Seven lessons I learned during the pandemic
Nine months ago, I promised a Volume 2, focused on the topic of pausing to be still. I said I would be addressing self-care, mindfulness, and healthy boundaries. Well, I’m a little later than I had planned. BUT I made a commitment this year (yes, the new one – 2022) to writing this blog more frequently … at least one time per month. Hold me to it! Here goes, just in the nick of time to meet my January commitment! 🙂
Offering Grace is Necessary
If there is anything I have learned during the past 22 months, it has been to offer grace, both to myself and to others. Offering grace to myself has been critical during these ever-evolving days, weeks, months, and now years. I haven’t kept commitments to myself at times during the ‘Rona years. Little commitments (like keeping self-imposed deadlines) and larger ones, too (I still haven’t gotten back into a regular workout routine) have fallen by the wayside at times. My creativity has certainly felt stunted more often than not.
In part this happened because when we first started dealing with everything it felt like we were all just treading water, trying to figure it all out while finding a new center. In so doing, I found that the best thing to do has been to simply be mindful, acknowledge it, and then offer myself some grace. Grace is a form of goodwill, and offering myself grace when I have fallen short of my own expectations has been a necessity and one of the best forms of self-care.
Speaking of expectations, after watching so many plans fall apart over and over and over again in 2020 and 2021 – from business engagements to personal plans, like vacation time for a milestone birthday – I finally embraced what I have been working with clients on for many years: The easiest path to disappointment is having expectations. I thought I had applied that learning years ago, but I realized that I hadn’t quite perfected not being tied to a particular outcome in all areas.
Offering grace to myself became easier as time went by. Offering grace to others? That was sometimes more challenging during these divisive times. As I taught recently during one of my online sessions, we have to learn to meet people where they are and then choose to love them anyway. This may come with healthy boundaries in place for some, but we have to find a way to get back to love and focus on the things we have in common with others. It is imperative for us to be able to find peace in this big, crazy world of ours. Be the good.
The Beauty of Letting Go
Letting go has been one of my most difficult life lessons. Having lost a father at a young age, I have had a tendency to try to hold onto things as much as I can. If people have been of value in my life, I still want them in my life, even when relationships change and evolve. Maintaining positive connections is incredibly important to me, and this sustains me on some level. I like to think it makes the world a better and happier place. (I’m cheesy – I know!)
As part of this, I have realized that I want people to keep their word and maintain their commitments, as I try to do if at all possible, especially on an emotional level. This is not unreasonable, as keeping commitments to one another helps life work well. Because of this, it has been distressing when people have made promises to me and then didn’t follow through. I have held onto small bits of that baggage for YEARS! I seek balance in all that I do, and I hold space for course corrections. But if only one person seeks balance in life, trying to hold on to something like a long-ago promise eventually becomes something that no longer serves our highest good.
That’s okay. Many of us do this. We’re human, after all. I suppose a huge gift of the pandemic has been that in watching plans continually crumble, I finally began to let go of things more easily. Everyone is on their own journey, and each of us has our own lessons to learn. In offering grace and forgiveness to others while also letting go of expectations for them, I have seen the beauty of how other possibilities and opportunities in life unfolded due to those that slipped away. The balance actually comes not from anything that someone else has or has not done, but in the beauty of letting go itself. Wow.
Be at Peace with Life’s Timing
It is all somehow beautiful and synchronous in timing, this grand life of ours. We don’t often understand things at the time that they happen, but if we continually look for clues that led us down a particular path, we can typically find the significance and meaning in the broken roads that lead us to purpose and happiness. Even in this crazy pandemic!
I think this has been a very unique time in life. The entire world hit PAUSE. We have all gone through the same thing at the same time, in a global capacity. While I don’t love that we have all had to go through a pandemic, I look for any gifts it has offered to me.
For someone who used to be incredibly busy, traveling frequently and being on the go a lot of the time, I was suddenly grounded to an abrupt halt. It was incredibly disconcerting at first. But, as time went on, I became more settled and even found peace in not being so busy. I began to like it, and to even crave it. I embraced where I was in life, and began to reflect and look for my next steps.
It took me straight into an epigentics-based certification course to help people heal their DNA and lifetime-based emotional trauma and blocks. In going through all that has resulted from COVID-19, I have found another way to expand my business and help others. If you need information on me and how I can support you with this valuable energy healing work, please feel free to reach out to me through my Valerie M. Sargent website. It is lovely.
Set Positive Routines
When life seems ambiguous, one of the best things you can do is establish positive routines for yourself. Find those things that you look forward to on a daily or a weekly basis, and maintain those in order to create opportunities for happiness. Maybe this is a cup of coffee in the morning, or watching something daily that makes you laugh (that’s Graham Norton for me – I follow his channel on Facebook and watch videos every week!). I also talk to my mom every morning – something we have done since I moved out of the state, which has become increasingly more important for connection during the uncertainty of the past few years – and this never fails to brighten my day!
Whatever it might be for you, establish your routines and continue to do them without fail. Our brains like a little predictability to keep us grounded during turbulent times.
Cherish Your Tribe
During the first week of the pandemic, when everything was shut down in March of 2020, I formed the Friday Night Sanity Club with five close longtime friends located in two other states, all of whom I first met between the ages of 14-18. There is something wonderful about friendships that have lasted since your teen years. We joined online for happy hour via Zoom that first Friday night, and have maintained this get-together nearly every week thereafter (although now we are down to a core group of four rather than six, with the other two joining randomly on occasion).
Our friendships have evolved during these years, growing deeper and closer, and we look forward to being together every week. Our Core Four – myself along with my other three “Ride or Die” ladies – hold positive intentions for one another from week to week. We ask for support in certain areas, and then hold positive space for each other in each week ahead. It is so nice to know you have loved ones wanting the best for you and offering mental and emotional support as needed.
People think of me as an extrovert (or extravert, as it is commonly spelled in a psychological capacity). But truly, I am as Daniel Pink has talked about: an ambivert – not overly extroverted or introverted, but rather a little of both. I do enjoy and get energy being around other people, but I also enjoy quieter times as well. I tend to circle the wagons during times of crisis and have a smaller group of loved ones around me.
These past few years have definitely been more of the latter, and I value and cherish my tribe. I am blessed with a wonderful group of friends and family, and I am grateful. Nothing was harder than being physically separated from family in 2020, and I’m so glad I’ve been able to be together with my mom and family again after the worst of the pandemic.
Speaking of which, I have continued to look for the things that make me feel grateful. Some days it’s watching the squirrels playing outside. Other days it’s noticing the beautiful flowers in the neighborhood. Maybe it is just having a yummy brunch, or hearing a favorite song. Perhaps it’s someone whose silliness matches my own, who just makes me laugh. Lately, it’s been the fact that business is picking up again – let’s just say that it’s been a rough few years on those in the speaking and large events industries. Happy to see things finally getting back on track, and I’ve been enjoying contributing to some great events recently.
Gratitude has us constantly looking for things we can be grateful for and helps to center us. Continuing to reach for gratitude helps us maintain positivity during difficult times. I try not to focus on negative things and look instead for those things that make me feel happy, calling attention to those joyful discoveries with mindfulness and appreciation. I often coach my clients to journal and keep track of at least five things each day that they can be grateful for, as it often brings more happiness when the lens is focused in that direction.
Pause … To Be Still
During the past two years, I have truly learned to be still. I was not as comfortable with that previously, but I have now embraced it and have become grateful for the ability to be still. In my stillness, I have enjoyed solitude more and deepened my relationship with self. I have healed old traumas, and have found a peace within myself that I hadn’t experienced beforehand. I feel as if I have found a new level of wisdom, and I like it.
As an Emotional Intelligence Strategist, last year I finally developed my own definition of Emotional Intelligence: “Emotional Intelligence is being able to discern what is happening within ourselves and using those layers of knowledge to manage our emotions effectively, so we can have better, more productive connections with others to lead calmer and more satisfying lives.”
That is truly what it’s about for me – how do we lead calmer and more satisfying lives? It comes from a place of being able to meet ourselves where we are in a moment, sitting with our emotions, recognizing them, working through them, and being a peace with them. Learning to be still has taken me back to that original space of Emotional Intelligence and where it happens for me: It’s in the Pause ®.
And as I close this out, I realize that I started this on January 31, but I’m wrapping it up on February 1. Yep … that’s a little short of my goal. But you know what? I’m going to offer myself some grace, and be proud of the fact that I got the first one for 2022 done!
We just have to keep taking those steps forward and keep trying to improve. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned through the past few years? I’d love to hear …
Valerie M. Sargent is a dynamic speaker, trainer, consultant and executive coach. A natural and engaging motivator, Valerie is a Level I and Level II TalentSmart Emotional Intelligence Certified Trainer and President of Yvette Poole & Associates. She helps individuals and organizations increase their EQ, managing emotions and relationships better on the job for maximum performance. Her signature message, “It’s in the Pause”® focuses on the need for Self-Management skills to preserve positive relationships in the workplace and beyond – follow her blog: https://itsinthepause.com/). For more information: http://ypooleandassoc.com/ or http://valeriemsargent.com/.