3 Non-Actions To Take When Anxiety, Brexit & Not-Knowing Abound

Uncertainty-100x100Fear gripped me, like a vice around my guts.  I treaded water in the swimming pool in which I had arrived for an early morning dip, before the heat of the day became too much. Brexit had arrived.

My friend had called from the terrace rooftop of the villa in which I was staying in Italy, on holiday.

‘Do you want the good news or the bad?’

I had paused in my leisurely breaststroke, and cocked my head.

‘We’re out,’ she called.

I swam to the side to hold onto the bar. Surely not? I was shocked. It had never occurred to me that the people of the UK might really vote to leave the EU.

Now, nearly two weeks on and the shock waves are still coming, though like the ripples in a still pond when a stone is thrown in, they are lessening from the centre out.

Uncertainty, doubt, confusion, fear, guilt, anger, tears – you may already be very familiar with these emotions.

They all belong to grief.

In one way or another, the citizens of the UK are in mourning; yes, even those who voted to leave. Because when any kind of ending comes, whether you realize it or not, a letting go has to happen, and that involves a mourning of some kind as the old dies away and makes way for the new.

Just as in the death of a person.

And as you will know if you have ever suffered a major ending of any kind in your life, let alone the death of a loved one, the resulting emotions can be very turbulent, with uncertainty and unknowing a common thread through them all.

At times like this, the mind goes into overdrive, trying to sort out how to cope. Trying to find a clear path forward, and bring things back to a sense of order. But the qualities of grief are the exact opposite of that.

Grief includes not knowing, wondering, and anxiety when a major change happens. You’re not supposed to be able to make decisions easily, be organized or able to think clearly.

It helps if you realize this, because then you can catch yourself being self-judgmental or self-critical (which often shows up as judging and criticizing of others, as in mutterings such as ‘the idiot, why did he do that?’ or ‘it’s not fair, I didn’t want that!’ or ‘why didn’t I …. (or why did I….)’.

When you notice yourself thinking these kinds of thoughts, what may appear on the surface as an opportunity for you to be right and others wrong, is in fact an opportunity to go deeper and understand what is really happening.

And what’s really happening is a natural human reaction to loss.

It occurs with all major losses.  But the way that individual humans react to these losses is very variable, and can make the difference between experiencing pain, and prolonging suffering.

Here’s 3 non-actions you can take to help you move through anxiety and grief more easily:

  1. Watch out for statements that keep you separate from others. These are easy to identify as they usually keep you right and the other wrong (e.g. blaming someone for dying in the first place, wishing you had behaved differently, justifying your actions). Breathe and go deeper to find the underlying opening your heart is showing you.
  1. Withstand the emotion-based demands from your mind which likes to control and feel certain. The ability to withstand these usually urgent messages, which nearly always dictate that you take action quickly, are messages that are coming from fear. Fear-based actions will always eventually create trouble. They have that inherent in them. Instead, just wait and see what happens.
  1. Be willing to experience the sea of uncertainty and unknowing. Become familiar with how this ocean feels. Let yourself be tossed about, or even just bob around, in these waters until clarity shows itself.  This is not an easy task, because of points 1 and 2. But if you can do that, you may find yourself surprised at what can then arise to the surface.

The Brexit campaign leaders have been judged as not having prepared properly in the event they won this referendum. There was no clear leader, clear strategy, clear list of instructions of what needed to happen next. Some kind of preparation in advance would have undoubtedly helped UK and EU citizens  to manage this transition more easily.

If you’ve been recently bereaved, then any advance planning that person did before they died will also help you.  That’s what happened for me when my husband died, and I was incredibly grateful he had taken the time to do at least some death prep – it helped me hugely to know I was carrying out his wishes.

Most people instinctively know that, at the minimum, a will is a good idea.

But most also do nothing about it (79% of people in the UK and the USA have been quoted as saying it’s a great idea to be well-prepared for their own death, and only 21% have anything written down).

If you’re one of the 79%, then take my free quiz here to find out how well-prepared you actually are: https://janedr.leadpages.co/big-quiz-webinar/

 

Why An Assumption Is Your Biggest Trip Up

“The greatest difficulty is the mental resistance to things that arise, and the underlying assumption that they should not.”

Eckhart Tolle

Reading this quote right now, I understand why an assumption I had made was my biggest trip up.

Basically, I had had such a difficult time accepting the fact my husband had died. Even given that we knew it was going to happen, and that I was there with him when he died.

Even knowing that he would be better off dead (his body was riddled with cancer), for months afterwards I did the opposite of this quote – fell into a pothole in the road of life that said ‘No! It shouldn’t have happened! It’s not fair!’

And of course kept myself stuck in the hole for even longer.

Let’s just look at this phrase of Eckhart’s.

 

“Mental resistance to things that arise”

 

That’s these kind of thoughts:

I don’t believe it!

Surely not, that can’t be true?

No. I won’t accept that, I’m going to do something about it.

Why? That’s not okay

 

Or even just grumbling, muttering and feeling anything other than neutral about the situation.

We have mental resistance when we don’t like what it is that is happening. We don’t exactly resist things we like, do we? In fact, we welcome them with open arms.
So the real challenge is the judgments and assumptions we have made around whatever it is that is happening.

 

warning sign protects from falling into a sewerage hole

 

As an example, let’s look at what occurred when Philip died. I went in and out of the pothole called ‘it shouldn’t have happened. He should have looked after himself better. This wasn’t the plan for my life. It’s not fair. Why did it have to happen?’

All of which kept me stuck in the hole, because with something as final as death, I was never going to be doing anything other than go round and round in the bottom of the pothole forever. When someone has died, you cannot fix it or make it better.

Fortunately I did have some insight into what was really going on, and very quickly had moments when I would arise out of the depths of the hole, and see the world more clearly for a while.

But you don’t have to fall into a hole in the first place.

 

This was highlighted for me when I met someone whose husband had died and who hadn’t fallen into the hole, or at least hardly at all. Her choice of thoughts was ‘Game over. Bonus life’.

These 4 magical words allowed her to see any potholes there might be, skirt round them, averting her eyes from looking down, and instead looking ahead into the distance, to a different kind of life.

Focusing on the idea that this could be a bonus life, with hope, surprises, and possibility allowed her to honour the life she had had with her husband, and at the same time, move forward, step by step, into what she called a bonus life.

She did not wander towards the crumbling edge of the pothole, which assumes that the death should not have happened. She avoided that entirely, by not assuming it in the first place.

Which brings me to the work I do now.

When you are brushed by death (whether your own end of life, a family member or friend’s, or just by becoming older) it is a lot easier to notice the potholes if you have come to terms with death itself; if you have faced up to the fact that you will die one day. That your parents, your friends and your family members will all die sometime.

While the thought may feel challenging to think, looking at death in the face will mean you are much less likely to fall into a pothole of resistance when a death actually happens.

So I invite you to start having a conversation (with yourself initially) about how you feel about dying, death and grief. How you feel about loss in all it’s forms.

Here’s 3 questions to start you off:

 

  • How do you react to the word death?
  • What happens when you let in the idea that you will one day no longer be here?
  • Complete this sentence: What the word ‘death’ means to me is…..

Post your answers in the comments box and I’ll contribute mine too.

And now, the pertinent question if you are self-employed or have a business:

What is arising in your work that you are resisting?

What one thing (let’s just start with one!) are you thinking ‘shouldn’t’ be happening?

Come face to face with that, just like with death, and see what gift it might have for you instead.

And feel free to post about this in the comments too 🙂

 

 

 

The Ten Steps That Make Transition Easier

Transition is a time of change and there are ten steps that are really good to be aware of when you know change is happening, whether it is change you have chosen, or you feel it has been foisted upon you.

Traffic Sign "New Life vs. Old Life"Changes show up in all kinds of ways – at work it can be promotion, redundancy, new team members, a move of buildings, new systems and structures, change in management, new regulations.

At home it can be children going to their first school, leaving home or getting married; one partner gets a new job; moving house; a new baby; divorce; moving countries; a change in health of any family member; death of a family member or friend; a change in diet.

Essentially, of course, we are going through changes continually. But they are often so small we only notice the big ones that have more of an impact.

Whatever change is happening for you right now, observing these 10 steps will help you negotiate the change more easily and smoothly.

  1. Take your time. Transitioning from one set of circumstances to another is a time of uncertainty. By definition you are no longer the person you were, and are not yet fully the person you are becoming. This is a process that takes time – so don’t push yourself, and let the process unfold all by itself.
  2. Arrange temporary structures
    Temporary structures will support Step 1. If you can, don’t make hasty decisions regarding your living accommodation, your job, or even your relationships. Creating stability or permanency may be desirable as a way of calming any anxiety that is raising its head, but it’s inappropriate right now. Instead, focus on calming down and releasing the anxiety or other concerns using techniques such as yoga, mindfulness practices, meditation, or creative pastimes.
  3. Don’t act for the sake of action
    When in transition, the mind (which is geared to your survival and safety at all costs) finds it very difficult not to take action. Nonetheless, action is likely to be inappropriate at this point. Take small steps rather than big ones if action is necessary; and discern whether you are acting because you are simply uncomfortable with your situation or whether it is really needed.
  4. Recognise and acknowledge why you are uncomfortable
    Be brutally honest with yourself about what is really going on. Tell the truth (to another person if that makes it easier) about what has happened and why you are in transition. The acknowledgement in itself will help lessen the discomfort.
  5. Take care of yourself in little ways
    Make a list of what little ways you like to take care of yourself. Print it out and pin up where you can easily see it. Make sure you do one of these ways each day.  Examples of ‘little ways’ could be:  candlelit baths, walking in the countryside, a nap during the day, going to bed earlier than usual, special foods, stopping work when you are tired, being creative, having your hair cut, a foot massage, meeting a friend for afternoon tea, listing what you have got in your life, rather than what you haven’t, choosing 5 things you are grateful for in your day at the end of each day, treating yourself to something you wouldn’t normally do.
  6. Explore the other side of change
    Be willing to explore all aspects of change, and its outcomes. Be brave and enter into scenarios (both positive and negative) about what this change may mean for you. Remember that this particular transition (especially if you don’t like it) may turn out to have hidden benefits.
  7. Get someone to talk to
    This means finding someone who will just listen. You don’t need their advice – you do need their non-judgmental, listening ears and heart. The old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ has a lot of truth in it.  Professional help is even better – it is deliberately one-sided (ie the professional is supposed to just listen to you, there is no two-way exchange going on) so you can relax into taking all the time you need without feeling guilty or that you ‘should’ be listening to them.
  8. Find out what’s waiting in the wings of your life
    Explore gently what may be round the corner for you. Put on your big girl (or boy) pants and peep round the corner or into the wings of your life and imagine the best. Be open to opportunities. You could even decide to say ‘yes’ to whatever is proposed to you for a period of time, and see what happens. Try it for a day and see what happens.
  9. Use this transition as an impetus to a new kind of learning
    Take a step back from your life by writing about what has happened for you in the 3rd person. If writing is not your thing, then create a video or MP3 recording about it. The crucial thing is to use the third person (as in ‘What happened to (your name)….’ as opposed to ‘What happened to me…’) Doing this will enable you to see more clearly what is going on, to discover any common threads in it, or links to similar past events, and to get a new perspective about your life. Embrace the new kind of intelligence that is available to you when in transition.
  10. Recognise and understand that transition has a characteristic shape
    Transition

 

Jane Duncan Rogers helps individuals and groups manage changes better in their lives, so they can make the most of their situation. Visit her sites www.giftedbygrief.com and www.wildwisdom.co.uk for more inspiration, insight and wisdom.

 

What Happens (To Your Work) When You Die?

When you are self-employed, or have a small business, the matter of your own death is a bit more complex than if you are an employee.

DeathofBusinessFor instance, if you are a health practitioner, or a professional who has clients, what would happen to them if you die suddenly?  Or even die less suddenly?

Do you have a plan in place for who would look after your clients, or take them on?  This may not be so important if you are a hairdresser, or a joiner, but if you are in the healing professions, it really does need to be taken care of.

As an ex-counsellor and psychotherapist, I had a supervisor who knew she would be contacted by my clients if I died. This was professional behavior – in this field, the sudden departure of an important person in one’s life can have far-reaching effects.

The same might be true for a professional dealing with the healing of someone’s body. To be left high and dry if your practitioner dies is not pleasant. Knowing that your practitioner had a plan in place should this happen, including a recommended person to contact, will help your client in any transition that might need to happen.

Other points to consider when thinking of your succession plan (as it is known) are:

  • Be clear about your intentions with the business for after you die
  • Do you want the business to continue after you die? If so, how, and with whom at the helm?
  • Who do you want to have access to any business bank accounts?
  • Who gets to pay any employees, and how should they be paid?
  • How will professional bodies be informed?
  • What about leases on premises?
  • What about insuring against yourself dying, if you are the sole proprietor or key to the business?

The more you prepare in advance, the easier it will be for those left behind if you do die.

In Gifted By Grief, I wrote about The List – questions that I asked Philip a few months before he died. Difficult questions, such as ‘what do you want to be buried in?’ and ‘when should I sell the car?’ and ‘what kind of coffin do you want?’ Not to mention making sure I had his passwords and user names.

This, and the purely business-related questions above, are vital to limit the distress for your loved ones. They will be upset enough about you popping your clogs, without having to make decisions that could have been taken beforehand.

The List is something that many people agree is a good idea to do – but not that many actually DO anything about it. Or they do it, but only a bit of it.  If you’re interested in joining a group focused on helping you complete these kind of questions, email me and express your interest.

There’s no doubt it’s easier in the company of others doing the same thing. So email me now and I’ll get back to you asap.