During this winter school holidays I have taken time away from coaching. Although I had a break over Christmas, closing the studio and tying up all the associated lose ends didn’t give me the real break I needed.
With some time out, it has made me reflect on what has happened over the last 15 months and allowed me to process this extraordinary time. One thing I became aware of was the large “knot” that has been situated in my chest and abdomen. Anxiety shows up in many ways, but I am more than aware of its physical presence in my body. Thankfully over the last week I have allowed some of the background tension to dissipate from my body. Although I have been supporting myself over the year with many self-care behaviours that manage stress, taking a mini break is what has been missing in my wellbeing equation.
However, with the borders only opening hours upon my family’s departure- leaving Melbourne was not a given. What this pandemic has taught me is that for a long time I have lived with the illusion of certainty. I have after all been blessed to have lived in a modern first world society that has had freedom, choice and also a sense of self agency allowing control over my environment and life. This COVID roller coaster has made me more aware of life’s uncertainty and, how many in the world live with little control when it comes to basic survival needs- a regular and reliable food supply, access to good health care and the opportunity to work.
Filling in my travel permit to QLD I was reminded of some correspondence I had with another coach just as the pandemic hit. In our conversation we discussed how this was about to be a time of immense change socially, economically and medically. In fact, in many ways we were about to embark on the greatest social and behavioural change experiment. Our personal behaviours and choices were not only impacting our own health, but also the health of our community.
These thoughts were with me as my family made it’s way to the airport. Upon checking in and finding my seat on the airplane, I couldn’t notice how many people were ignoring basic pandemic precautions- wearing masks (properly), sanitizing and maintaining social distance. What was evident was a real lapse, in what I thought would be an ingrained behaviour, especially after nearly 30 weeks in Melbourne lockdown! This experience made me reflect further on the challenges of changing human behaviour and how we can create healthy habits that stick. This has been a life long journey for myself and has become the focus of my work and studies (more of this in my upcoming blog).
With time removed from my home environment and routine, it has allowed my mind to wander and have time for further introspection. Although the previous 15 months have been tough in many aspects, the pandemic has allowed me to reconnect with my values, strengths and what is important in life. Although I am someone who loves routine and is a creature of habit, the previous year has really allowed me to work on being flexible. The word “pivot” has taken on a new meaning for me. Being able to change direction without losing balance or momentum. The key learning has been how to be malleable with behaviour to accommodate a changing environment while still maintaining the solidity of my values.
Reviewing the last 15 months has also made me more aware of my capacity to be accepting and being “OK” with feeling uncomfortable. I have been continually facing uncomfortable thoughts and feeling associated with the uncertainty and sense of lack of control. Who would have thought that I would be spending part of my holidays in lockdown! Although this experience of riding the COVID roller coater has not been pleasant, I have developed better psychological flexibility and emotional agility in the process. As I write this I am currently unsure whether I will get back to Victoria as planned (with the Sunshine Coast still a designated red zone).
It is interesting that I can live with anxiety, whilst being present to the gifts in the here and now- I guess its mindfulness. In contrast to my anxiety, my gratitude is deepened… J.