10 tips for staying sane in uncertain times

10 Tips for Uncertain Times

This list was compiled on 15 July 2021, when South Africa and KZN, in particular, are experiencing civil unrest to a scale never experienced. Shops and businesses have been broken into, looted, and burnt with devastating effects. This, whilst experiencing the Covid pandemic and all the lockdown regulations and restrictions.

Here are my ten tips for staying sane in this very uncertain time:

  1. BIG feelings are okay.
  2. It’s okay to lose your shit!
  3. Breathe.
  4. Limit social media time.
  5. Connect.
  6. Don’t add fuel to the fire.
  7. Practice gratitude.
  8. Lift your vibration.
  9. Move.
  10. Self-care is a priority.

BIG feelings are okay.

Right now, we are all experiencing a lot of BIG emotions, fear, anger, frustration, desperation, sadness, uncertainty. And, if like me, you are an empath, you will experience not just your emotions but those of the collective too and trust me, those are pretty heavy, ugly and sticky. There is absolutely nothing wrong with experiencing these big emotions, in fact, it is good to honour them rather than suppress them. If we suppress them, they tend to pop up later when triggered by something else.

So how do we honour these feelings? We give ourselves permission to feel them. If it is fear you are feeling, then give yourself the time and space to really experience that emotion. It doesn’t have to be for a prolonged period of time, a few minutes of simply acknowledging the feeling, experiencing it in your body and then letting it go. This may have to be done several times, but each time should be easier than the previous.

Let us try not to take these BIG emotions out on anyone else. Right now, everyone is in survival mode too. By the way, this is an awesome tool to teach your children.

It’s okay to lose your shit!

This brings me to the next tip, it is okay to lose your shit! Let’s face it, we are all human and right now things are tense. We are on edge. There is a lot of fear around, there are so many unknowns, we are facing the metaphorical lion here. Our lives are in danger.

So, it is okay to lose your shit. BUT, and this is the important part, when you do, step away, calm down, process these emotions (see tip 1) and then go back and apologise! Right now, our relationships are more important than who is “wrong” or “right”, it costs nothing to simply say “I’m sorry.”

Breathe

This tip might seem a little corny, but it is actually quite profound. In times such as these, when we are facing the metaphorical lion, our nervous system goes into freeze / flight / fight mode (sympathetic nervous system). Our bodies were designed to do this! It is critical for survival. However, our bodies weren’t designed to stay in this state for prolonged periods of time.  In this state, blood and oxygen gets directed to our larger muscle groups to help us fight or flee from the threat. This means our heal / digest system (parasympathetic nervous system) is given the back seat. If we stay in freeze / fight / flight mode for an extended period, we don’t digest our food properly, our immune system starts to fail, and our brain doesn’t function properly either.

We need to consciously switch from the sympathetic nervous system to our parasympathetic nervous system and it is as easy as breathing! By consciously making your exhale longer than your inhale, you will shift your body back into the parasympathetic nervous system, so that it can start to function optimally again. Start with an inhale for the count of 3 or even 4, and an exhale for the count of 5 or 6. Slow your breath down, breathe into your belly and slowly extend your inhale and your exhale. Again, you don’t need to do this for a long, a few minutes a couple of times a day can make all the difference.

Also, another great tool for the kiddos.

Limit social media time.

In times like these, to have access to social media at our fingertips is incredible. We can keep up to date with very real and relevant information, from mass media to our neighbours reporting what they are witnessing LIVE.

But it also means you can get caught up in the fear. I recommend scheduling three times during your day, for 15 to 20 minutes, to access this wealth of information. We need to keep up to date but we don’t need to drown ourselves in it.

Also, switch all those notifications off – it will bring you some peace. Mute the unnecessary WhatsApp groups, so that you can get some proper rest and sleep without the continuous and insistent beeping.

Connect

The flip side of this is that we also now have easy access to friends and family all over the world at our fingertips. When you are tempted to mindlessly scroll through social media rather reach out to a friend or family member. Check-in with them, make sure they are okay. Or, if you aren’t okay, reach out for someone to talk to.

Humans are a gregarious species. We need other people. The Covid pandemic has already illustrated how devastating the effects of loneliness can be. Reach out when you can, so someone will reach out to you when you can’t.

Connect with your children, they will feel safe if they just know that you are there for them. Don’t be distracted by your phone. Play with them, ask them questions, get to know them. We have a 30-minute drive to school in the mornings and this is one of my favourite times with my kids. We get to chat about the most incredible things and we laugh and share, we connect.

Don’t add fuel to the fire.

Right now, there is more than enough fear and uncertainty and we have more than enough fear-mongers spreading unrest and rumours. Let’s not add fuel to this fire.

Practice the three gates: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If a piece of information doesn’t pass two of these three gates, then don’t say it or post it.

I understand we all want to be good citizens and we don’t want to seem irresponsible but sharing and posting uncorroborated information just adds fuel to the fire. And yes, we all want the world to see what the current reality is here but posting and reposting photos and video footage of all looting, burning and unrest creates more fear. Rather post all the good stuff, neighbours standing together protecting each other’s families, farmers providing milk and eggs.

And this is not just for what we share on social media but what we say to our loved ones, our children, to ourselves. We need to watch our thoughts and words because our thoughts become our words and words become our actions. Our actions become our habits and our habits become our character and our character becomes our destiny (Mahatma Gandhi).  

What destiny do you want for yourself? What destiny do you want for your children? And trust me, your children are watching you and listening to you. Your words and actions are pivotal in what kind of adults they become, either because of you or in spite of you.

Practice gratitude.

There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for! Today, I am grateful that my family is safe. I am grateful for the food in our pantry. I am grateful for our community who have rallied together and even now as I type this my eyes fill with tears with deep admiration and appreciation for those who have been protecting us, for those who are cleaning and rebuilding our little village, for those who are organizing food for the community, for those who are selflessly called to do this. I am grateful for the friends and family across the globe who have checked in on us. I am grateful for technology so that I can share this with you from the comfort of my little home office. I am grateful for all of this and so much more.

Gratitude is a practice that is free, requires no skill and can be done anywhere. It sets your day up right and helps you sleep better at night. When you start practicing gratitude, you will always find something to be grateful for.

And again, this is such a great practice to teach your children and to practice with them. I love listening to what my children are grateful for; it often brings light into my life. Yesterday my oldest was grateful for chocolate chips. When last were you grateful for chocolate chips?

Lift your vibration.

If you have read or watched The Secret, you will know about the Law of Attraction. Very simply, what we put out into the world is what comes back to us. Perceived negative emotions such as grief, guilt, shame, and fear are all emotions that vibrate at a low frequency. Whereas emotions such as gratitude, love, joy, and peace all vibrate at higher frequencies. If we can shift ourselves (and therefore the collective) from a lower frequency to a higher frequency, then we will attract more of that and less of the lower frequency emotions.

Ways to do this (and all tools you can share with your children) are practicing gratitude, meditating, tapping, being in nature, playing your favourite song and having a little dance party, connecting with loved ones and of course, playing and creating. Your children instinctively know how to do all this, let them guide you and don’t be scared to be silly!

Move.

Following on, moving your body doesn’t only lift your vibration but it actually releases your “feel good” hormones such a serotonin. I can hear you thinking “then why does running feel so hard?”. Well, if running isn’t for you then try other ways to move your body. Go for a walk, download a yoga app, have a kitchen dance party to your favourite playlist.

It doesn’t matter how you move your body or how intense the exercise is but twenty minutes a day is all you need. If you do tend to sit for long periods of time, set your timer to go off every 50 minutes and take 10 minutes to go to the bathroom, have a glass of water and have a little stroll outside, in your garden, if you are lucky enough to have one.

Connect with your children through movement. Build an obstacle course together and then time each other to see who wins. Play frisbee, play ball, bounce on the trampoline, jump in puddles, see who can wheelie the longest. Again, let your kids lead. Movement with your children is good for bodies and souls, big and small.

Self-care is a priority.

This is by no means the least important, in fact, it might be the most important and so it’s a case of leaving the best for last. Many of us are at home, trying to juggle the plethora of tasks of being an adult and a parent at this time. We are minding our children, trying to work, cleaning the house, looking after rogue grandparents, worrying about our jobs, our children, their schools, who is going to cook supper and what to do when run out of toilet paper!

Self-care is a priority. You cannot fill from an empty cup! You need to look after yourself FIRST before you can adequately look after anyone else. In an airplane, do they not instruct you to first put on your mask before assisting anyone else with theirs? Same same. And if this means, your kids spend an extra twenty minutes on a screen, that you order ready-made meals or that you delegate duties then do that!

Be realistic with your time. Also, be honest with your boss, chances are they are experiencing the same dilemmas as you are. Be honest with your family, if you need help, ask for it.

Look after yourself first, have a bath, read a book, watch your favourite series on Netflix, tidy your kitchen, make a shopping list, whatever it is that feeds your soul. Do that.

This is a simple list and I think the beauty of it is in its simplicity. We are all able to do all of the above. Right now, our priorities have changed and that is okay. This means that life as we know it is not happening. Yes, we try to hold on to that because it is what we know and what we are comfortable with but also be at peace if you need to let go of stuff. You will be able to pick it up at a later stage when we have shifted out of survival mode. Your safety, health and well-being and that of your family is your priority right now.

I pray that the storm has passed. I pray for all of you and your loved ones. I pray for our community, our province, our country. I pray that this storm brings us closer together and shows us how we can do things differently, more sustainably.