In the midst of a global pandemic, with sickness and economic collapse bearing down on us, the painful stretch between our life’s expectations and our current reality can feel quite literally like the END OF THE WORLD. And the struggle is definitely real.
Today my old friend and mentor, PR Guru Simon Kaheru, reached out on the occasion of my birthday to remind me to blog. Oh, right. I should be blogging. I know this. I’m a professional. And yet I’d allowed myself to go quiet because, well, disruption and struggle crept into my life some time ago and I’d honestly been feeling too vulnerable, too strained by the task of rebuilding again from scratch to continue revealing my inner thoughts to the world on a regular basis.
But I forgot something. Sure, a professional communications strategist will think twice, or a hundred times, before exposing vulnerability – manage risk! – but the very first value on which I based my company is HONESTY. And there is great value to be found in honestly discussing struggle.
So, in the spirit of finding the “happy” in this 2020 birthday, let me share with you what I’ve learned about surviving “the end of the world”.
The mind will play tricks on you. When you’re feeling low – maybe you’ve lost your income, your purpose, your social connections, your sense of self – the mind will see the world and yourself through a dirty lens. You’ll trick yourself into thinking that everything is bad, that you are entirely worthless, that things can’t possibly get better.
Check yourself! Consciously review what you’ve been able to accomplish in your life, what skills and value you have to offer, and if you can’t remember on your own, ask a friend to help you out. No story has only one side, so resist that negative narrative and bring your mindset back to a place where you can find your power and regain hope that better times will come; success is still possible!
2. NURTURE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
Yes, I am a public relations professional, so relationships are everything to me. I might not have accumulated much wealth in terms of dollars, shillings or pounds, but the huge power of my social capital will outweigh material goods any day. After all, you cannot starve if someone who loves you has food to spare. I have learned time and time again that trading in favours between friends can take a campaign further than any budget ever could.
So, you may be physically distanced from your networks, but if you can read this blog that means you can get online, and that means you have an incredibly valuable resource in the palm of your hand. Reach out to your friends. Ask them how they are doing. Send them good wishes, a meme, a useful tip or heartwarming story. Offer whatever little value you can. A lot of people right now just need a little company, a laugh, a reminder that they too have value and are not alone. Nurture your relationships now. You will need them to rebuild after this (spoiler: it’s not really the end of the world – it just feels that way)!
3. MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Yes, it’s great if you can be better than you were yesterday, but some days all you can really do is survive, and that’s Ok. Focus on what will get you through until your fortune turns – because nothing lasts forever. Nurture your mental and physical health. Allow your body to rest, but if you’ve been in bed all day, push yourself to do a little exercise to get your blood flowing and produce a little serotonin to improve your mood. Drink enough water and eat fruits and vegetables to nourish your body. Try your best to keep turning your attention back towards positive thoughts, like what you have to be grateful for and the hope that this too shall pass.
If you’re safe and healthy, then slowly make your way back up Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. It’s Ok to not be fully actualized and crushing it every day of your life. Manage your expectations. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Focus first on what will build your strength, and when you feel a little stronger, start planting seeds.
4. PLANT SEEDS
Maybe you don’t have a boss or client right now to give you work to do. Maybe you need to figure out for yourself where to invest your time and energy. Personally, I am a huge advocate for maintaining a humble growth mindset. Keep learning (Google free resources online). Keep searching for opportunities, pitching and applying for the next project. Keep searching for how you can improve your lot in life. Volunteer. Teach. Blog! Plant seeds. One thing I learned in Uganda is that you have to knock on ten doors knowing that only one may open, but one is all you need.
Plant seeds, and allow them to germinate. The harvest will come in time. It may take years before the shots you shoot now reach their target, or you may find that they reach a target you never even expected. What matters is that you continue reaching out into the universe and leaving pieces of your energy to be spun by fortune beyond your control into something magnificent one day. May you reap even more than you sow!