One of my favourite self-leadership practices is the process of shifting from entitlement to appreciation, the heart of which is taking the wisdom and learning from people or circumstances that are causing us suffering. As someone who has experienced anxiety and depression since I was a teenager, I’ve had quite a few of those opportunities. But since being medicated nine years ago, they are fewer and fewer. Lockdown, it seems, is fertile ground for such experiences.
Wednesday a few weeks ago was one of those. I woke up feeling down and angry. Serving the relentless needs and managing the regular misbehaviour of a rather non-compliant 9-year-old child was starting to break me. The news of ever-increasing COVID cases triggered a foreboding that turned to fear. Tears came and didn’t stop. Not floods; but a constant trickle and lump in the throat. I had a few work calls and an afternoon workshop I was thankfully participating in, not leading.
Then Mala had a meltdown mid-afternoon, desperate for someone to play with. I was empty; nothing to give, but the situation required me to calm and distract a highly agitated child. As the time passed, the thought of being the only adult practically responsible for Mala’s needs for an indeterminate length of time stoked the fear. The fear fuelled more thoughts of what that would be like, turning the fear into a steadily rising panic.
I had made the unwise choice to calm myself with the last of the negroni I bought to support one of my local bars, which had the unintended consequence of escalating the negative cognitive/emotive loop into a full-blown panic attack. I’ve never had one before, so it was bloody scary.
Particularly because I was in the house alone with Mala. Thankfully she didn’t see the worst of it but she did see the end of it. I calmed my system, reached out to family and was incredibly lucky to have a couple of Valiums in the house.
The next morning I felt stable but sensitive. Tears not at the surface but not that far behind, I started working through the constructive things I could do to shift my thought patterns. I went for a brisk walk in the park with my lovely boyfriend and turned my attention to all the things that were going well and I could control.
At 10 am I had a 2-hour workshop with an amazing designer who’s doing our brand refresh and building a new website. We talked about our purpose, personality and proposition, which is essentially a conversation about all of the ideas we share with others, the ways we add value to our clients, what we love about what we do and the people we serve, and why people love working with us. By the end, I felt enlivened and elevated. My heart was open and my mind was clear.
“It’s like a big zoom hug that recharges your neural pathways with the love hormone oxytocin.”
And thank goodness for that, after the brand session I was running a workshop with a team on discovering their zone of genius. In this session, participants gather feedback from their friends, colleagues, family and community about what they’re doing when they’re most alive and how that makes a difference in their lives.
They also write down the top 8 things they have done in their life where they demonstrated talent or a skill, that they also loved doing. Sharing these stories with their colleagues and capturing their colleagues’ feedback on common threads and where they light up most, helps to reveal their zone of genius. The session wraps with a discussion on how you could live and work in your zone of genius more often. It’s like a big zoom hug that recharges your neural pathways with the love hormone oxytocin.
That evening Mala and I were calm and connected. We switched the screens off early, read stories in bed and had an early night. It’s been just over two weeks since that pit of despair temporarily sucked me under and every day since I’m feeling stronger and lighter because of the choices I’m making. In case you can relate, here are some of the life tools that helped me climb out of that hole:
This is all about understanding and working with your thoughts and emotions to radically transform your lived experience. Having practical and tangible tools to navigate the mind is my superpower.
Do you have enough in your toolbox?