Creatively Planning for a Season With Many Unknowns

Question Mark - PuzzleAs we move into the official summer months of 2020, our normal anticipation is drastically changed. Things that we typically spend time doing, whether for adults or children, may be cancelled or modified – or still have unknown status.  Plans we had made or things we anticipated doing are questionable or changed. Some things that are available may not feel safe yet. And things could revert back to more restrictions if the infection rates rise too much with re-opening. It’s very hard to plan right now.

This has at times paralyzed me – I don’t know how to look forward, even to the next 3 months. So I often go from day to day feeling numb. Have you had that experience?  What can we do?

Creativity in this situation is important and needed.  Yet we may feel as though we have used up a lot of our creative potential just getting through the past 3 months. Managing just the maintenance of daily life – especially if there are children in the household – has required lots of innovation.

How can we re-activate our creative juices as we edge into the summer months with few of the normal anchors and expectations?

I suggest mind mapping as a tool that can release creativity and engage the entire household. Mind mapping is a two-dimensional technique that uses imagery, drawings and color to help us tap into both sides of our brains. It is an alternative to the outline and list making techniques we often use. This powerful tool helps us visualize tasks or ideas, come up with new possibilities as we brainstorm, and organize our thoughts.

Mind Map

 

Basics of Mind Maps

Here are the steps to do simple, hand-drawn mind maps.

  • Gather plain paper, colored pencils, markers, or crayons.
  • Choose a topic you want to explore.
  • Draw a circle in the center of the paper and write in your topic in a word or phrase.
  • Draw lines out from the center where you write a few words, a symbol or drawing for each idea you have, and add sub-topics or related ideas in lines off these main points.

Include all the ideas no matter how absurd they may seem. Here’s where a new perspective or angle may reveal itself.

Make additional maps as off-shoots or expansions of your first map. You can expand, modify or discard ideas from the first map on the topic.

An Example of a Summer Mind Map

Start with the main topic of “Summer 2020” and think of several categories of things you want to be part of the season, like:

Accomplish 1 Big Goal, Have Fun/Recreation, Help Others, Explore, Read, Start a New Hobby

These are the spokes that come out from your main topic. Then add specific things that you want to do under each. For example, under Help Others, you might list Deliver flowers or a treat to a neighbor, Call an isolated relative weekly, etc.

Then start a new mind map for each subtopic, add the ideas as subtopics and think of how, when and who would be involved in each one. Here’s where you may weed out things you don’t want to do, and you can always add additional things that come to mind.

Mind maps become a planning tool that are good reminders of the larger picture and help keep track of details. Keeping your mind maps in a folder or binder is helpful.

This summer is going to be unusual and unique in so many ways. Your household can thrive in the midst of it with creativity and innovation. As things change, regroup with new mind maps. Flexibility and creativity are the keys to having an enjoyable season in the midst of the continual changes.

 

If you’d like to read more about mind-mapping, I have some previous blog posts here:

https://carolbrusegar.com/mind-mapping-enhances-innovative-thinking/

https://carolbrusegar.com/transforming-years-after-50-introducing-mind-mapping-multi-purpose-tool/

If you really want to learn about mind mapping from the originator of the technique, Tony Buzan published this just a couple of years ago. It’s a distillation of global research that has happened in the 5 decades since he first created this technique.

Mind Map Mastery: The Complete Guide to Learning and Using the Most Powerful Thinking Tool in the Universe 

Mind Map Book - Buzan

How Can We Process and Handle Emotions During These Stressful and Uncertain Times?

StressAs we continue through the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that each of us have some level of emotional stress. Whatever your situation, there has been and is change and uncertainty.  Emotional health is particularly important during times like this.

What is Emotional Health?

Emotional health is your ability to regulate your emotions instead of allowing them to control you and your life. Emotional wellness requires you to accept your feelings, and acceptance can lead to understanding, greater insight into yourself and your life, and the ability to make better decisions for yourself. You also know how to express your emotions in healthy ways, which can lead to stronger relationships and feeling closer to other people.

Being emotionally healthy also means that you are better able to handle the obstacles and setbacks that life will offer you from time to time. Emotional well-being comes when you are more resilient to disappointments and change, and it allows you to set and honor healthy boundaries for yourself and others.

Four Life Hacks for Improved Emotional Health

Here are four life hacks that can be used daily to help process and handle emotions.

Name What You are Feeling

The most important habit that can help you improve your emotional health is being able to understand your emotions. This starts by naming what you are feeling. Identifying your feelings and understanding the nuances between, say, apprehension and fear, helps you to recognize patterns, identify triggers, and determine which emotions are causing you to make which decisions.

Without understanding what you are feeling or where these emotions came from, you cannot make the best decisions about what to do with them. Plus, when you put a label on your feelings, your physiological response is decreased. When you recognize that you are feeling rage, for example, your body stops producing as many stress hormones because it understands that you are not in danger.

Practice Mindfulness 

Mindfulness is a mental state in which you focus your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

Mindfulness teaches you to accept and acknowledge these things rather than become overwhelmed by them. This means you are managing your emotions better, which can make you more self-aware while enhancing your ability to concentrate improve your emotional health.

Turn Negative Self-Talk Around

Self-talk is the voice inside your head that is narrating your life. It can be a voice of optimism and positivity, but too often, it is a voice of criticism and pessimism. When your self-talk focuses on what you did wrong, what is wrong with you, and how you need to improve, it affects your emotional health and well-being. Changing that negative self-talk into more positive affirmations is essential for improving how you feel.

When you hear that negative voice chime in, ask yourself if what you are saying to yourself is based in reality. If the answer is no, then you have confirmation that your own negative bias is sabotaging you, so you can ignore those thoughts and move forward. If the answer is yes, then decide which two or three things you need to do to resolve the problem, then start acting. Ignoring that negative voice is also a good tactic. If you ignore your inner critic long enough, they will eventually stop talking.

Become More Curious. 

Curiosity is a hallmark of the emotionally healthy. When you are curious, you are open to ways to keep learning and growing in your life. This leads to continuous improvement and development. When you are curious about yourself, you become more self-aware and pay more attention to your needs, as well. Asking questions of yourself and others keeps you open to new perspectives and ideas, which helps you develop better empathy, too.

Perhaps the most important things we can do during these times is to seek out tools like those above to help us navigate uncharted situations.  New situations are confronting us regularly, and that is going continue into the foreseeable future. Take care of your emotional health as diligently as you do your physical health and you will be more equipped to weather all that is ahead.

If you are curious about this topic and eager to learn more, this book can help:

Master Your Emotions, The Art of Feeling Good by Jason Dyer

 

Deep Breathing for Stress Relief

Breathe“Calm down, take a deep breath.” “BREATHE.”  We often give or receive this advice when we or someone else is stressed, irritated or angry.  It is really good advice, but a few breaths in the midst of a stressful situation are but a tiny piece of the most effective use of deep breathing for our well-being.

During these days of the pandemic, we have a group of stressors that we may not have experienced before. Expanding our repertoire of tools to deal with them can only be a good thing.

Did you know that your body has a natural relaxation response?  Deep breathing exercises can effectively invoke your natural relaxation response and change the way your body responds to stress.

Your body can use deep breathing to allow the following body functions to happen:

  • You can increase the level of NO (nitric oxide) in your cells. This helps dilate blood vessels
  • You can lower your blood pressure
  • You can slow your breathing down with deep and meaningful breaths
  • You can lower your heart rate so you can feel calmer
  • You can slow down your metabolism so that it is more relaxed and efficient

Deep breathing exercises can be done anywhere and at any time. By doing deep breathing, you engage your brain so that you experience an increased sense of focus, profound calmness, and relaxation of the body.

While you can do deep breathing exercises anywhere, you need to do it for 20-30 minutes per day to lower your levels of stress and anxiety. That time can be spread throughout the day, as described below. Deep breathing will bathe your brain in the vital oxygen your brain needs at all times.  You can experience calmness, peacefulness, and a better sense of well-being.

Types of Deep Breathing Exercises

There are several ways you can go about deep breathing to reduce stress:

  • Visualization with deep breathing. This only takes a few seconds to complete the exercise. You consciously relax the tenseness in your shoulders and neck, which is where many people tighten up during stress. Then you take a deep breath and visualize the bottoms of your feet as having holes in them. Imagine that, through those holes, warm, comforting air is flowing up from the ground to fill up your entire body. The warmth is relaxing and you’ll feel less stress within seconds. Imagine your muscles soaking up the warmth and relaxation under the feeling. Do this several times a day when you feel the most stress.
  • Breathe with a stuffed animal. This exercise takes a little bit longer but it can be extremely soothing. The purpose of the stuffed animal is to remind you to breathe through your abdomen. As you take those deep breaths, it will rise and fall with each breath. If it isn’t, you aren’t breathing deeply enough. Lie down on a couch or bed and put one hand in the area of your chest. Place your stuffed animal in the middle of your abdomen. Keep your eyes closed and allow your body’s muscles to sequentially relax from the top of your head to the bottoms of your feet. Breathe in a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and slowly breathe out. Try this for about twenty breaths and repeat throughout the day when you feel the most stressed out.
  • Escape breathing. Escape into your mind by seeing yourself in a calm and serene place. Use all your senses to imagine yourself in this place. Breathe deeply and imagine yourself as calm as possible in this place. It may be a beach with the crashing waves of the ocean, the forest with its rustling leaves and the sounds of birds, or a meadow, where the wind is blowing serenely on your face as you breathe in deeply.

Fitting Deep Breathing into your Day

Try these tips:

  • Do the deep breathing exercises while engaged in other daily activities: while stuck in traffic, waiting for an appointment, sitting on the train or bus. You can even do deep breathing while walking around.
  • Set one or two deep breathing sessions per day, perhaps in the morning and just before going to bed. This will allow you to de-stress so that you can start your day stress-free and end your day stress-free.
  • Practice mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is when you use your brain just to notice the world around you without any type of judgment or criticism. This will increase your focus on the here and now so that you aren’t dwelling on past stressors.

To explore the topic more, check out these books for adults and children about deep breathing for health:  Deep Breathing for Adults and Children