I woke up to the familiar sounds of an IV and vitals machine, but the walls were different. It was my fourth time in the hospital. The infection came out of nowhere-once again.
I could tell I was on the ground floor because of the trees outside my window. I didn’t know it at the time, but those trees would be burned into my memory so clearly. On days when it snows here in Colorado, I often have flashbacks of the snow falling on those trees.
They told me the hospital was full on the regular floors. I was the sickest outside of ICU, so they had moved me to the cancer ward.
The room was bigger than I was used to with tasteful wallpaper and paint. It had a serene feel. Serene for a hospital cancer ward, anyway.
The nurses were different there. They were less scurried and more present. Present enough for one of them to hold my hand when I fell apart and cried. It felt like the illness was a constant roadblock that kept me from moving forward with my life.
I was wrong. The illness would be THE thing that would give me an actual life.
The first night fell and I was alone. It was 11:20 pm when I heard it for the first time. It started as a muffled cry, then suddenly a shout. Then a wave of uncontrollable sobbing. It was from a woman down the ward.
I leaped out of bed this morning ready to contribute positive things to this world. Ok. That’s a lie. I hit my alarm for over an hour straight. Then slithered out from under the blankets begrudgingly and trudged all 4,000 miles to the kitchen for a glass of warm water.
“I just need to move around”, I thought. I finished laundry. Emptied the dishwasher. Stared out the window a lot. Then made the bed so I wouldn’t crawl back in it.
“Focus on others to get you going”, I told myself. I focused on the news. I focused on social media. I focused on how miserable I felt. When I thought, “focus on others” that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. It was more, “focus on helping others”. That usually gets me perked up.
Hours later with an audition still to do and ½ finished script still to write, I’ve not done so great today. I have managed to go to the post office, make a smoothie, and research why your stomach gets so fat in your mid-forties. Followed by googling, “do any men like women with fat stomachs”. (Just as an FYI, don’t google stuff like that. I got a little more then I was requesting….)
Keeping things simple means less stress. Stress suppresses the immune system and can trigger a whole host of other problems. It can make you physically, mentally and emotionally sick.
To say most people are experiencing an unprecedented amount of stress right now is probably an understatement.
Three weeks ago we were lapping up our lattes while our kids were galivanting around in a thing called, “school”.
Now we’re counting cases, tripping over toys, wondering what to sell, and debating if we should divorce now or wait and see if Covid strikes.
Too much change, with too little time to process, and too much uncertainty is more than enough to switch on the ol’ fight or flight response.
We are all fighting for normalcy, getting a grasp on the unknown, fear of illness or death for ourselves or our loved ones, and fear of financial instability for basic needs. It’s a fight for life.
When people say, “don’t panic”, they’re basically saying, “don’t be human”. It’s normal to be stressed, anxious or afraid. It’s ok to have those feelings-as long as you don’t stay in that mental or emotional space for too long.
Acknowledge your negative feelings. Take a moment to feel them. Then move forward or take a step back. (Fight-or flight.) Whatever you need to do to gain a better sense of control.
You can’t be “productive” if you’re stressed. You also won’t make sound, logical decisions which are important when taking on new projects. (Hence insane toilet paper hoarding. Not logical. Hoarding cheese, wine and chocolate-now that’s a different story in my book.)
I’ve learned to listen to my body’s AND my mind’s alarm bells. I’m a flighter. I’ll be the first to run and hide under the covers. When my body or emotions are sending me signals, I take a step back. I don’t push forward. Productivity requires pushing forward.
Some people want to work and be productive for a sense of normalcy and also something to look forward to. A goal, project, new things to focus on to help detract and distract from what’s going on around them.
I did that. For a very long time. Here’s why I don’t recommend it:
When you constantly remain distracted or bulldoze through-when you do finally fall apart-it’s brutal. Disastrous. You’ll find yourself completely unprepared mentally or emotionally for the flood of pent up feelings or thoughts you refused to allow yourself to deal with as it was happening.
Instead, I recommend sticking your toe in the water EVERY morning. If you’re feeling good, and working on a new project brings you peace or joy, then move forward.
If you’re pushing yourself emotionally, mentally, or physically-STOP. Listen to your body and mind. What does it need to process what is happening around you? Quiet? Rest? An intense workout? Socializing? A Plan? Then do that instead.
Slow your productivity so that you can forge out a new trail of living. You’re used to producing on a well paved highway that requires little thought or adaption. You were most likely living on autopilot.
You’ve suddenly been forced to now stare at an “off the beaten path” of what daily life looks like. A path that’s not forged yet. You can’t run full speed on an ungroomed trail. It takes time and work to build the trail first.
Build the trail of your new normal first. Don’t clutter it up with projects that will cause you new stress or even more levels of uncertainty.
There’s a lot of mental work, physical strain, and emotional re-routing that takes place when dealing with a lot of change. Give your body and mind grace with this.
Rather than focusing on new projects or getting “caught up” I’ve focused my energy elsewhere. First and most important, I’m taking care of my mind and body. Second, I’m experimenting on trying new routines, priorities, and giving myself grace through all of it.
Here’s some ways I’m doing that to put myself in the best possible state of mind to handle the physical stress of uncertainty and change.
1. I stopped setting my alarm until my kids’ online school starts. Stress is hard on the body. Your body needs healing time. Most days I still wake up around the normal time but a few of those days I slept 10 hours straight.
2. I walk outside every day. Sunshine and nature calm the stress response beautifully. It rejuvenates me and boosts my creativity.
3. I make relationships the #1 priority. My family and people I care about come first. It’s not always this way, but in times of crisis, this is THE thing that matters most. Everything else can wait.
4. I’ve whittled down my work priorities to just three things and only three things. These things are what’s required, what brings me the most satisfaction, and what I’m the best at. Everything else will wait. (Yes! In times of crisis in your business you “should” focus on what brings you money now. When you’re laying in a hospital bed, as I have, money doesn’t matter much. You need your health, your mind, your relationships to get through. Period.)
5. I don’t think about what “needs to get done”. Instead I test out certain times of day to try different things. My focus is more on my “training” (like an athlete). I’m working on the skills of working vs running the race now. After just under 2 weeks, I have a good handle on what’s working for me. Things are kicking in easier, as well as being more balanced and focused.
6. I do what’s right for me, so I can do right by my friends, work and family. You can’t do right when it comes to others if you’re stressed, angry, anxious, or sick. You need to focus on your own health in all areas so that you’re available and ready for those who need you.
7. I don’t freak out over being inconvenienced. Most of the time we as humans, get frustrated or angry because someone has inconvenienced us. You get mad at your kids because they inconvenienced you. Same with your significant other. The person at the grocery store, etc. It’s a waste of negative energy on your end. So they got in your way or caused you more work. In the grand scope of what’s happening right now, who cares??? You’re going to have to work harder and deal with more for a time. Your comfort or convenience is not your “end all” right now. Getting through it the best you can is. You’ll be a better person for it.
The truth is, when 2020 is over, the world is not going to “return to normal” and hopefully you won’t either. Instead, there will be a “new normal”.
The quicker you can learn the skills to adapt by taking the time to process your feelings and emotions as they come, experimenting with your routine, and embracing rapid change instead of fighting it, the better for you.
If you want to be healthy and productive in the long run,
Yes, I could be richer financially if I pushed out a new project, but at what cost? I’m focusing instead on being richer in wisdom, relationships, health and skill of living. You can’t make money lying in a hospital bed. Trust me. I’ve been there.
Please consider sharing if you found this article helpful. Share buttons are below.
Stacy Pederson is a funny motivational Keynote Speaker, who’s almost died a bunch.
Stage fright sucks. I know because I have it. Despite having a degree in theatre, performing stand-up comedy and giving countless speeches in front of ultimately 1,000’s, that dreaded feeling of knots in my stomach before taking the stage, still occurs.
Know What it is You’re Afraid of.
Being able to pin-point exactly what terrifies you, can help give you a game plan to combat stage fright.
So…what is it specifically that scares the snot out of you about speaking in front of an audience???