Whew! What a year it’s been so far. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired, not just from working so much, but from the upheaval the coronavirus has caused in our lives for so many months.
Back in March, many of us thought this would only last a few weeks. But going into the fall, we nowknow COVID-19 is here to stay, as we patiently hope our lives will return somewhat back to normal with a possible vaccine sometime early next year. Until then, we have to keep coping while balancing our careers, figuring out the best way to homeschool our kids, and managing our genuine fears and hopelessness.
If you’re like me, one of my biggest challenges is finding balance. Because working and schooling from home have blended the line between professional and home life, it’s hard to find balance, not just mentally and emotionally, but also physically.
Our fall edition of The "Can-Do" Quarterly focuses on "maintaining your headspace," ways to helpyou stay sane while in quarantine. We talk to life coach Elissa Shuck and acupuncturist Chad Dupuis to get some advice, and we offer tips and tools you can use to find ways to relax.
If you've been to our website lately, you'll see that we've expanded our focus beyond the direct sales industry to appeal to entrepreneurs, freelancers, independent contractors, and small business owners. So you'll find even more tips, tricks, and advice covering a broader range of topics in our newsletter and our blog. We've also added significant new benefits, including Health Products, BenefitHub, and WorkingLive.
From all of us at NFICA, stay happy and healthy as much as you can. We hope you’ll find some of these solutions helpful.
Learn How to Think Intentionally with Life Coach Elissa Shuck
In the United States, we have been living with the COVID pandemic since March. According to the American Psychological Association, COVID is causing us stress in a number of areas:
7 in 10 Americans (67%) say the government response to coronavirus causes them stress.
70% of adults report a significant amount of stress regarding the economy.
7 in 10 employed adults (70%) say work is a significant source of stress in their lives.
Over the past month, the average reported stress level related to the coronavirus pandemic for parents of children under 18 is 6.7 on a 10-point scale.
We react emotionally instead of intentionally.
The message is loud and clear - we are stressed! And we haven’t even gotten into all of the other problems we’re facing as a nation. The point is, now more than ever, it's essential to slow down where we can, take some deep breaths, and try to adjust our outlook on life.
Elissa Shuck, a strategic life coach who offers career and workplace coaching to help people find more meaning in their work and personal lives, says how we respond to one thing is generally how we respond to anything. She explains, “There are certain circumstances that may be bringing behaviors closer to the surface. And I think uncertainty and other things going on in our world will bring up behavior patterns that maybe we've buried.”
As a life coach, Elissa helps people discover and tap into their resources, to form healthy habits that stay with them for the rest of their lives. “If we can learn how to navigate the insanity that people are feeling right now, then those are tools and resources that you're going to be able to use for the rest of your life,” she says. “We're smart people, but it's getting out of that sort of default thinking and into intentional thinking that makes all the difference.”
What does it mean to think intentionally?
When you think intentionally, you are actively deciding to think about a situation, leading to an inner dialogue where you weigh your options on how to react. Many times, when people are faced with an unexpected or undesirable situation, they choose to respond with emotion, with little thinking involved, like, for instance, a parent yelling at their child for disturbing their work. Or wallowing in our misery when we feel like life is hopeless.
"One of my favorite authors is Victor Frankl and his book Man's Search for Meaning, says Elissa. “And one of the key foundational things about his life and the psychological methodology that he developed coming out of the concentration camps had to do with the pause between what's happening to you and the meaning you decide to attach to it. Said another way, it's the circumstance. And your thought about that circumstance will determine your feelings and your actions that you take after that.”
Life is 50/50
A healthy way to look at life, now and always, according to Elissa, is the idea of 50/50 and how we choose to think about it. Life is always 50/50 - half positive and half negative. But what is negative to one person, she says, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s negative for someone else. It’s all about how you look at it, which can make all of the difference. “If you are expecting 50/50, you're not expecting life to be perfect; you're actually expecting it to be half great and half not so great,” Elissa says. “It really changes your perspective about those times of uncertainty. You stop asking yourself the question, ‘Why is this happening?’ It's not so much about balance as it is about integration and figuring out how to integrate all of this into a whole life. Because if you’re working from home, there may be no such thing as work-life balance during this pandemic, when you have kids at home, and you're juggling and running around and doing all this stuff. The balance was never necessarily there. But you have to figure how to integrate it all.
We can choose how to respond.
And the best way to integrate it all, Elissa says, is to pay attention to your thoughts and decide, “Okay, is this the thought that serves my situation best?” She likens this to a parent driving a car with screaming kids fighting in the backseat. You know all of this is going on behind you, but you’re still driving the vehicle. You, as the driver, still have 100% control of where you’re going.
That's why I liked this idea of integration because it acknowledges we're human beings, she says. “We're going to have challenges and negative thoughts and anxiety and fear and feelings of uncertainty. It's when you resist those that they become more powerful than if you acknowledge them and say, ‘This is where I am today.’”
What are some ways we can learn to slow down and pay more attention to our thoughts? Keep reading! We’ve got some suggestions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 40% of U.S. adults reported suffering from mental health issues or drug abuse in late June due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s no doubt these are stressful times. That’s why it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself.
One of the best ways to do this is learning to maintain your headspace - taking time to slow down, calm your thoughts, refocus, and readjust your negative perspective into a positive one.
We’ve got six suggestions you can implement right now to help you maintain your headspace.
1. Start your day with a moment of silence.
Think of the way you start your morning as the blueprint for your day. Instead of picking up your phone first thing, turn inward and spend 3-5 minutes in silence. If you must have your phone, you can use apps like Headspace, Unplug, and Simple Habit for a variety of short, guided meditations.
2. Get better sleep.
In the same vein, a good night's rest is essential to your well-being. Studies show that having electronic devices in bed with you can lead to disruptive sleep. Instead, keep your phone and tablets in a separate room and try reading a book in bed. Again, suppose you can't go without your phone. In that case, apps like Calm, Sleepiest, and Tide lull you to sleep with nature sounds, guided meditations, and even bedtime stories, and can even monitor your sleep and provide insight into your sleep patterns and ways to improve your sleep cycles.
It's hard to live a positive life when you are surrounding yourself with negative people. Be conscious of how the people you interact with make you feel. Are you feeling drained after speaking with a particular friend? Maybe you should consider limiting contact. Read more about this in our blog post, “The Five Types of People to Surround Yourself With.”
5. Limit your news intake.
While the news is essential to stay informed on what's going on globally, it can also be anxiety-inducing. Limit the amount of time you spend reading or watching the news to 15 minutes a day if you can. Or take a break and do something else to get your mind off it. For more info on how the news can affect your negatively, and ways to address it, read this article from Medical News Today.
6. Take time to prioritize yourself.
Prioritizing yourself may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes we are so caught up in the noise of our daily lives that we forget to slow down and show ourselves love. Prioritizing yourself could look different to everyone. Watch a movie, read a book, take up a new hobby. Whatever it is, make sure you’re taking time to do something relaxing for yourself.
The important lesson here is to find ways to put yourself first, even if it's just in small ways. While your world may revolve around helping others cope with the pandemic (like doing virtual schoolwork with your kids and offering emotional support to your spouse, all the while juggling your job), it's essential to prioritize your needs to maintain your sanity.
How Chinese Medicine Can Help You Achieve Balance in Your Life
Need another way to reduce stress and regain focus in your life? Chinese medicine may be your answer. We talked with Chad Dupuis, the Principal Acupuncturist and owner of Yin Yang House—a Chattanooga-based wellness center offering a full range of Chinese medicine options—about how these services can help people like you during these stressful times.
NFICA: Hi Chad, thanks for speaking with us today. Can you explain what Chinese Medicine is and how it is different than traditional western medicine?
At the base level, they are both used to treat and manage a range of health issues. Chinese Medicine, which encompasses acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Tui na (Chinese Medical Massage/Manipulative Therapy), and other associated techniques such as cupping and moxibustion, is generally more concerned with the "root" of the issues rather than symptomatic management. It accomplishes this by using a relatively robust and multi-faceted theoretical diagnostic framework (where terms like qi, yin, blood, etc. come from) and attempts to narrow down a person's collection of issues or conditions to a "singular" cause, and then treat that. At times, the reality is they will work well together; at times, western medicine will be key, and at times only Chinese Medicine is necessary.
NFICA: What are the most beneficial ways in Chinese medicine that help relieve stress? Would it be something like Tong Ren Therapy or Tai Chi? How do these practices differ when it comes to relieving stress?
Stress is simply chemistry at some level, so anything that changes that paradigm and chemical levels in the body can help. The problem arises when the body thinks that what it is doing is great, even if it is not great for you. And then you need something to push that imbalance to a different setting. This is generally what acupuncture or properly prescribed Chinese herbal medicine can do. Other things such as Tai Chi, meditation, exercise, etc. all will do that as well, but they can be harder to create deeper changes. Often, acupuncture, along with meditation, would be a more fruitful route to making lasting changes in the body. Tong Ren Therapy, a version of what would be called Medical Qigong, or Chinese Medicine energy healing, is a whole other avenue that can work both in conjunction with all of these other facets (i.e., acupuncture, Tai Chi, etc.) or entirely on its own, with aspects of tong ren, meditation, and Tai Chi.
NFICA: Can people in self-isolation do any of these things at home, or do they need to seek a clinic? If they can do some of these things from home, can you point to resources they can use to get started?
For acupuncture and in nearly all cases for Chinese herbal medicine, they should work only with a licensed acupuncturist directly (some are doing virtual consultations for herbal medicine - where they will generally also discuss diet, lifestyle changes, etc.). Meditation is relatively easy to learn the basics of, but practicing takes discipline and consistency to truly get some benefits. Other things, such as Tai Chi, are more complicated to learn generally and quite hard purely online. I tend to explain learning Tai Chi as being closer to learning to play a musical instrument while also learning to read music instead of just taking up jogging, for example. Qi Gong, a subset of Tai Chi, is often easier to understand because the shorter routines and more static postures can be learned to a degree online and convey many of the same health benefits.
Over the lockdown, mainly as a refresher for my students, I did a series of live instructional videos of two different Tai Chi forms breaking the moves down in the same small parts that we teach them per video. They are here and here. And then, our YouTube page has some random Qigong forms that are much easier to follow along with.
NFICA: Are there any other suggestions we might have missed when relieving stress and achieving balance during these crazy times?
With meditation comes building awareness of how things affect you. In particular, you learn to be more cautious of what you are ingesting with media and how that influences you in both conscious and subconscious ways. Concerning yourself more with the present moment, reading primarily only published research and high-quality media, and giving yourself time to just be, are beneficial skills.
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