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Op/Ed

Processing emotions during COVID-19: It may be grief you’re feeling

(EDITORIAL) During a global pandemic, there is a rollercoaster of emotions and these two things may help people process some of their feelings which may be grief.

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grief

Is part of what we have all been feeling these past couple of months grief? Some say yes, so let’s take a look at what we have been doing and feeling.

I don’t know about you but the first few weeks of March I went in to productive overdrive but not the self-care kind like making new recipes, starting new work outs or painting for creativity and fun. I was trying to complete my work priorities, side business client work and co-host free webinars (via Zoom of course and one even on Webinar Ninja) for my small business community and followers.

I also suddenly had to figure out to be productive while my husband was home and our toddler was with us with not much notice of her daycare being closed. The first two weeks felt hellacious – high anxiety, never feeling like I was doing enough or was present enough.

I woke up and got right to work in my t-shirt and yoga pants, some days forgetting if I had brushed my teeth or washed my face. Taking a shower felt like a luxury but also sometimes a nuisance to try to fit one in. That was strange. I saw my daughter as needing attention as something I had to sort out -also with a guilty feeling that I knew she should be priority but “if I could just get this last project wrapped up or email sent out” or “after I jump on this Zoom call”, I can then take a break and be with her.

Albeit the break was filled with anxious thoughts of how I had to get back to work. My husband was dealing with his own shift in work having many clients pause and see when/how he could work from home. He was grappling with all the general unknown as well as both of us wondering what did this mean for our finances.

This has been an absolute conflict of emotions:

  • Gratitude that we were able to be home – safe and healthy at least for now
  • Scared and grappling with feelings of uncertainty and anxiety
  • Blessed for having some income we could rely on
  • Sadness for having lost some income but not quite sure how much or for how long
  • Worry for others that have lost everything – their livelihoods, their day to days, their LIVES?!
  • Worry for our older parents that live far away and are immunocompromised (not sure we had ever used this word to refer to them) but also happiness that they seem to be doing okay
  • Excitement to have “extra time” with our daughter and dogs
  • Delight to not have to drive in our regular 1-hour each way commute leaving the house around 7:30am and getting home after 6:30pm

I was looking all over for silver linings but not understanding how people are so good at finding new ways to manage their time: organizing their pantries, working out at home, trying new and healthy recipes, painting new masterpieces, etc. It felt a little bit overwhelming that I wasn’t taking advantage of this quick shift in schedule. I also felt fatigued by all the articles telling us to be ok and don’t be an idiot about going out (like we were supposed to just know how to never leave home). I really just wanted permission to not be ok for a bit.

I read this HBS article about the feelings above of discomfort were actually considered grief. The article suggests that if we can just understand the stages of grief, and especially accept that they are not linear, then maybe we can figure out our own path forward. I saw it circulated among many of my friends and truthfully, found it to be the permission I needed to be ok with not being ok.

Keep trying. There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, “I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,” or “I cried last night.” When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings.”

This YouTube video was also shared with me about How do you help a grieving friend? and I think you will all also enjoy it and a quote in the beginning, “The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed, exactly as it is.” – Parker Palmer

So, the message I was looking for (to be ok with not being ok) has been found and now it’s up to me with how to move forward. I know that drinking cider and eating cake aren’t quite cutting it so I journaled this morning with ideas for me that would excite me about getting more exercise in my day (dancing, strength training, walking).

I admittedly haven’t started this new work out routine but by allowing myself some grace to grieve, I plan to get the momentum going. I hope you are also ok with wherever you are and slowly or surely adjusting what you need to keep your sanity.

How do you help a grieving friend?

(sharing this video? using it in a training! Great! Tag or email us and let us know, and be sure to give proper attribution.) It’s so hard to know what to do…

Erin Wike is a Career Coach & Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin and owner of Cafe Con Resume. Erin is fueled by dark roast coffee with cream AND sugar, her loving husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs. She is the Co-Founder of Small Business Friends ATX to help fellow entrepreneurs + hosts events for people to live a Life of Yes with Mac & Cheese Productions.

Op/Ed

To do list methods that maximize productivity, lower stress

(EDITORIAL) Even if you have a to-do list, the weight of your tasks might be overwhelming. Here’s advice on how to fix the overwhelm.

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To-do list in a journal with gold rings.

If you ask me, there’s no better way to unwind and ease everyday stress by making a to-do list. Like they said in the movie, Clueless, “It gives [you] a sense of control in a world full of chaos.”

While that quote was specific to a makeover, it certainly applies here. When you have too many things on your plate, making a to-do list is a quick way to get yourself in order. Typically, this does the trick for organizing your upcoming tasks.

It’s important to determine what method of listmaking works for you. I personally like to use sticky notes around my computer monitor to keep me in check for what’s needed to be done work-wise or by use of my computer. Other personal task items will either be kept in a list on my phone, or in my paper planner.

For work, I have a roster of clients I work with everyday. They each have their own list containing tasks I have to complete for them. I also use Google Calendar to keep these tasks in order if they have a specific deadline.

For personal use, I create a to-do list at the start of each week to determine what needs to be accomplished over the next seven days. I also have a monthly overview for big-picture items that need to be tackled (like an oil change).

This form of organization can be a lot and it can still be overwhelming, even if I have my ducks in a row. And, every once in a while, those tasks can really pile up on those lists and a whole new kind of overwhelm develops.

Fear not, as there are still ways to break it down from here. Let me explain.

First, what I’d recommend is going through all of your tasks and categorizing them (i.e. a work list, a personal list, a family list, etc.) From there, go through each subsequent list and determine priority.

You can do this by setting a deadline for each task, and then put every task in order based on what deadline is coming up first. From there, pieces start to fall into place and tasks begin to be eliminated. I do recognize that this is what works for my brain, and may not be what works for yours.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has some interesting insight on the topic and examines the importance of how you relate to your tasks. The concept is, instead of letting the tasks be some sort of scary stress, find ways to make them more relatable. Here are some examples that Babauta shares:

  • I’m fully committed to this task because it’s incredibly important to me, so I’m going to create a sacred space of 30 minutes today to be fully present with it.
  • This task is an opportunity for me to serve someone I care deeply about, with love.
  • These tasks are training ground for me to practice presence, devotion, getting comfortable with uncertainty.
  • These tasks are an adventure! An exploration of new ground, a learning space, a way to grow and discover and create and be curious.
  • This task list is a huge playground, full of ways for me to play today!

Finding the best method of creating your to-do list or your task list and the best method for accomplishing those tasks is all about how you relate and work best. It can be trial and error, but there is certainly a method for everyone. What are your methods?

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Op/Ed

Want to move past your burnout? Stop using multiple lists

(EDITORIAL) How my evolving understanding of “burnout” helped me learn an important distinction between being busy and being productive.

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too busy to burnout

When I used to hear the word “burnout” I would picture the freaks from the gone-much-too-soon series, Freaks and Geeks, as they would bum around outside, smoking in between classes. Now when I hear the word “burnout,” I think of myself a few years ago as my brain was being fried by life.

I wasn’t smoking between classes, rather running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure out how to manage all of my tasks at hand. I’d make a to-do list, see everything I had to do, and drown in overwhelm.

I’d spend my days fretting over how busy I was, and nights catching up with friends via phone, talking about how busy I was and how there just wasn’t enough time in the day.

Notice that nowhere in here was I actually doing anything productive. I fell into a vicious hole of being so consumed with how much I had to do, I wasn’t taking the time to do anything but stress.

At first, it made me feel interesting and somewhat important that I had so much going on. I quickly realized that no one cares and it’s not that interesting (I also quickly remembered how much I love to just relax and not have something planned every day of the week).

This is where I learned the of the most important lessons to date – being busy does not equal being productive.

It got to a point where I was running on fumes and eventually had this epiphany that how I was operating was doing nothing to help me. This was in part brought on by seeing someone close to me behave the same way, and I was able to actually look at how defeating it was.

From there, I made it a point to change my tune. Instead of wasting time writing and re-writing to do lists, I challenged myself to make one master to do list and accomplish at least one item upon completion of writing the list. This helped shake off the cobwebs and I was able to feel a bit of weight off of my shoulders.

The ideas surrounding the hustle mentality had me so consumed and all I was doing was hustling my way to nowhere. After feeling the burnout, seeing someone else operate that same way, and seeing that hustle mentality mocked, I was finally able to break free and get stuff done.

And, guess what? I have even more to do now, but feel more calm and collected than ever. I just have to repeat the mantra: Being busy does not equal being productive. Being productive – especially in silence – is so much better and much more rewarding.

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Op/Ed

How any real estate pro can become more assertive

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Being assertive is not the same as being bossy and while most people tell women to be more assertive, lack of assertiveness isn’t gender exclusive. Here are a few tips how to make your presence known.

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assertive broker meeting negotiation team

Merriam-Webster defines assertive as “disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior.” I believe assertive behavior is the balance between being passive or aggressive.

You aren’t demanding, but you’re not dismissing your needs either.

Women are often told that they need to be more assertive, rather than passive, and men need to be less aggressive. I’m more of the opinion that assertiveness isn’t gender-specific. I believe every person needs some assertiveness training.

While I may not be an expert in assertiveness, as a freelancer, I have learned to be more assertive. Here are a few of my observations:

  • To be assertive, I had to stop feeling as if my work was unimportant. Call it confidence or self-esteem, but it was a definite turning point for me. I stopped using the word, “just.” I didn’t apologize for bothering people. I simply began stating what I needed to get the job done.
  • I defined what assertive meant to me. For me, it was the ability to stand up for my opinions and needs. This didn’t happen overnight, but it took practice. One of the key things I did was to try and be more assertive in other places, like when I volunteered. That gave me the confidence to stand up for myself in my work.
  • I use “I” statements. “I need to take next Monday off.” “I need more information about this project.” “I cannot do that this week.”
  • I’ve found that part of being assertive is taking the other person at their word and not holding a grudge. Don’t read more into their emotions than what is being discussed. Just because my co-worker hated the last idea I had shouldn’t stop me from exploring new ideas with the team.
  • It is very difficult to change old behaviors. I have mentors and coaches that I talk to about my successes and failures. This has helped me figure out what I’d do differently if I had the chance. Trust me, it isn’t easy to be introspective about the time you blew it, but it’s been very beneficial in all the areas of my life.
  • I’ve apologized when it was appropriate, but I don’t beat myself up, either. The other day, I missed one part of an assignment. In the past, I would have not taken any more assignments as punishment. Instead, I apologized that I missed it and fixed the assignment. Then, I took another block of work and moved on. It was freeing.

Being assertive isn’t easy. But it is very rewarding.

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