Over the past 4 months many of us have experienced feelings of isolation, and for many of us it has been our first experience of loneliness. Living in a full house I never expected loneliness would affect me, but it did.
Since the end of March I have spent the vast majority of my time at home, for a number of different reasons. Firstly I got ill, and then my recovery took longer than expected and ended up working from home for the vast majority of my time. But I have had my family around me so why would I feel lonely? That is exactly what I felt, but I but I felt isolated from my workplace, and life was going on without me. I missed the small things like the incidental conversations in the kitchen or the corridor, the nods of acknowledgement walking between buildings. I missed my commute in, and seeing all those familiar faces. I missed being part of the hustle and bustle of the Hospital. I felt adrift.
Now I am still working from home on the whole, I do travel in to work occasionally, but it is not the same as it was, however for the vast majority of the time I feel more connected and less isolated. So what have I done differently? I started to pay attention to my well-being. I decided I had to take action to feel more connected with myself and with those around me. If I continued to view my world the same way I would continue to see isolation and disconnection. I took action by reframing my world. I did this by using a checklist for well-being written by Martin Seligman in his book Flourish. I use this checklist regularly when coaching people and you may have seen it appear in previous blogs. I like it because the mere act of completing it starts to shift your view of your circumstances. So here it is
Have you smiled, laughed or felt happy during the past 24 hours? If the answer is no, then when was the last time you felt that emotion, and what were you doing? What was it about that activity that created that emotion? When can you do that activity again?
When I asked myself these questions I started to smile, even though on that day I might not have felt a positive emotion I had a very recent feeling that I could visualise that actually created a positive emotion.
Have you done something today that has engaged you? Have you done something for the sake of it that required very little effort that was enjoyable?
This was easy for me as I at the time writing a blog daily which I enjoy doing and engaged me. As you are thinking about what engages you, think about all those small activities that you do just to escape for a while. That might be taking the dog for a walk, reading, watching a box set, going for a run or swim. If you are struggling to find something then think about what you enjoy doing and make a commitment to start doing that. To give you a bit of help I find ironing quite engaging, I set myself up in front of the telly and go into my own world for an hour or two.
Now this is the one we are all having an issue with. So what I did was create a mental map of all my relationships, their importance to me and when I last made contact with them. If you like I created a stakeholder map, but for people I like. I then asked myself who on that list I need to make contact with. I then made a commitment to make contact with those people. When I am working during the day I will make contact with my colleagues either by messenger, phone or WebEx. I have made a commitment to talk to my boss at the very least once a week. I talk to my mum on the phone every day, and I talk to my eldest son at least once a week. The key for me was to take action and make a commitment. However this is very much dependant on how I was feeling and that is why just concentrating on relationships is not enough.
What gets you up every morning? Do you have a purpose? When you are stuck at home it can be very easy to lose sight of your purpose, and I certainly did. This was one of the reasons why I wrote a blog. I had to connect with my core values. I always want to be useful and to support people. Writing that blog connected me to that value. It is important to remind yourself why you chose to do the job that you do, and why you miss what you do, and to use that meaning to drive you motivation to stay connected with people that are important to you.
What have you achieved today? Create small wins every day, accomplishments do not have to be big things. If you have spent 4 months in jogging bottoms and sweatshirts, then getting dressed up will be a win. I make lists every day and tick off each item as I achieve them. If I do something that is not on the list, I will add it and then tick it off. The aim is to let myself know that I am achieving stuff every day no matter how small, I am still moving forward.
Paying attention to all of you is vital to shift your view of your world and improve your well-being. What is important to remember is that is up to you to take action.