Examining expectations for a post COVID-19 world

In my country some of the social distancing restrictions are starting to be lifted and it looks as though ‘normal life’ is on the horizon. It is not here yet, but we can see it’s coming. However, while we are still in country-wide lockdowns and focused on ‘surviving’ isolation, I have started pondering how we are going to ‘survive’ returning to a new normal. Have we given any thought on how to navigate the changed social and employment landscapes? If we don’t at least start thinking about it, we may be setting ourselves up for a harsh and emotionally draining return.

Although I want many areas of my life to function the same way they did before COVID-19, there will be changes that I have no control over and honestly, I’m not going to like some of it. However, I can minimise my frustrations by preparing myself mentally and examining my expectations. As my future mental health may be at stake here, I know it will be wise to take stock of the employment and social climate and adjusting accordingly.

Let’s take a moment to examine them together:

  1. Employment

Our economic landscape will look vastly different as people pick up the pieces of businesses that might once have been financially viable. We are aware that some businesses will never open their doors again and most of the ones that do will have to adapt to absorb the economic downturn.

For employees:

If you are fortunate enough to still have a job, you may face a workplace that has changed and you may be disappointed if it’s not what you expected. You might be faced with condensed hours, a pay-cut, location change or altered role etc. Navigating modified working conditions can be frustrating and exhausting; be prepared for some emotional reactions. To help you cope, I would recommend you ask your employer questions. If you can gain understanding, it will do a world of good towards handling this next stage well. Try to ask smart questions not emotionally loaded ones:

  • Do you know how long this new arrangement be in place? Are these changes temporary or long-term?
  • Can we review the new conditions of employment monthly?
  • For me to help us achieve our goals, what is the business plan moving forward?
  • Please help me understand the rationale behind this?

Most importantly, find out what’s happening within your industry. Understanding your current business environment is key for you to know what is appropriate in your own workplace and if you’re being taken advantage of. A bit of independent research will help you shape realistic (instead of idealistic) expectations.

For employers:

How are your workers going to go when they finally return to work? I’m sure you’re aware that some modern-day employees won’t take your necessary changes well, especially if you have to alter long-standing arrangements. They will want to know the why and they will have questions. I would implore you to have constant and honest discussions with your employees, even if you don’t have the all answers. Give your employees something to get behind, let them feel like they are in this fight with you. If you leave them guessing, I can almost guarantee that they will become suspicious about the information you are giving them. Is it annoying for you? Possibly, but open communication, especially after this collective traumatic experience, will do wonders for worker morale . Remember that people are already on edge and uncertainty is our currency now. Anything you can do to alleviate workplace insecurity will foster a smoother return-to-work transition.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

  1. Social interactions

I anticipate there will be a rush of social events when social distancing restrictions are lifted. Extroverts will need to recharge with others and their social interactions will be pivotal for healing. However, I suspect some of them, fuelled by a desperate need to connect, might feel entitled to people’s time. The danger is having unrealistic expectations of how others will interact with us and the disappointment that will inevitably follow. Alternatively, introverts won’t need extra events and might find increased social activities draining. However, being apart of a community means they may need to step outside their comfort zone to cultivate relationships. It’s also important to be mindful of people with mental and physical struggles; their recovery and readjustment to a ‘new normal’ might take longer than we think it should. With all our different personalities there is bound to be social pressure, push-backs and misunderstandings as we muddle forward. We are all going though a season of radical change, but the way we handle it and how we recover will differ for every person. Let’s keep exchanging kindness and offer compassion to those around us.

In our desire to return to ‘normal’ we will undoubtedly require more grace and wisdom than before and I know we are already pushing our emotional limits. However, if you are aware and prepare for a bumpy return, you’ll find the road a lot easier and less disappointing. Before society starts lifting the COVID-19 restrictions, take a moment to see if you have any hidden, unrealistic expectations. Start with these three questions:

  1. Do you have realistic expectations around return to employment and social gatherings?
  2. Are you prepared for some disappointments?
  3. How will you navigate this next phase?

Take stock and readjust as needed. This may very well be your most important self-care task this week. Remember, this has been a traumatic experience and everyone reacts differently, prepare yourself well and you’ll set yourself up to start strong.

Love Jess xxoo

Finding Purpose: From Grand to Gentle

How are we meant to find purpose in a season like this? Many of our ‘Grand Plans’ are just not achievable. It’s not that we don’t want to do them, we are literally not allowed or perhaps we can’t afford to anymore. Heck, even baking at home now requires me to do a budget check. Everything is on hold, but it feels kind of different to other seasons of being ‘on hold’ doesn’t it? There’s not much negotiation here – everything is paused. The danger is that we punish ourselves for it and end up feeling helpless and hopeless. Remember, you may still may need to let go and hold on multiple times a week. I absolutely adore the quote below which showed up on Instagram. I’ve been slightly disturbed at the heavy criticism we are aiming at ourselves and others, because now is not the time for judgement, it’s the time for grace and gentleness.

Like many of you, I’m without work and am at home all day with the kids. Finances are stretched and people’s emotions ebb and flow, crashing into each other as we share the same space. Some days I’m full of energy, vision and hope, while other days, I don’t want to see one more positive quote or see someone else’s gratitude post. I find myself wondering how to endure something like this when we don’t know how long it will last. Apart from leaning into God for reminders of my self-worth and identity, I still long to add value to the world and contribute something more than daily domestic chores.

I would suggest that if a lack of vision or purpose is getting us down, we could move from ‘grand plans’ to ‘gentle plans’. Grand plans often require long-term vision, access to services and funds, prolonged motivation and clear goals. Gentle plans are short-term, simple and achievable right now, but idealy still bring you joy or a sense of accomplishment. Gentle plans can change daily because what was working yesterday, may not work today. Gentle plans are less likely to be time dependant, but they can still be something you can work towards. They may not be Grand or life-changing for others, but in this season they may just be the life-line we need.

Here are some examples of gentle plans (not all mine):

  • Clean out the hallway cupboard
  • Cook something new or an old favourite
  • Intentionally connect with someone (gotta love technology)
  • Write a list of things to study when you can and find out where you can do it
  • Find a place to volunteer your time/skills
  • Fix that fly screen that’s been bothering at you for a while
  • Start looking at your resume
  • Exercise for 30 minutes
  • Do something creative
  • Watch that movie classic you’ve never watched
  • Plan your next local holiday for when ISO is lifted.

Do you have any gentle plans? If you are feeling lost, it might be worthwhile writing some down. Whatever plans you think of, some days they will feel achievable and easy while on other days, they will drain the life out of you, so remember to hold them gently. If today you just can’t, that’s totally fine and honestly it’s to be expected at a time like this. You’ll be pleased to know I spent almost an entire day in bed binge watching a show on Netflix and I didn’t feel guilty at all. I recognised that that’s what was going to happen that day, that’s all I had; I needed to switch off and do nothing for myself.

I write these words as a reminder just as much to myself as to you dear readers. Right now, some of us won’t have Grand plans, some of us will simply have daily, getting us through, finding our way plans. We’ll probably get back to the Grand plans one day, but for now, Stay Healthy.

Love Jess xxoo

PS – Somethings are too beautiful not to share and this new song release Otago by Brett Anthony Shaw is absolutely breathtaking. I feel like all manner of dances, art works, writings and reflective creations should be produced and enjoyed while listening to it. It feels like a healing balm on a blistered soul. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am; I have it on repeat on Spotify.

 

Dear Mums, yep this is hard

Oh man, I don’t know about you but this forced iso is hard when you have children. Yes, it is necessary to fight this virus by staying at home, but it is still hard. I have heard from countless Mums recently, all sharing about moments when they have desperately hide from their family members. I am one of them, because sometimes it’s one question too many. Sometimes it’s one screaming, annoying, angry, defiant, bored, emotional, messy, face too many. Sometimes you have given everything you had to give and you still have to keep giving.

So Honey, hide from your family when you must. You cry if you want. Give the finger to your cat (a personal favourite of mine) if that helps release the tension. This is hard, it’s not just you. That shame or Mum-guilt you are carrying doesn’t belong there; many of us are feeling bat-crap-crazy at the moment. You do not have to be perfect in this moment. You can’t meet all their needs. You are not letting them down. I guarantee, if you are even worried about your kids in this moment, you are loving your kids as best as you can.

My girlfriends and I have been more connected recently because we need to hear the “Oh me too, today was horrible” or the “You did so well” or a “I’m so happy you had a great day today”. We send each other funny memes or encouraging posts, because this is hard. It’s not a competition over who has it worse… it’s hard for us all in our own ways. Sweetheart, now is not a time for comparision. We are processing everything that’s going on, as well as other stresses like joblessness, cancelled plans, feelings of unrest and so on whilst raising children. It is incredibly hard some days. But hey… We are doing the best we can. Let’s give ourselves a break.

You are not alone – this is actually hard. I hope by hearing that you feel less alone, less like a failure and that tonight after the kids have gone to bed you can realise how hard you have been working. Well done Babe, you are amazing.

Love Jess xxoo

PS – Yes there are also many Dads who are in the same boat, but this one is for Mums because I am one 😉

My resolve today.

I have no idea anymore. Yeah, I honestly have no idea what’s going on or what’s going to happen next; I would say that none of us do. But you know what… that is Ok, I am at peace with it because it is outside of my control. If there is a choice between stress or peace, I’m going to choose peace every time. I’ve also read that Jesus is the Prince of Peace, so naturally I will choose Him any day of the week. Before this all started, I was reading my way through a book in the Bible called Proverbs. It’s filled with short phrases full of wisdom and I am always up for getting some extra wisdom in my life. I would encourage you even if you don’t like the Bible or Christianity that these words are still good – it’s worth a look 🙂

There is one line that is standing out for me at lot at the moment; you can see shadows of its influence in my previous post.

Today I am holding onto kindness for my fellow man. I have no idea any more, but I will still be kind. I may cry, I may feel sad, I may feel uncertain, but I will still be kind. When people are scared they react in all sorts of ways, but I can still choose to be kind. I am determined to carry myself with kindness and be like ‘honey’ for those I engage with. May people walk away (more accurately ‘turn off their phones’) from their interactions with me soothed and stronger.

Today I am holding onto kindness for myself. When the kids are driving me crazy, when I feel weak and weighed down… I will be kind. I will give myself space to feel and move through the emotions. I will allow for growth in its many stages and forms. I will make self-compassion my companion.

I will share kind words to sweeten souls and give health to bodies – This is my resolve today. What is yours?

Love Jess xxoo

Letting go and holding on

As countries continue to go into lockdown and people’s livelihoods are disappearing, it is a season of uncertainty for us all. I was speaking with a friend in the USA this weekend (via Instagram) and he said he was “trying to hold on and let go at the same time”. What wise words for us all to apply to our lives.

Letting go:

All of us will have things that we need to let go of at the moment and some of them are so very, very hard to do. They might be wedding plans, long awaited holidays, jobs and careers, personal dreams, new businesses, studying, fitness plans, financial goals… I honestly can’t name them all. There are so many ‘things’ that COVID-19 has impacted and we have all been impacted in one way or another. So today, why don’t you give yourself permission to mourn the things you need to let go of – mourn the things that can no longer be.

I suggest you allocate 20-30 minutes to write down the dreams/goals/plans in your life that are not longer possible and really be honest with how you feeling. Allow yourself to actually feel disappointed, angry, frustrated, depressed, sad or whatever. After that timing however, let’s do some letting go. If we are going to keep going, it’ll be easier if we aren’t holding onto things that are no longer a reality. The world has changed for the foreseeable future and it’s time for us to be resilient. You can do this; you can rise and rise again. You can let go of those hopes and dream and put others in their place. I will be doing the same. Our new dreams may look very different and not as ‘glamorous’ for a while, but having dreams/plans to look forward to is important for us all. Take a moment… let go with me. It is hard and almost unbelievable, but we are in this together. You are not alone; everyone will be faced with changes. Let them go dear friend. Even if you have tears in your eyes, take a moment to mourn and let them go.

Holding on:

As we are doing our ‘letting go’ now is also a time to ‘hold on’ more than ever before. Hold on to relationships, hold onto hope, hold onto self-compassion and hold on faith or beliefs. Hold on to the idea that you will survive this. Hold on dear heart. I will be honest and say that I have moments during the day when I think ‘Is this really happening?’ I feel sadness as I look at the lives lost, the virus spreading, people without work, nations shutting down – it is the reality of what is happening. But I don’t stay in that place. Instead I hold onto my faith in God and my belief in the extraordinary ingenuity and endurance of the human race.

Today I am holding onto the people I love, messaging them words of hope or sending them funny memes to lighten their day. I am being more intentional about my connections, not necessarily in quantity but in quality. I am also treasuring and being mindful of the the moments I find joy and sharing them with others. Today I am holding onto hope, hope for a cure, hope for a breakthrough and good news. Today I am holding onto self-compassion and realising that sometimes I will feel strong, while other times weak and that is ok. Lastly, I am holding onto my personal faith. Faith in a God who cares for us, who hears us, who has empowered us and loves us without measure.

What are you holding onto today? Just like our letting go exercise, why don’t you write them down and spend some time focusing on the things that are your strength today? When you feel down, remind yourself of what you are holding onto.

As things around the world continue to unfold, we will be letting go and holding on at the same time. Both are equally important particularly in moments of such rapid of change. Take a breath, take a moment, you are doing so well.

Love Jess xxoo

PS – I’ve been spending time on a live dance party on Instagram by DJ dnice (click on his name for link to his profile). Although I know nothing about him, he plays great music and it’s honestly a lot of fun having a virtual party with about 100k people. Things really go off when he does a hat change 🙂

What’s your prayer?

Back in 2013 Tim and I sat down and wrote out a prayer for our family. While we were overseas we prayed this almost every day to align our hearts with The Father. It remains displayed on our kitchen cupboard to this day. This morning, I was praying over the line “We choose peace over stress” (see below) and it got me thinking about all of you as we face the global pandemic of Corona Virus (COVID-19) together. Taking a moment to stop and reset our thoughts is so important during times like these.

If you are a person of faith, what are your prayers at the moment? If the idea of ‘the divine’ is not something you adhere too, what truths are you holding onto and speaking over your life at the moment?

Greenwood Family Prayer

Here we are Jesus, the ones you love. Remind us that heaven is here right now.

We know Your favour follows us today. Thank you for watching over us. We want to stay in your presence all day long. 

We trust in You with all our hearts and we won’t depend on our own strength or intellect. We seek Your will in all we do, and ask that You will show us which path to take. We thank you for Your favour in all our plans. Show us the best way to do things so they get done quickly and easily. We choose peace over stress, because we know You have the best plan for this day.

Speak to us, we are listening for your clear, gentle voice. Speak through visions and pictures, songs and signs, nature and our five senses. Show us how You see us and those around us. We’re on the lookout for divine connections today. We want to meet unexpected people in unexpected places. Help us to see and love people the way You do. Every person is so precious to You.

Thank You for loving us so much that You include us in your dreams. May your dreams come alive in us; work through us and in us. We want to walk with you and see You accomplish many signs, wonders and miracles in our lives. Thank you for sending your angels to help. We want to work with them to do whatever You ask. 

We know that you provide all we need. We give you our finances today. Help us make wise decisions as we use what You give us. We also thank you for full health today. You make our bodies, emotions and spirits strong. Your angels are a shield of protection around us, so we can do all You have asked us to do. We will not fear when bad things happen, because You are with us.

Your joy is our strength. We laugh with You today. Thank you for helping us find fun and silly moments together. We know You are always good.

We choose to live with your word in our hearts and find our rest in You. If we make a mistake, we run to you Jesus. Forgive us and let your love wash over us.

Thank you for preparing our hearts Jesus. As we go about our everyday lives whether asleep or awake, we know You are changing our hearts for what’s to come. We are open to You. We access Your nature, Your perspective, Your heart and Your love.

We want to fall more in love with You as You use us today. Amen. 

Love Jess xxoo