Isolation. Anxiety. Fear. Uncertainty. Not being able to work. Not knowing what the future would hold. Struggling with a new normal. Having to adapt to a new routine. Feeling alone. Being on an emotional roller coaster.
This is not my first quarantine.
In 2016, my first bout with self-isolation was a little different. Like today, self-isolation wasn't a choice. It threw me for a loop and I really had no coping mechanisms to help guide me. I thought my tough girl persona was enough to get me through, but boy, was I wrong.
Now, before I go any further, I know this bump (scratch that, boulder), wasn't a world pandemic. However, it was a crisis that left me feeling isolated, and forced me to change when I wanted to do no such a thing. I felt alone. The whole world seemed to carry on, but my life was turned upside down.
I am not sharing this to dwell on the past; I share this with you in the hopes of giving you some guidance to help during these uncertain times.
I will be honest with you and say that I have had challenges during this pandemic. But, I will also say that I have been able to pivot and adapt more easily based on the healthy habits I implemented in response to my last self-isolation.
“Develop good habits, routines and coping mechanisms when life is easier. You`ll need them when life gets harder.” - Dave Hollis
This quote could not be truer. The Gina before my first quarantine, Quarantine numero uno, well, let's just say she didn`t have any coping mechanisms. She didn't know how to identify triggers, she did not have a tool kit to set her up for success, nor did she have healthy daily habits. To be honest, that Gina didn`t care to have any of these things because, well quite frankly, she felt she didn`t need them. I shake my head at that young, naive Gina.
What that version of Gina did have was a reputation for being a people pleaser and having a “work comes first” attitude. She didn`t know how to use the word NO. She put herself on the back burner. She did not have healthy boundaries. She would hide and ball up her feelings. Never would she dream of asking for help. Her daily habits were unhealthy and consisted of working VERY long hours, drive-thru dinners, and sleepless nights. She really had a lot to learn!
The good news is that between quarantines she learned a lot. She figured out who she was. For the first time in her life, she was not just her title. Her identity was no longer wrapped tightly around what she did, and she stepped into being her true authentic self, while at the same time, shedding the pressure of the expectations of others.
So, the Coles notes version of what happened is that I learned a lot about myself. I learned about my unhealthy habits and how they set me up for failure. I learned who I was. I learned that my coping mechanism at the time was to work as much as possible, so I didn't have to deal with life (which at the time was upside down and, quite frankly, a MESS). I learned that putting on a face that showed the world I was a-ok could only last for so long, and eventually I would have to face myself.
Right now, a lot of our world is feeling the same way.
We are being forced to pivot. To live differently. To not be busy. To slow down. Many of us have lost our identities. Life as we knew it has changed. Our routines that once gave us certainty have been turned upside down and now, we are all forced to see just how uncertain our world and our day to day lives can be. We feel like we have lost control. We are isolated. We are forced to be in the quiet and to slow down.
That is HARD. Throw a pandemic on top of that, and you have quite a recipe for disaster.
So, what can we do?
I was forced to do one of two things: to sink or swim, as they like to say. But I have to say, I sunk pretty deep before I came to that realization. Through that transition of sinking and deciding to start kicking rather than to continue to sink anymore, I picked up
a couple of tools along that way that I still practice today.
First and most importantly, I learned to really get to know myself. I let go of the tough girl persona, put away the super girl cape, and looked at the real me. It turns out, this girl is a big softie and I know now that showing my emotions is my new superpower, not a weakness. I also learned to ask for help. By letting down those guards and being vulnerable to the core, my business as a Life Empowerment Coach was born, and now I help so many people who are struggling and trying to find their own balance.
Secondly, I now take care of myself. I fill my cup first, so to speak, so I can better show up for my family and friends. What does that look like? I have created a list of daily non-negotiables that set me up for success and help me cope with stress, manage my emotions, and ensure my total body health is being taken care of. I exercise and move my body daily, I do a morning routine that includes journaling, gratitude, and meditation. I have healthy boundaries and have cut toxicity out of my life. Saying “no” now comes with no guilt, and I realize if I don`t respect my own expectations and boundaries, how can I expect someone else to? It means being my true, funny, quirky, authentic self and being ok if people don`t like me or understand me.
Thirdly, I have learned that the world can be a challenging place. People will let you down. Things won`t always work out the way I you want them. There will be hurt. BUT, there is also so much beauty in the world. I have learned that I am stronger than any obstacle that comes my way. I get to choose how I navigate my challenging moments. I get to choose how I show up. I get to choose who I want to be in my moments of happiness and in those of pain.
Fourthly, I realized that I didn`t love myself; I loved what others loved about me. I craved the approval of friends and family and chopped my actions of complacency up to being a good person, but really, I was craving acceptance. I know now, that to be full, to feel complete, to find my happiness, the only love I need is the love I give myself. Corny as heck, but there are no truer words.
Lastly, there is so much in the world we cannot control. But there is also so much we CAN. I may not be able to control what happens to me, but I sure as heck can control how I react, how I handle it, and how I show up. I do that very differently now.
I am not asking you to put your positive pants on 24/7 or pretend there is no pandemic. I am not telling to not feel your emotions. I am asking to you feel it all but to not let it control you. All that stress and pain you are holding onto minute after minute, day after day, week after week is not helping you. It is hurting you. So, feel pain, and then do something with it.
This is hard for us all, but try and find the joy when you can. Try to find the beautiful moments that are all around you. Try and slow down and let go of the expectations of what this is supposed to look like.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
You are not alone. We are all in this together.