I'm sitting here at my desk while outside there's another storm brewing. It is August but the skies are gray and the temperature is 58 degrees. The weather here in the northeast like most of the country has been weird for months. But it's more than the weather that's different this summer.
When summer rolls around our minds focus on leisure as we seek to keep cool, enjoy the long days and take time off from the usual work routine. So August is usually a month when it's hard to reach folks, get any business done or keep your mind on work. We figure we'll pick up the pace after Labor Day. But this year all bets are off. People are at attention, focused on surviving the economic crisis in whatever ways it is affecting them.
So many people are out of work and can't afford to relax and kick back at the beach or lakeside. Instead they must job hunt, collect unemployment and cut financial corners. And for those lucky enough to have a job the workload is heavier than usual and tension's high. They're working long hours, sometimes even weekends. They're busy, rushing around.
How we handle this shifting landscape has a lot to do with our ability to read what is needed accurately and meet the demands with a minimum of resistance. Of course this is easier said than done.
First of all we all need a giant dose of radical acceptance - gone is the comfort of tried and true. Sure the pundits and White House spokespeople are telling us things are turning around and while, I'm sure they are correct, it is important to remember this is a long game. It took 18 to 24 months to get here and it is going to take at least that long and probably longer to get to a place where we can relax a bit. So the question is how do we sustain this kind of a stress-filled period and thrive?
I'm doing a couple things that are helping me that seemed worthy of sharing. I began noticing that, along with many other people I come in contact with every day, I was feeling more frustrated than usual. There are less people doing more work so there's less help everywhere you turn - restaurant, gas station, or a bricks and mortar or on-line store. After a few close encounters of the melt down kind, including one lack of service debacle at the deli, I decided something was not working. I had a good talk with myself and realized I had to seriously change my expectations. So I'm working harder to keep my frustrations under control. I slow down and actually pay attention to my breathing. I let a lot more slide deciding to give energy only to what really matters.
Once I got a grip on my own frustrations I looked around and could see more clearly that everybody is stressed. Many people are close to loosing their home or job. Of course, it follows that therefore people should be more helpful but that just is not how we operate. Instead people are driving more aggressively, going off at the drop of a hat and being much less friendly. Once I connected the crappy way people are acting with how they're coping with the stress it was a lot easier to figure out how I wanted to respond. I decided I want to be more generous because when I come from a place of generosity I feel expansive and have a sense of abundance. Of course I have to figure out moment-to-moment what generosity looks like. So sometimes it is letting the cars attempting to merge cut in. At other times it is letting someone else go ahead of me in line. Or it is doing an extra chore, helping a neighbor lay her bricks or, oh you get the idea!
Finally, with all this extra stress and longer hours of work I have needed to figure out new and different ways to relax. I'm sure there are loads of you out there who have tried and true ways you kick back. My guess is that they include using personal or vacation days, traveling or going out somewhere. But all of these activities either require time or money both of which are at a premium. Instead of taking the time to figure out how to do new things to relax a lot of folks are bearing up and pushing through their stress. This might work in the short term but it is not a good long-term solution. I took a look at things I used to do like go out to dinner, shop or travel and realized I needed to do new things to unwind. I started a social group for crafting one-time per month. Also, joined a book group. And I began taking baths in the evening before bed a couple times a week instead of my usual morning shower. These don't cost anything and they're giving me socializing and relaxation.
So August is indeed different this year. And it is not merely the weather. We're all at our desks, cranking out more and more or pounding the actual or virtual pavement job hunting. The usual benefits of this lazy summer month are being denied us this year. But you can realize and accept this fact and do a few simple things to help - keep your frustrations to a minimum, be more generous with yourself and others and figure out some new ways to relax. And hopefully you can go through this month and this challenging time healthier and happier!
Elizabeth C. Hechtman, MS, PCC, is a Life Leadership Coach - "I know when we are leaders of our lives we're more successful and more fulfilled. I love discovering how my clients lead; and then helping them get even better at it!" For over 25 years she has supported men and women to step up as leaders of their work and personal lives. She's expert at 360 degrees leadership that grows out of providing direction because it is needed rather than governed by the authority of a formal title. For more information, hear Elizabeth speak about leadership or to set up a free consultation visit her website http://www.echechtman.com