Written by: Mariette, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
How ROI, competition, an overkill of choice and automatic pilot affect your mindset and how to make changes.
Change is always a challenge. Even positive change carries an element of fear, sometimes disguised as excitement. But fear for the unknown, saying goodbye to familiarity and the effort that goes with embarking on something new are playing into the fear element.
Pandemic and lockdown
Life has changed for everyone during the pandemic with lockdowns and travel restrictions. And the next change is around the corner, when the lockdown restrictions are being lifted.
That sounds brilliant, but for a lot of people, it has sparked anxiety according to a number of polls: socializing, public transport, working in an office, and going to the gym are not a dream come true, but a nightmare peeking around the corner.
The positives of lockdown
Christine, one of my coaching clients, told me she felt a bit of an outsider. All her friends were pumped up about the end of lockdown, planning pub-get-togethers, BBQs, outings, holidays even, and it sounded great, but she secretly wasn’t looking forward to it. She told me that lockdown offered her a lot of positives, even though she lived by herself and at times felt very lonely.
What lockdown gave her was not just time, but a sense of calm.
= Her FOMO had disappeared.
= Life was simple with just a few options on how to spend her free time: Pilates at home, reading, or Netflix.
= Her social anxiety was low as peer pressure, and exposure to social situations was minimal.
= Where she used to doubt herself about her choices, she now felt cool about her decisions. It was easier to be true to herself and her wishes.
What is at the core of post-lockdown anxiety?
Christine is not alone. There are a lot of people wondering how they managed to live that crazy busy life, which might return in a few months. Having had to step back and go with the flow of fewer options, choices and pressure, they have come to realize they don’t want the same back. They want something else. Not necessarily a continuous lockdown, but a life with less choice.
1. Too much choice
The choice is challenging, too much choice can be paralyzing and leading to regret, self-doubt and rumination. Barry Schwartz, the author of the best-selling book The Paradox of Choice, supports the statement that too much choice is a recipe for unhappiness, anxiety, and dissatisfaction with life.
He claims that: ‘After millions of years of survival based on simple distinctions, it may simply be that we are biologically unprepared for the number of choices we face in the modern world,’ Schwartz, 2004.
One of the blessings of lockdown in this context is that choice is limited around how to spend your time, where, doing what and with whom.
2. More pressure
On another note, what causes restlessness is going back to ‘normal,’ opening the door to a busier life. You managed to embrace the calmer life that was the result of lockdown, and the idea of more activities brings some stress.
Is it FOMO?
Is it social pressure?
Is it time pressure?
Making choices and decisions?
A range of elements.
3. Automatic pilot and mindless living
Christine’s before-lockdown life was busy and was mainly lived on automatic pilot. Without being present, a week slipped through her fingers and she often wondered where time had gone. She often lived on adrenaline, didn’t spend time on making decisions, but just went on the wave of momentum.
That is one way of getting a lot done and being part of a lot of activities.
And then, the weekend or that holiday arrived, for her to crash out and grab some of her energy back in order to not feel so exhausted. And being able to start the process of living mindlessly all over again.
I guess you might recognize yourself in Christine’s approach to living.
How to deal with the post-lockdown challenge and feel in control?
Christine and I discussed how the ‘fewer options frame’ of lockdown suited her well. It made her feel more connected to herself, it was easier to listen to her inner voice, and she was enjoying more what she was doing.
One way of living more mindfully is to apply the Return on Investment to your choices about events, activities and people.
Becoming aware of the following will make it easy to decide if it is worth your time and energy:
How much do I enjoy this activity (0 – 10)?
What are the alternatives (list) and how much would I enjoy those (0-10)?
Apart from time and energy, what else does this activity take from me? Think of emotionally or physically draining, always ending up with things to do or feeling inspired and motivated.
Once you answered those questions, you can make an informed decision.
2. Connect with yourself and be clear about your needs
It is easy to get distracted by what other people might think or expect. However, it is your life and it is important to live it in accordance with your values and respond to your needs. If you make decisions based on external validation (positive feedback from others), it is easy to honor other people’s ideas instead of your own. Out of fear of disapproval or criticism. Embracing internal validation (you know you are doing the right thing for you, regardless of what others think) makes you sitting in the driving seat and ensuring your journey and your destination are primarily supporting you, not others.
3. Plan the bigger schedule
Pre-post-lockdown is an opportunity to push the reset button. We all have obligations, but most of us also have time where we are in control. Step back and look at the time you have available and decided how much ME time, float time, social time, and activity time is serving your well-being.
One of my clients who suffer from anxiety knows that a visit to the gym is doing him the world of good. No run, home gym session, or walk gives him what an intense workout in the gym gives him. He has planned 4 sessions of those a week, knowing that his investment in time and energy will give him a great ROI in physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Where another client hates anything to do with exercise, and just the idea of it takes three times as much energy as a session itself. No ROI on this activity for this person.
4. Develop skills to live in the moment and become mindful of your choices
Living in the moment means that you fully engage with your current activity, be it eating a bowl of soup, listening to a friend, or exercising. It is less demanding for your brain and excellent for feeling joy. The end of a calmer period, as lockdown is for many people, offers a great opportunity to develop your mindfulness skills through:
Learning and practicing mindfulness meditation (20 minutes a day creates significant change after only a few weeks).
Be clear about your personal needs and feel worthy of responding to them.
Making conscious decisions out of inspiration (choice) instead of desperation (fear, anxiety, obligation). Train yourself to go through a decision process where you ask yourself the right questions, so you are able to make an informed decision.
Post-lockdown can be a beautiful new normal, where you can take control of the what, where, who and how and live a life that suits your personality, happiness and well-being.
Mariette Jansen, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Dr Mariette Jansen is a successful coach, therapist and blogger for over 20 years. Also, author of best-selling self-help book 'From Victim to Victor' for victims of narcissistic abuse. She grew up with a narcissistic mother and had several romantic relationships with narcissists. Her mission is to empower and educate on life skills, narcissistic abuse and thinking patterns. She offers a free coaching session via her website. Originally from the Netherlands, she now lives in the UK.