“I feel Jailed since COVID started”: Reclaim Your Happiness With Collective Wisdom

For many, the life in COVID-19 era feels like being in a prison.
 
Born in the 1980s, I lived in a small town and did not travel overseas till I turned 15. 
 
Born in 2019, my daughter traveled overseas when she turned 1 month old, 2, 7, 10 months old… 
 
That would have continued as her adventurous parents lugged her around the world. All these travels stopped from the end of 2019, and we haven’t left the little island of Singapore ever since. 
 
Everything feels like having come to a standstill. 
 
It is nothing, compared to those who have lost their loved ones or their own lives. (My heart and empathy go to them…) But what we are feeling about the change of life is so real. 
 
(Scene from “Life is Beautiful” as the actor danced in front of the gun)
 
The physical space we inhabit might have been reduced and constrained. The time we inhabit is not. 
 
How to use our time is in our control.
 
There is a “space” that can open up in “time”, the present. It is therefore a choice: what space we choose to create with the time we have on hand. 
 
⇒Self-Reflection Questions:  What meaningful space/experience/events can you create with the time that you are in control of?
e.g. Make a little day trip plan within the city? If it’s impossible, how about planning a trip to a neighborhood or a time travel to your past (through photos/storytelling)?
 
⇒Self-Reflection Questions:  Is there anything you feel you are actively choosing, instead of being forced (caged)?
e.g. We can still travel (with quarantine orders sometimes). Know that we have choices if we need to. We are not totally banned from traveling – traveling has just become a far less attractive option.
 
“My world has shrunk so much since COVID”; “I feel like I’m living in a golden cage”; “There are so many things I cannot do now”; “There’s no way I can make any plan!”; “My children are missing so much this year”; “My career is very affected and completely stagnant”…
 
These are just some of the very common call-outs of our experience nowadays. And if anything is in common, it’s the sense of losing control.
 
To feel being in control is very important for us to feel happy and healthy. But how are we going to feel more in control, when the reality is with a lot of restrictions? 
 
***
 
Many of my coaching clients have brought up the topics of gloomy feelings due to COVID-19. Through the coaching process, my clients and I were able to tap on their wisdom and came to a few wonderful insights. As I indulge myself in this collective wisdom, I want to share them with you as well. Tell me which ones you do resonate with.
 

1. The rhythm of time has been disrupted and needs to reset

We human beings get a sense of time passing through the events we experience. As privileged modern humans, we create lots of memorable events by extensive traveling and attending social activities, and these events become our bookmarks for time. 
 
The year we went to France. The year we went to a big wedding party in Bali. The year we hiked in the Himalayas. 
How to live your life fully during covid
It’s so much harder to bookmark our days with zoom chats, supermarket visits, and local museums. Attempts to use these as bookmarks, if any, will look more like boring underlines all over the pages.
 
As COVID-related restrictions robbed us of most stimulating events, the pacer of time, a never precise instrument, is now broken. 
 
We need to realize that the rhythm of time needs a reset now, only then, we can go about setting a new rhythm with intention.
 
⇒Self-Reflection Questions:  What would you like your time’s rhythm to be like? 
 
⇒Self-Reflection Questions:  What are some of the small things that can help you to reset your life’s rhythm?
e.g. a life routine, a regular activity, an “event” 
 

2. Time is still in our control, even when space is not

Yolanda Yu_Coaching_Life is beautiful
(Scene from "Life is Beautiful" as the actor danced in front of the gun)
The physical space we inhabit might have been reduced and constrained. The time we inhabit is not. 
 
How to use our time is in our control.
 
There is a “space” that can open up in “time”, the present. It is therefore a choice: what space we choose to create with the time we have on hand. 
 
⇒Self-Reflection Questions:  What meaningful space/experience/events can you create with the time that you are in control of?
e.g. Make a little day trip plan within the city? If it’s impossible, how about planning a trip to a neighborhood or a time travel to your past (through photos/storytelling)?
 
⇒Self-Reflection Questions:  Is there anything you feel you are actively choosing, instead of being forced (caged)?
e.g. We can still travel (with quarantine orders sometimes). Know that we have choices if we need to. We are not totally banned from traveling – traveling has just become a far less attractive option.
 

3. When emotions are enemy, look into their eyes

Manage emotion accept emotion
(Scene from “Life is Beautiful” as the actor danced in front of the gun)
 
The physical space we inhabit might have been reduced and constrained. The time we inhabit is not. 
 
How to use our time is in our control.
 
There is a “space” that can open up in “time”, the present. It is therefore a choice: what space we choose to create with the time we have on hand. 
 
⇒Self-Reflection Questions:  What meaningful space/experience/events can you create with the time that you are in control of?
e.g. Make a little day trip plan within the city? If it’s impossible, how about planning a trip to a neighborhood or a time travel to your past (through photos/storytelling)?
 
⇒Self-Reflection Questions:  Is there anything you feel you are actively choosing, instead of being forced (caged)?
e.g. We can still travel (with quarantine orders sometimes). Know that we have choices if we need to. We are not totally banned from traveling – traveling has just become a far less attractive option.
 
Just like any hero on a mission, there’s always some obstacle in the way.  
 
When you wish to actively create a meaningful space in time for yourself, you may find negative emotions in the way. A world through gloomy lenses is a gloomy world. 
 
⇒Self-Reflection Questions:  What kind of emotions are present? Can I name them? 
 
Simply become aware of your emotions will help you to understand them better, and understand yourself better. 
 
love and life coaching
“What is to give light must endure burning.” ― Victor Frankl
⇒Self-Reflection Questions:   Which are the emotions related to love? 
 
If you are feeling guilty for not giving your kids a better time or feeling sad for missing your parents far away, do note that these emotions are originating from the most wonderful source: LOVE
 
Acknowledge yourself for the courage to love, especially in such trying times. 
 
Embrace Love, its origin, and you’d find yourself at a better place to embrace these emotions.
 

⇒Self-Reflection Questions:   What are the things you want to be grateful about?

⇒Self-Reflection Questions:  Are you feeling low about being low?

pursuit of life
“It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

4. How to fully live my life when I can't fully live my life?

When I see how my daughter has quietly grown up so much in the past 1.5 years, I wondered if life will be like this and we will end up living a boring life for many years. I wondered how many eye-opening trips, character-shaping experiences, heartwarming friends she had already missed. It turned out I was not alone in thinking this way.
 
 “I feel like I’m wasting my life”; “I have this huge panic: will time run out, before I have lived my life fully?”
 
These statements are all the same craving: “I want to live life fully.”
 
So the question is: How to fully live my life when I can’t fully live my life?
 
 
⇒Self-Reflection Questions: What does “Living fully” mean to you? What do you learn about your values when you answer this question? How can you stay close to those values in the time of COVID?
 
Self-Reflection Questions: Who do you want to be if there is no COVID? How will that version of you (Truly who you are) live, with the current situation?
 
Just as you are not your thoughts, you are not your emotions, either.
 
Thoughts and emotions are temporary. Identifying WHO you truly are, WHO you want to show up as, goes way beyond your current thoughts and emotions, and will support you to make the changes you truly want.
 

5.Cultivate Feedback, a very important piece in interpersonal connection

“Mental safety at work” is a tough topic that HR professionals and managers have been battling with. One of the main reasons is the loss of connections: from connected nodes, we have become isolated islands again.
 
“Many times, on zoom calls, I feel like having shouted into a cave, hearing only echoes of my own voice.” 
 
“I don’t know what my colleagues think of me, I keep second-guessing till I lost all my confidence”
 
“Six months into my new job, my new colleagues are so ‘virtual’ because we have never met!”
 
The virtual work environment is in a way effective in functional connections, however, very ineffective in informal connections. We used to pick up cues of how others look at us through those small talks and eye contact, or even just the atmosphere in the meeting room after we speak. Now, those very well-tuned human traits cannot thrive in the cyber environment, leaving us deeply anxious. 
 
What is lost in the new world, is feedback.
 
What we are scared of is not negative feedback, but no feedback. The uncertainty of no feedback makes us unsettled and unsure about ourselves.
 
The unspoken feedback that was once in the air, now needs to be purposefully cultivated. 
 
Self-Reflection Questions: What are some of the ways you can think of, to get feedback from your colleagues?
 
Self-Reflection Questions: What are some of the ways you can think of, to give feedback to your colleagues, so that they also feel assured?
 
In summary, these are the insights I wished to share with you. 
  1. Beware of the change of rhythm and work on developing your own
  2. Choose what you do with the time you can control, than focusing on the space that is lost
  3. Understand your emotions before dismissing all of them
  4. Reconnect with who you are and who you want to be, as a person
  5. Reconnect with others, bridge the feedback gap
 
Are insights helpful? Yes if they inspire you. 
 
But other people’s insights are NOT the most helpful. 
 
As many of my coaching clients would testify, it’s the process of getting to your own insight the most helpful. 
 
Just think about it, how many other people’s insights do we know? And how many of such insights do we truly embrace?
 
I hope, these “Other people’s insights” can be the start of your discovery of your own insights. 
 
And, I would always strongly recommend you to experience how coaching can expedite your discovery.
 

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MEET YOUR COACH

 Yolanda is a certified transformational coach, entrepreneur, and multi-award-winning writer. She holds an MBA from INSEAD, served director/VP level BD roles in Fortune 500 MNCs and tech unicorns. 

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