The Absolute Certainty of Uncertainty

Leaves blossoming from a lightbulb against beams of wood
A woman with red hair sits sadly between two masculine head statues
Because so much really has changed.

To say we have all been through a lot would be the understatement of the year. The COVID-19 pandemic tested our resolve, compassion, and nerves. We were all affected in different ways, but one thing we all share is the formative impression the pandemic has left—and continues to leave—on all of us. All around the world, some countries are “finished” with COVID, but COVID is not finished with them. Meanwhile, in our own country, different states are in multiple phases of lifting quarantines or adjusting protocols. As we transition to the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, how do we handle life after trauma? How do we handle how much has changed, even if we feel like we are transitioning to a place where we want to say: “It’s over”?

Last year we experienced an ever-changing flood of information and had to adjust and correct for every surprise or turn the virus took. Our country and states had to adapt on the fly to keep public safety and integrity intact. While these decisions were made with our well-being in mind, the effects were just as mutable as our microscopic foe. Our normalcy became unfamiliar; our work, home, and personal lives changed. The tapestry of everything we knew was restitched with such alacrity that we all felt whiplash as we faced down ever-growing uncertainty.

A feminine, broken statue's face is in an overgrowth of plants, leaves, and flowers
What you went through is valid.

In our post discussing stress management, we noted how some factors are outside of our control, but we can alter our position in that kind of uncertainty by expressing ourselves and acknowledging how we feel. This may seem simple, but how many times over the last year have you told yourself things like, “Others have it worse than me,” “I should toughen up,” or “I shouldn’t be feeling [insert totally valid emotion you are feeling but dismissing here].”?

Believe it or not, our personal narratives shape how we weather our uncertainties. Our bodies affect our minds and our minds affect our bodies. When you dismiss yourself, you dismiss your experience, and what you went through this last year is nothing to be dismissed.

A feminine head sculpture masks someone at a white table, a red flower grows from the sculpture's braided hairline
Stages of growth will be different for all of us.

While we should not diminish ourselves, we also need to understand and practice compassion for the world around us, and that can be a delicate, bold act. The delicacy comes from how we relate to experiences that run parallel to our own, and the boldness comes from the patience we choose over impatience when we are faced with experiences that run counter our own. The spectrum of reaction and survival throughout this pandemic is vast and complex. As we explored in our previous posts, there will be times when you will need to breathe or step away and both are acceptable. Rushing yourself or others to keep pace with recovery standards, internal or external, ignores all the work and hardship you faced. Everyone you meet, including the person you see in the mirror, will be in a different stage of dealing with the trauma of total life upheaval and uncertainty.

But in a new chapter of uncertainty, one thing is certain—there is another side to all of this. Your work, compassion, resiliency, and patience are part of a brilliant endgame. This does not just apply to COVID and readjusting to reopening, it can also apply to a breakup, a loss, or an injury. The road is long and challenging, but accepting that your position and experience on this road are valid is a step in the right direction. Even if everything around you is uncertainty, there is certainty in the fact that you keep going. That matters, you matter, and what you say to yourself and to others during this time matters as well. There is nothing uncertain about that.

Stress Management and the Important Roles Your Standards Play

Someone with an open laptop in an armchair in the middle of a clock painted on the floor

Stressed young woman at her laptop, biting her pencil

Last month we took a stroll down a path to mindfulness. What better way to follow up mindful practice than with stress management? When you feel stressed, it can actually be a good thing. Your brain is wired with an alarm system that sends signals to your body when it perceives a threat. Hormones are released that increase your heart rate and raise your blood pressure, priming you for “fight or flight”. Your body returns to normal once the perceived threat is gone. So even though stress is incredibly frustrating, it’s also your body’s way of letting you know everything is working as intended.

Unfortunately, we don’t just experience one stressful thing a day. We may experience multiple events, sometimes hourly. Relationships, jobs, home maintenance, even passion projects can layer us with stress. This means that the alarm system runs the risk of never really shutting off, which over time can damage our health and impact our quality of life. That’s where stress management comes in. As our world keeps changing and evolving, it’s important to set yourself up with tools that can help your mind and body adapt with these changes. But where do you start?

Hands with painted nails holding a motivating journal and pen
Tip: Keep a journal! Track what made you stressed and how you felt, responded, and recovered.

The “4 A’s” are classic stress management tools—avoid, alter, adapt, and accept. It is so important to nourish our standards and boundaries as we start exploring management. That’s where these “4 A’s” can help!

  • Avoiding is not about running away from what stresses us, but being aware of our own boundaries, such as learning when to say “no” or paring down our to-do lists. If we can’t avoid stress, we can at least alter how we operate within that stress.
  • Altering your situation can mean expressing our feelings instead of bottling everything up, or communicating and practicing compromise within the situation.
  • Sometimes we need to adapt to our stressors by recognizing the bigger picture surrounding the moment, gaining new perspectives, and adjusting our standards.
  • The trickiest one is accepting that there are some stressors outside our control. By railing against what we can’t change, we create even more stress than what’s actually happening. It helps to share our feelings where and when we feel safest.
A young man in a blue scarf dancing in front of blue warehouse doors
Tip: Pay attention to your body and feelings while you’re moving!

If all else fails? Get moving! The same way your body releases hormones in tense situations, your body also releases feel-good endorphins when you get your blood pumping. There are tons of benefits from regular exercise, even if it’s for just a few minutes. Over time, you can build more exercise into your daily routine, but it’s fine to start small and work up from there. Taking time to turn on your favorite song for a dance or finding a few moments to stretch your legs with a walk can have amazing daily benefits.

Listening to what our minds and our bodies need can have major benefits when we need to tackle stress. No matter what we decide to do, we need to make sure it’s something we enjoy. We’re more likely to stick with a daily routine if we’re enjoying ourselves when we’re doing it. Identifying our “A’s” and cataloging how we encounter and handle stress can help us navigate unexpected curveballs. We need to try and remember to be patient with ourselves and the process of stress management. We can’t control or change every situation, but we can change how we operate given elements we can’t control. Our bodies are constantly talking to us, so take a moment today—perhaps after a good dance—to hear what yours is saying.

 

Alterity offers training in mindfulness and stress management. Act today for peace of mind tomorrow!

Spring Cleaning and the Awesome Art of Mindfulness

Cup of tea and a pen on a napkin with blue text "mind full or mindful?"

 

 

 

A collection of clutter against a blank wall on a hardwood floor
What do you need and what can you stand to lose?

Spring has sprung, or so the saying goes when it comes to budding branches, flourishing flowers, and the familiar tickle of allergies in the air. The sun is out a little longer and the birds are singing a little louder. Everything is starting fresh, so it’s no wonder we like to revamp our living spaces with some good oldfashioned “spring cleaning. Fun fact: “spring cleaning” traces its origins far back in Chinese, Iranian, and Jewish traditions, but today it’s a worldwide affair. There is something intrinsically satisfying about a clean home. All the sunny windows are clear, the faint scent of lavender or lemon is in the air, and you can see your home in a new light. Maybe it’s not the same as when you moved in, but that’s sort of the point, isn’t it?  

When we settle into our new home, wstart with a space with a roof, a floor, and some walls, and we decorate it, furnish it, paint it, and make it our own. Sometimes the chores pile up or we accumulate clutter over time, but that’s what spring cleaning is all aboutstarting over  and making something new again. The same thing can be said for our own mindfulness, if you really think about it.  

A tiny man in orange overalls sweeps up dandelion seeds fallen from a dandelion blossom
Clearing the way.

Mindfulness is a term that’s making the rounds these days, which is great, because we can achieve far-reaching benefits when we, well, put our minds to it. Simply put: “mindfulness” is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without judgment or interpretation. Often used as a therapeutic technique, mindfulness is encouragedand shownto reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and even pain in some circumstances.  

Someone drawing a squeegee across a soapy window
You’ll be surprised by what clarity you can reveal!

So what does mindfulness have to do with spring cleaning? Actually, it’s a pretty fair comparison. When we clean our spaces, were sweeping away dirt and dust, and wiping or clearing away grime. When we downsize our possessions, were shedding what we no longer want and making room for what we need. The same is true for our minds. As we go through our lives, our years, and our days, we accumulate all kinds of experiences. Some experiences can leave lasting, positive impressions on uswhile others can be more challenging. 

A green flatleaf house plant sitting in front of a sunny window
Be it ever so humble.

But that’s just it! Its challenging to keep a tidy home, but cleaning your space means you’re nurturing the things that make that space a home, the things you want to keep and that are important to you. When you clean your symbolic home, it can sometimes be a difficult process, but it gives you more room to appreciate the mindset youve cultivated. This year, while you’re sweeping the floor, imagine youre clearing space in your own mind. If you’re throwing things on the yard sale or donation pile, think about how your mind could also use some downsizing. As you stand back, look at all your hard work, put your hands on your hips, and see that lovely home of yours sparkling right back at you. Don’t forget to be proud of yourself and really enjoy the moment. Because mindfulness is all about living in the present and theres no place like home. 

The Power of Love: “Love Languages” in the Office

A team meeting

You’ve probably seen many online quizzes floating around. No, not the one that tells you which Hogwarts house you belong to, or the one that claims your answers make you a perfect fit for Idris Elba. We’re talking about the one that asks: “What’s Your Love Language?” With love in the air and half-priced chocolates just around the corner, we thought we’d answer that question in our own way.

Four coworkers having a meeting around a table.
We all show love and respect differently.

So, what is a love language? Love languages describe how we receive and give love to others—from our friends, family, partners, you name it. The love is there, but it looks a little different from person to person. Love languages include acts of service, gift-giving, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation. Love languages were developed over 25 years ago by Dr. Gary Chapman and the concept is still popular to this day. Recognizing these patterns in ourselves and those around us can leave a lasting impact.

But what does this look like in the workplace? Love languages can apply to platonic and professional relationships as well. That “warm fuzzy feeling” looks more like a lasting impression or a positive, motivating experience. So how can you apply love languages to your workplace, whether you are on-site or remote?

A remote worker at their desk having a virtual meeting and taking notes.
Even when we’re remote, giving someone our time carries a lot of impact.

First, if you haven’t yet, give one of those love language quizzes a whirl, or simply take a minute to review the ones listed above and see which one applies to you the most.

Now that you’re familiar with love languages, let’s look at how you can apply them to your day-to-day routine at work.

· For an “acts of service” person, this can look like buying the team lunch or bringing in donuts. An act of service can also be running charity events or setting up a PPE station.

· For a “words of affirmation” person, this could be giving positive and insightful feedback on someone’s idea or contributions to a project.

· For someone who prefers “quality time”, this can be listening to coworkers and really learning about them, or getting the most out of a scheduled meeting. It can even be something as simple as asking: “How was your weekend?” or “What are you watching these days?”

· The generous “gift-giving” coworker may like sending memes between tasks, giving out gift cards around the holidays, or having a Dr. Scholl’s insert up their sleeve if they hear a coworker’s feet are hurting.

· The “physical touch” love language might manifest as respecting boundaries and social distancing, and washing and sanitizing hands thoroughly. In a safer setting, a good handshake can go a long way.

Two coworkers outside in masks giving each other a social distance elbow bump.
We are all connected and expressing that is so important, even if it looks a little different these days.

So as you head into Valentine’s Day weekend, open your mind to all the ways love can show up in the world—how others communicate love and how you can put more love out there. Try not to worry too much about your fluency in love languages—that comes with practice, time, and even personal insight. The more you know about yourself, the more you can give back to the world around you. At the end of the day, it’s all about the love.