Deciding to live intentionally and deliberately amidst the chaos is a game changer.
What we’re experiencing right now, across the globe, is undoubtedly something we have never experienced before. In between stretches of calm, peace and surrender, my mind skips across a spectrum of disbelief, fear and horror. This is mind boggling, and for those of us who have already been personally touched by loss, it’s beyond comprehension.
As we wait in our homes—wait for things to get worse, wait for things to get better—how can we continue to live meaningfully? In these in-the-meantime months, how do we resist the urge to subsist on news feeds, streaming entertainment and doom and gloom?
Yesterday morning, I wrote these questions in my journal:
• Who do I want to be in this?
• In a few years, when I look back on this bizarre and heartbreaking experience, how will I describe how I handled it?
Words like generous, compassionate, calm, kind, connected, productive and present filled my page. I wrote that when I look back I want to know that I made a difference where I could, that I made the most of all this time at home with my family, and that I was able to be a light for others.
I needed to have a plan to thrive during this crazy time. Here’s what I created:
START WITH A SCHEDULE
Anyone who knows me, even casually, knows that I am a scheduler, time blocker, list maker, and spread sheet lover. With the task at hand being to keep Marc, myself and our kids occupied, safe and connected for an indefinite future, my first instinct was to reach for the tools I’ve always used to create order and calm in my life. For me, and perhaps you too, a schedule can produce predictability and a track to keep us from wandering into unhealthy habits.
In my world, it works to rise at the same time each day and go to bed around the same time each night. My schedule includes time for:
- Mindfulness (meditation, journaling, reading)
- Healthy, home-prepared meals
- Fun with the kids and Marc
- Productive work (contribution, podcasting, writing, supporting my Awakened Living community)
- Time outside
- Play and connection with people who are not inside my house with me
For you, that might include projects, organizing the house, meal planning, reading, taking online courses, cleaning, napping, watching movies, writing or creative work.
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Ask yourself: What are my fundamentals? What are the things that make up a well-lived life for you? Once you have your answer, create a schedule based on these things. And perhaps keep a commitment journal to help keep you on track and accountable.
MAKE TIME FOR EXERCISE
How many of us have used the excuse that we don’t have time to exercise? Probably all of us at some point. Now, with many commutes eliminated and most plans cancelled, many of us have more than enough time. While gyms and group fitness classes are nixed, virtual classes abound, many free and many paid, such as Peloton classes. Here are a few ideas:
- Go for a walk outside once or twice a day
- Do a Couch to 5K program
- Check out a free fitness app
- Do online yoga classes
- Go for a hike on a nearby trail (we love the All Trails app for finding them)
- Learn Tai Chi via YouTube
- Use your Roku or Apple TV to join a dance class
- Participate in 30-day challenges, such as for abs, planks, or squats
- Stretch and get to work on an area you’ve always lacked flexibility in
Movement will not only release endorphins and make you feel accomplished, it also boosts your immune system, which could not be more important. Besides, when you find the right thing, exercise can be fun, especially if you enroll someone in your household to join you.
DON’T FORGET TO PLAY
Last night, I played Catan with my brother and two friends. All of us were in our own homes with our own game set and connected through Zoom. Gosh, it was fun. As I am writing this, my daughter Elizabeth is playing Battleship with her cousin in Toronto. Tonight, we have plans to play trivia with Marc’s parents in Rochester.
We’ve pulled out the corn hole game, the girls have drawn all over our sidewalk with chalk art, and we have cook-off challenges planned.
We can’t stop playing, having fun and laughing. Read Stuart Brown’s book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul and you’ll learn how scientists have studied mammals, like chimpanzees and bears, and discovered that the ones that are the healthiest and most resilient are the ones that regularly make time for aimless, joyful play.
Inside or outside, offline or on, there are so many ways we can keep laughing and playing while social distancing. It’s such a great way to pass the time, stay connected and stay mentally steady.
I’ve been going for a morning sunrise walk every day now for about a week and it’s absolutely one of the best habits I have created for my thrive plan. There’s something about seeing a new day begin that’s very reassuring and soothing to me.
Being outside has been proven to calm the nervous system and steady the mind. Movement and fresh air can sometimes be exactly what we need to shift our thinking and move through tough emotions. A walk with someone we love can be tremendously connective.
We can still practice responsible social distancing while checking out our local trails. We can create space between our fellow hikers, refrain from using public restrooms and avoid touching surfaces anyone else might touch while still enjoying beautiful, restorative spaces.
While it’s not my cup of tea, I see a lot of my friends and neighbors doing yard work, clearing out flowerbeds and installing gardens. And depending on which part of the world you are in, you can either throw a Frisbee or some snowballs. Either way, plan to spend time outside every day. Your mind, body and soul will thank you.
MAKE A CONTRIBUTION
A friend on Facebook started collecting polyurethane reusable shopping bags and sewing them into medical masks. My brother has been dropping off groceries to people in isolation. Canned goods are being brought into food banks. Money is being raised for lunch programs for kids no longer at school. People are joining ‘letters of hope’ writing campaigns. Bloggers are creating lists of restaurants that are doing pick-up and delivery. Instructors are doing Facebook lives of their yoga classes for free.
We are wired to give, to support and to help. In fact, I believe that contribution is the antidote of anxiety. I promise that if you find a way to make a difference for family, friends and neighbors, you will feel useful. Your life will feel meaningful. Need inspiration? Download the Good News Network app. It’s filled with amazing stories of how average people like you and me can contribute to the greater good.
YOUR THRIVE PLAN
Your plan, should you choose to create one, is as individual as you are. Start by exploring what are the essential parts of your life. Use a journal or a conversation with someone in your life to tease out the fundamental aspects of a good life, on your terms. The point is, spend some time thinking about what’s important (and what isn’t) and start building a plan (and maybe a schedule) that incorporates these things on a daily basis.
I recognize that it’s a privilege to be able to stay in a comfortable home, surrounded by loved one, with little worry about where our next meal will come from. I honor this good fortune by a) feeling gratitude every day, and b) doing my part to help others. How I stay grateful, compassionate and generous is by thriving, because I am of no use to anyone if I am paralyzed by fear or adrift in a tailspin of panic.
My goal is to stay healthy, mentally strong, positive, creative and generous. I do this by working my thrive plan. Will you join me?