For the last couple months, my family has been moving around a lot, thanks to Covid. After a few weeks of quarantining in the city, we went to our house in Tuxedo Park, where we’d have more space and more access to nature. But it turned out, we had a little too much access to nature…meaning, we discovered we had a mice infestation. When they started falling from the ceiling (literally), we knew it was time to move again.
First, we went to Georgia for a month, where we hoped to ride out more of the pandemic. But then that rental lease ended, and so we found another rental house on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
When we got here on Sunday, I felt out of sorts, ungrounded. In Georgia, I already felt far from home, and now we’d gone even farther. The house here is beautiful; it’s on the very tip of an island, with water all around us. But instead of feeling like we’d reached some remote paradise, I just felt stuck. Like I’d reached the end.
When my client Raymond first came to see me last fall, he was looking for clarity and direction. He had a good job in the hotel business, but overall, things were shaky. He was worried about his health; he'd had a series of bad relationships, and last but not least, his apartment was a mess.
It was a lot to work on, so we started with one small goal. After talking through some things, Raymond chose something that sounded both doable and meaningful: to clean up his apartment, enough that he could have friends over.
"Great," I said, and decided to take it even deeper. "Why is that important? What will you gain by doing that?" (I often ask my clients to name their Why. Not only does it help motivate them, but also because it can lead to unexpected places. As you'll see, this happened with Raymond…)
"Well," he said, thinking, "I've always wanted to have friends over for a game night, like I used to. But with the disaster area that is my living room, well, that's just not...
Quarantine has been a strange time for everyone. It's forced us to adapt to a new lifestyle, learn to live in close quarters either alone or with others, and it's disrupted pretty much every area of life. So of course it's going to disrupt our thoughts. It's set off stress responses not just in our bodies and emotions, but also in how and what we think.
The cool thing is, we can identify – and change – those negative thought patterns.
Psychologists call these patterns "cognitive distortions." Below are some of the most common ones I'm seeing and hearing (and thinking) while we're in quarantine – along with some ways to free ourselves from their clutches.
"Don't you KNOW how I feel? Isn't it obvious?" "No, actually, I have no idea how you feel."
Assuming that other people can read our minds (and that we can read others'.) Emotions right now are so rampant and volatile, and there are so many unknowns – so it's essential to remember that...
One week a few months ago, back when the world was still functioning, I was just dragging. I couldn’t stop hitting snooze or yawning through meetings. I guzzled coffee, and when I got home, I collapsed. What was going on?
I decided to work backward to figure out why I was so tired all the time. Why did I hit snooze? Because I needed more sleep. Why did I need more sleep? Because I’d gone to bed late. Why had I gone to bed late?
Ding ding ding. That was the answer I needed.
I’d gone to bed late because of the million and one things I had to do the night before: get the kids’ school stuff ready for the morning. Make a to-do list for the next day. Take the dog out. Clean kitchen. Brush teeth, wash face, turn off screens, meditate.
The problem was, I wasn’t starting that whole mad rush until after 9pm - way too late.
So I made a list of all the things that need to happen before I can go to bed. Next to each one, I estimated how much time it would take...
A couple weeks ago, in the first few days of Corona quarantining, I had a recurring thought: I have to do something. It was energizing; it was exciting. My March and April calendar had cleared themselves completely, as if someone had waved a magic wand. No more speaking gigs, no more conferences, no more traveling.
I have to use this time to the fullest!
After all, Isaac Newton did! Shakespeare did! They conceived of their best ideas while quarantined from the plague. What rock-star best-selling world-changing idea will I come up with?
Of course, it didn't take long for the overwhelm to settle in. I had a ton of projects to work on – book, website, new products, you name it – but I couldn't seem to focus on one. It didn't help that there were a million blogs and newsletters sitting in my inbox, exhorting me to make the most of my time and offering tips on how to do that. I couldn’t even check my email without being reminded of all the other things I could do: clean...
These are scary times. I'm not here to offer you medical advice or breaking news on the COVID-19 virus. I want to talk about the mental difficulties many of us face, and how we can handle them in the healthiest way possible. With magnified stress, social isolation, looming unknowns, and big changes to our daily lives, it's more important than ever to take care of ourselves – and I mean more than washing our hands.
Here are six ways you can take care of yourself and your loved ones in the midst of this crisis.
1. Embrace creativity. Often, when things are in flux, people grab for safety. They want something they can control. Yet this actually a good time to think out of the box – because new ideas and opportunities can come from difficult times. Plus, opening your mind to creative thoughts will help ease your stress and keep you busy.
If you don't believe me, get this: Isaac Newton had to work remotely for a full year during the plague, and he was so productive then...
Last year, I worked with an English professor named Tracy who taught me a big lesson about down time.
She arrived late to her first session, bustling in with a backpack and a pile of papers in her hand. "I'm sorry I'm late," she said, trying to shove all the papers into her bag. "I had four meetings back to back this morning."
I looked at the clock, which said 11:30 a.m. She's had four meetings already?
"What would you like to work on today?" I asked.
Tracy rubbed her eyes. "You can probably tell," she said. "I'm so overwhelmed. I have a thousand and one things on my plate. I'm always working, so my husband and cats barely know me anymore. I haven't seen my friends in ages. But I'm ready to hit my head against a wall, if it'll help. Because even though I work every second I can…I feel like nothing's working."
"Oh, is that all?” I said, and she smiled. "It sounds like you're doing a lot. I’m curious what makes you feel like nothing is working out?
Ah, February in New York. It's that time of year when the snow is the slushiest, the days are the darkest, and many of us feel cranky, tense, and cooped-up. Magical, isn't it?
Spring is just around the corner…even if that corner is still a couple months away (it'll get here, I promise!). Till then, here are some ways to invite the warm, bright liveliness of spring into your wintry days:
For New Year's this year, my family and I took a vacation to Aruba, where my son Ty taught me a valuable life lesson. It had to do with tubing. Yes, I mean the kind where you're behind a motorboat, being violently whipped around…but I'll get to that in a second.
It was our last day, and the four of us had just finished a 4-hour ATV tour through the national park. I felt like I'd already "done" the adventure for the day, so I was looking forward to relaxing on the beach with a pina colada. But as Ty and I stood looking out at the ocean, he reminded me: "You know, we talked about going tubing. Remember?"
I sighed. Yes, I remembered. It looked like a giant headache waiting to happen. Instead of a tube, you sat in a big inflatable sofa-like thing, and the boat jerked you around for twenty minutes while you hung on for dear life. I'm all for adventure – but that pina colada was really calling my name.
"It's okay," said Ty, before I even opened my mouth. "We don't have to do...
Recently, someone asked me about how and when to say no. I’m glad they did, because it's such an important skill, and because it's one I've struggled with.
Okay, that's an understatement. Sometimes it feels like my entire life is about not saying no enough. Which is why I know all about it!
Let's talk about why it's crucial, and some ways to go about saying no – especially when it's hard.
First, it helps to understand why it's such a hard thing to do. There are a few reasons:
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