, working from my truck, and taking over my husband’s personal office when possible. I also had to make sure that the rental house could double as an office while we were living in it. To top all of that off, building a home during Covid presents its own challenges around availability of materials, changes in schedules and delivery times, and lost hours for crews due to illness and an abundance of caution for any symptom. The constant change and lack of control in the process causes more pivots than I can even count.
I decided to run a 1/2 marathon exclusively during the pandemic. The opportunity to sign up for the race came as a result of Covid, as it was rescheduled from it’s original date in May. Since I signed up I have increased my running and only really dedicated to training in the few weeks prior to the race. There was more flexibility in when I could run short distances but long distances would require time after work. Because of Covid I wasn’t bringing babysitters into the house so I needed to do more training around my husbands schedule to get a long run in. The beauty of running is that it is a solo sport. The challenge of running when you have 3 kids, work schedules are a little off kilter, you’re moving, and doing some of the work on your new home yourselves is that running is a solo sport. No class or person is pushing you into a schedule so the craziness of life can make for a good excuse to avoid it.
In addition to what I explained above there are hundreds of other things like outdoor church service and teaching Sunday school, strategizing the most effective financial goals, making time to focus on our marriage, the list goes on and on. There is a lot coming together all at the same time which makes it more of a challenge and simultaneously more exciting. First and foremost in all situations the most important part of staying centered is gratitude and objective realism, being thankful for all that you truly have without comparison. Beyond that, I take a different perspective and strategy when it comes to the fullness of life.
Control what you can and let go of what you can’t. My perspective flips the narrative to me being in control. There are so many things in life that we have no control over that what we do, we can really be owning. There is so much empowerment in taking that perspective. Further, when you’re in control and therefore choosing something, it is easier to be grateful for it. Take the house for example, we didn’t need to sell the house now. We weighed the pros and cons (our sanity certainly was taken into account in making said list) and chose to continue our goal of selling and building now, while we’re in a pandemic. We could have taken it off the market at any time we decided it was getting to be too much, and we chose to leave it on. I chose that crazy. Sure it wasn’t all roses every day but I did wake up knowing I picked it which made letting go of all of the pieces that I didn’t have control of (getting offers, timing, closing dates) that much easier.
Harness the spiraling thoughts for good. I don’t view the ‘what if’ questions as a problem but a resource. When I think about the kids being back to school I encourage myself to think, What if they get sick? What if school shuts down? What if daycare closes? What if they get minor symptoms but aren’t actually sick and have to stay home and their crazy and I can’t get anything done? I encourage my mind to go to the worst case scenario and then take the next step to identify my resources and make a plan. What if my kids get sick? We’ll notify anyone that they, or we, may have come in contact with, call the health department, follow directions, and care for sick kid. What if it is worse?! I’ll take time to understand the benefits I have through work, do what I need to to take care of sick kid. If school and daycare are closed and I have to work, homeschool, and care for a tot…. well as hard as the acts may be, it isn’t stressful. I just did that a few months ago, I know the plan there. If I do want to take it a step further I could contact the school to understand their plan.
Combining this perspective and strategy has helped me triumph in all sorts of difficult situations. Covid is no different. My advice to anyone who is stressed in this time is be realistic and grateful in your pursuit to control what you can. Give up trying to control the things that were never under your control in the first place. Harness the power of those ‘what if’ thoughts to identify resources and develop a plan around even the worst case scenarios.