I never studied Shakespeare at School.
What, call yourself a Pom?
How can this be?
I don’t know, is the honest answer. My school simply didn’t include it in their curriculum. So, my knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays is somewhat sparse, but I have learned some of his most famous lines including the opening soliloquy from Richard III.
“Now is the winter of our discontent…”
Winter is indeed coming for my friends and colleagues living in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter being frequently associated with several colder, wetter or snowier months and sometimes a shift in how we feel and how we cope in tough times.
2020 has not been a kind year and the challenges wrought by disastrous bushfires and a global pandemic can feel harder to bear when the sky is a deep grey, matching our mood.
In March, as the reality of what living in a global pandemic was going to require us to do sank in, it wasn’t so hard to set to and make ready to adapt quickly to changes in how we lived our lives and where we did our work. We received information and updates from sources that continue to warn us of terrible outcomes if we failed to comply.
We traded our usual freedoms for the chance to stay safe and keep our families safe, too. We sacrificed special occasions; weddings, parties and travel because we understood the severity of the situation.
But how many of us wanted to believe that this time was not going to last long? How many of us set in our minds the idea this would all be sorted come August/September?
As each expected deadline of recovery passed, hope has started to fade, resilience is wearing a little thin and crisis fatigue has set in. And where is that promised vaccine?
Little wonder we’re fed up. After all, we did our bit and expectations were high but now it seems every time there is a glimmer of light towards the end coming into view, something happens, the next hotspot is identified, the next more strict lockdown is reinstated and the worried look of those who have lost; their loved ones, their jobs, their businesses comes into ever sharper focus.
So, what can you do, to rekindle that sense of hope and optimism, to bolster your resilience and find a way to thrive in the time of a pandemic?
History has taught us that it is during times of crisis humans often develop the greatest amount of innovation, making advances in processes and systems far more quickly than expected. In addition, positive human interactions including kindness, camaraderie and social cohesion become more sought after which also helps keep us healthy and happy.
Does the onset of winter herald the need for greater stoicism?
Would being braver, more moderate, adherent to doing what is right and seeking wisdom through truth and understanding assist us to:
- Separate what we can from what we can’t control in order to avoid wasting precious mental energy on that which we have no influence on.
- Think more critically and reflect on the best decisions required
- Accept our reality without polarised or catastrophe thinking
- Reframe adversity into life lessons that promote growth and opportunity
- Seek to take a bird’s eye view. By looking at the bigger picture it becomes more obvious a) that we are really very small and insignificant b) we are also an essential component to what contributes to the world at large.
I should add at this point that my understanding of philosophy is also a bit thin, but I do think the key concepts of stoicism can be enormously helpful to us.
If you like me want to understand a bit more about where stoicism came from, here is a helpful video.
If the thought of “winter is coming” brings thoughts of Jon Snow, dread and despair here are five things to help:
- Invest in you. Self-care is never selfish. It enables you to be the best version of you with the energy, vitality and clarity of mind needed to keep focused and on task. So yes, healthy eating, being sufficiently physically active, getting enough good quality sleep and putting in place those daily rituals that help you to keep your stress levels in check all matter.
- Make peace with adversity, uncertainty and fear. Invite all your emotions to dinner and allow kindness and self-compassion to strengthen your self-belief and inner strengths.
- Nurture your most important relationships, because this is your pit crew; those who love and support you and will always have your back.
- Make time to laugh and play. Life is too short to be taken so darn seriously ALL the time. Play helps us to destress, stimulates your imagination and makes you more creative. If this is the time when a new idea or three could come in handy, why not dig out the Lego® or whatever you like playing with. Meanwhile, laughter is a brilliant de-stressor, physical workout and connector. Do you have a favourite comedian you like to watch, a friend who always makes you laugh or a collection of jokes good and bad that will put a smile on your face?
- Make the choice that will serve you best. When you set the intention to get the most out of every day, choose to find the positive, be more optimistic, and develop a thriver’s mindset, guess what, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Let’s finish by adding the second part of that Richard III quote.
“Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York.”
Because after Winter, Spring and Summer will come and we can leave these unhappy and bleak times behind us. While Winter can feel indeterminably long, it will pass, along with the temporary negative situation.
How are you preparing for your winter?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is now available for purchase.
If my programs on psychological safety, resilience and mental wellbeing are something you’d like to find out more about, please contact me to set up a time for a chat.