Kathy MacFarlane photo

Many questions run through our heads as we feel the stress of coping in our work, family, social circles, and community right now.

Are you wondering:

  • What will this season be like for me and my family?
  • How can I help my clients in this time of increased demand?
  • Will my organization survive?
  • Will I have a job? Groceries? A home?
  • How are my team members doing?
  • How can I connect with loved ones?
  • When will this end?
  • Will I or a loved one get sick?

Many answers are not yetforth coming.

We might anticipate some light after this dark season, but so many have experienced losses in many ways:

Loss of security, loss of income, loss of loved ones either because of the pandemic or otherwise, loss of routines we enjoyed, loss of connection with those we care about, loss of travel, loss of freedoms we knew, loss of precious time.  Many are still in the so-called ‘great pause’ and others have never paused and have never been busier.  You could add to this list, I know. 

And we are still in transition.

Many of us are problem solvers and fixers and think we need to be doing more. You might be feeling this huge sense of urgency combined with a strange sense ofparalysis. Despite the fact we are competent, caring, and committed we may also need to realize some things are out of our control.

So how do we cope?

Here is a random list of actual practices I use that help me. 

Build some nurturing routines for morning and evening to bookend your day

The disruption and uncertainty can leave us feeling buffeted. We need some anchors to keep us grounded. A few I aim for each morning and evening include:

  • Reading something short and inspirational (a good book, a sacred text, a meditation, a poem)
  • Journaling -even just a bit – notice what you are reading and your reaction to it. Write that down or just do a brain dump of whatever is on your mind. Scribble it out (with no judgment) and see where it leads. You can come back to it later or tear it up and toss it. You choose.
  • If you have a spiritual practice spend a moment in prayer or meditation.  If not, give yourself a moment of silence.  Some people are masters at mindfulness. But I give myself a gold star if I can just get to three minutes without my monkey mind kicking in. Do what you can.
  • Drink water.
  • Before you start your day or start something challenging, try a power pose for two minutes. Superman? Wonder Woman? You choose!  Experts talk about the neurological interconnection of our body and brain. Using power poses will help our brain get into a more positive gear.
  • As you end you dayturn off technology and TV early. (Trust me, you won’t miss anything.) Listen to calming music. Try a visualization of letting go. (When I had a regular office, I imagined all the work in my head floating through town to rest on my desk.) What is your equivalent? Can we do this with personal concerns too? Where can you let them rest?

Exercise and nature

  • I have a 90-pound Lab/Great Dane cross. I am lucky. I get furry love and forced exercise four times a day.
  • The chaos may make us feel we don’t have the time or motivation but if you can,just get moving.  And do it outside!  Nature can be great nurture.

Confidence-building and creativity

Certainly, some things may be out of our control – and we may need to get comfortable letting go. But we are not powerless.

  • Bring to mind something you are good at. Make sure you can fill parts of your day acting from areas of strength.
  • Try something new and be willing to succeed or fail!  It could be unrelated to work too! Art, cooking, decorating, gardening, dancing, writing, woodworking, fixing the car. Even in isolation we can find something to do outside our box. (Remember making playdough with flour, water, and food colouring?) Make it great or make a mess.
  • Practice gratitude. This doesn’t mean we ignore real challenges. But gratitude can help us reframe and see light in tough times. (Did you know? Negativity blows neurons. Gratitude is good for brain health.)


I know sleep may come hard in difficult times.But rest can take additional forms.

  • Try deep breathing. I use the 4 – 7 – 8 routine. Counting slowly, breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, breathe out for 8 seconds. Repeat as often as it feels good. This has two benefits: Slow breathing helps us get into a calmer space. Counting at unequal time intervals requires thinking which pulls our brain away from the amygdala (animal) fight or flight reactionwe have towhatever weare worried about.
  • Create a stop it list. What has filled your time that is unnecessary oran energy sap? Put it on the list and then -stop it. Especially aswe head into the next year, are there things we can  refuse to carry with us? (And, by the way, let go of the guilt.)  Only you know what makes sense here,but I’d bet money you could put a lot on the stop it list.
  • Turn the news off. Whether it is bizarre political events, the virus numbers, or the vaccine roll-out, it is all moving like a slow, terrible football game. Just turn it off. Contrary to the big red screen and the alarm sounds on TV, almost nothing is “breaking news”.  I could watch the news once a week and not miss anything. How many hours of your life can you recapture by doing just this?
  • Stop and prioritize what matters to your heart-centre and soul-centre.In all the haste and worry, we can easily get consumed with problem-solving, pivoting, and pushing through the day. But then,our most important things end up being left undone. Make time to reach out to loved ones, a friend, or a neighbour. If we spend some time on those deep, quality relationships, we can free our mind to focus on the rest.Those unattended quality connections can leave us in angst. Start with just one. Whoever came to mind just now? That one.

Last and not least, ask for help

Receiving help can be an act of generosity to someone else. I have two thoughts on this:

Others need to feel like a valuable contributor. If they can help you, you help them.

And face it. We all need help at some point. But here are the niggling messages that might stop us:

  • Nobody is as screwed up as I am.
  • I shouldn’t need to ask for help. I’m in charge. I know how to take care of stuff.
  • I need to be helping others not the other way around.
  • Yah, but my problem is so different; people will judge me.
  • Fill in the blank . . .

Actually –Yes, other people are as screwed up as I am.

  • If I show up as a human – not a superhuman – I’ll find other people will be there.
  • If I show up as a human – I’ll give other people permission to do the same.
  • I’m on a learning journey, I will grow and be able to help others.
  • I have faith and courage that there is something good on the other side of this challenge.

With a bit of self-care and faith I hope people will be able to hold on to courage, curiosity and compassion (compassion for ourselves and others) to move forward and into possibility- even if we don’t know what that is.

What can you add to these practices? Let me know!

Kathy MacFarlane, MA, CFRE is a leadership consultant, certified spiritual intelligence coach and fund development expert. See kathymacfarlane.com for more info.

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