For many of us, the impacts of COVID 19 have been HUGE. What an emotional roller coaster it has been!
Never in our lives have we felt so uncertain and navigated so much change. It can feel scary and totally overwhelming.
If you have gone to a dark place mentally, don’t be hard on yourself. Your brain is just doing its jobs as nature intended – we are wired for the worst-case scenario. Which is meant to fire on alert, to keep you safe as you try to make sense of everything.
Overcoming Guilt and Shame About Feeling Lazy and Unproductive
You might also be feeling guilt and shame in yourself for wasting this time. Or for not being as productive as you feel that you should have been. Well-meaning social media posts have fuelled these feelings of shame by informing us that lockdowns were the perfect time to learn a new musical instrument, a new language or to write a book.
If you are feeling guilt and disgust in yourself for being lazy and unproductive at this time let me stop you right there! If you don’t feel more enlightened, more knowledgeable or have a new skill or new side-hustle you are 100% normal.
We have been going through a collectively traumatic event. Your body is still processing what has happened to it at a subconscious level. So give yourself a break.
If you find that you are still processing, notice this without judgement and accept it. This doesn’t mean anything about you, nor does this mean that you will stay stuck here forever.
You can choose to stay here if this feels right for you. However, realise that you have the power to move out of this place if you so choose.
And if you feel that you are ready to start shifting gears, but not sure how here are some things that you can do to start creating a positive change in your life:
Acknowledge the Feelings
Take the time to notice the feelings that are coming up for you, the fear, the anger, the disgust and thank them for such an amazing job of keeping you safe. Then gently tell your feelings that although you acknowledge how helpful they have been in the past at protecting you, you are in fact safe and ready to move on. You might need to release them through journaling, talking about how you feel with a loved one or through exercise and movement.
You might be tempted to move into “fix-it” mode and set yourself all kinds of goals, but start small. Choose just one new positive habit that you would like to embrace.
In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear, highlights how making just a 1% change can have a huge impact. For instance, an aeroplane that makes just a 1% course deviation could end up in a different country compared to its intended destination.
Another reason I suggest that you start small, with just one thing is that you want the change to be sustainable.
Starting too big can lead to self-protective behaviours, failure and more overwhelm. This can reinforce negative thought loops or a fixed mindset that you have about yourself and your abilities.
Ultimately you want to reinforce an identity as a capable, competent person. You want to be able to trust yourself and your ability to succeed. Most sustainable changes start small which gives us the foundation on which to stack future successes upon. Good habits are the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle. When we automate something as a habit it allows our brain space to engage in higher function thinking such as learning a new skill.
What you choose to focus on is up to you. It might be the smallest thing that will give you runs on the board so that you can get a taste for success. Or it might be the thing that is causing you the most pain. It is not important where you start as much as that you start.
You can easily get stuck in preparation or planning because this feels like you are taking action. However, this is motion and a form of procrastination triggered by the fear that you will fail.
Don’t wait for perfect – Just start!
Set Yourself up for Success
In the book, Atomic Habits mentioned above, James Clear identifies four things that we need to do in order to successfully adopt a new habit. Make it Obvious, Make it Attractive, Make it Easy and Make it Satisfying.
When we make a habit obvious we first need to identify the habit that we would like to adopt and why, and then we need to create an environment for success.
Say for instance you would like to adopt the habit of drinking 8 glasses of water a day you can make it both obvious and easy by ensuring that you place a glass next to each tap in your house as a reminder about your intention to drink more water. And so every time you wash your hands you are reminded to pour yourself a glass of water and to drink it.
You can make the habit of drinking water more attractive and satisfying by adding slices of fruit, cold brew herbal teas or infusions to your water.
Another way of making the habit of drinking more water attractive and satisfying might be to track your progress on a habit tracker and reward yourself at the end of the week after completing your new ritual seven days in a row. (I have a FREE tool that you can download here.)
You can also make this easier, more attractive and satisfying by implementing this change as a member of a group as nothing keeps us motivated like being part of a tribe.
How could you use these four principles to create success for yourself when embracing a new healthy habit?
We have all been there. You start implementing a new habit for a couple of days or even weeks. You are doing really well… And then for some reason, you stop and all your good work is lost. You then use this as evidence that you can’t make the change, or even as a self-torture device to prove how useless you really are.
You are not alone in this. Keeping the momentum going on a new habit can be challenging especially if you don’t see immediate benefits. Most of us get stuck in the “Plateau of Latent Potential”. This is often what happens during the “in-between”. This is the time between starting a new healthy habit and seeing physical results or benefits.
What to do if You Need an Extra Bit of Motivation?
It is important to be prepared for setbacks to happen. We often have the hardest time sticking to commitments to ourselves. However, you can give yourself a bit of extra motivation by using a commitment device.
A commitment device is something that you create to make it easy for you to stick to your goals.
- For example, you might enlist the help of a friend as an accountability buddy and give her/him permission to say or do certain things if you don’t stick to your commitment to yourself. There may be certain consequences if you don’t follow through on your commitment. You might even formalise this in a written contract.
- You might delay gratification by not allowing yourself to do something you want to do unless you have completed your healthy habit. Such as no social media unless you exercise.
- Or you might create cue cards reminders to yourself to reinforce why you are committed to this new action for when you are tempted to go off track. For example, your new healthy habit is to take a lunch break away from your desk. You might make yourself a little card and stick it to your computer that says, “Hey you, I know that you think that you are too busy to have a lunch break, but remember this break is going to make you a healthier, happier, more resilient and productive person. You will have more energy and be nicer to be around Xx”.
So where will you start?
What can you commit to?
Remember that every day you practise your new habit is a vote for the person that you would like to become.
Where you are going and who you would like to be is way more important than how fast you get there. Progress might be slow but you can do this!
As a Midlife Mentor for Women I support Soul-Led, Midlife Women who are on an awakening journey, to reconnect with, love and trust the woman behind the roles, the responsibilities and the weight of the expectations of others.
I help you to unlearn the beliefs, behaviours and stories that no longer serve you so that you can live the next half of your life in a way feels true to who you authentically are as the Queen of your own life!
For more tools for a confident life Buy My Book When She Wakes She Will Move Mountains – 5 Steps to Reconnecting With Your Wild Authentic Inner Queen.