You’re lying in bed, sound asleep. Suddenly, the bed starts to shake. You dismiss it as a dream working overtime. But, the shaking continues. Your eyes open to see that your bed actually *is* shaking, and so are the lamp, nightstand, dresser, and pictures on the wall… You swing your legs over the side of your bed and put your feet on the floor. The ground beneath you is vibrating like it’s had too much coffee.
After about a minute, the shaking subsides. You go back to bed, deciding to straighten the pictures tomorrow. For the next few hours, you lay there awake worrying about aftershocks and catching your breath from the moments when everything was out of control.
The sense of a lack of control is accurate. Earthquakes aren’t caused or prevented by anything you do. They happen when tectonic plates in the earth’s foundation move against each other; that change in movement creates seismic waves that vibrate the earth.
The feeling of instability is caused by change.
While I’ve never experienced an earthquake myself, I have a sense of what it may feel like immediately after. Recently, I have spent hours lying in bed thinking about the ripple effects of current events and what it feels like to be out of control.
The first six months of 2020 have been a doozy. They’ve been full of challenges and changes. I don’t need to tell you the main subjects dominating the news because you know them well. You are also well aware how these events directly and indirectly impact your life.
You could make a list of the challenges they’ve presented and the ways they have changed you. Changes make you feel like the world around you is unstable. Things in your life that were normally level and even now seemed tilted and skewed. It feels as though there’s a tense vibration in the world today as though we’ve all had too much coffee.
When the foundations that help create who we are move, the change creates waves throughout our lives. As parts near to the core of our identity (like our society and health) shift, we feel the rippling effects change our personal and professional lives. Change rocks our worlds and upsets our stability.
Similar to earthquakes, changes that cause lifequakes are rarely self-imposed. For the most part, a good number of people work to avoid change and get very cozy in their comfort zones. People rarely choose change.
Like the earth, life isn’t designed to be unchanging. Change is built into the DNA of living. Accepting that change is inevitable allows us to then concentrate on our response to it.
Four Keys on How to Survive a Lifequake
If 2020 has brought a lifequake or two to your life and you still feel the aftershocks, here are ways on how to survive, cope and find some stability again.
Concentrate On Control.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”James Baldwin
We don’t have to assume the individual responsibility for curing COVID-19 or succeeding in the civil rights movement. Additionally, we don’t own many of the changes and “seismic waves” these larger events have had on our lives. That is too much to take on for one person who just wants to know how to survive.
The main issues our world faces today will only be resolved with tremendous, thoughtful leadership, active involvement by all of us, and time.
Instead, we can take a moment to list the shifts that have happened in our world and label which ones we can control and which ones we cannot. Knowing what lies within our sphere of influence, we are able to focus our attention on what we can change.
Here’s a list to help you get started:
Things we cannot control:
- Other communities’ spread of COVID-19
- How other people react to current events
- How other people react to you
- The government’s response
- Statistics and facts
- The time frame
Things we can control:
- Actions in light of COVID-19 (wearing a mask, washing a mask, staying home, maintaining social distance, etc.)
- News and social media time/intake
- Self-care habits
- Social circles
- Proactive efforts (supporting causes, searching for a job, etc.)
We can’t always cause or prevent lifequakes, but we can control all the ways we intellectually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually respond to them.
Find The Familiar.
“In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.”Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin did not, but many people I know would add Cher to that list.
While the world seems to have turned upside down, not everything has changed. Not every constant in our lives has disappeared. When we look closely, we may find more dependable aspects of life that help keep us grounded.
Consider these parts of your life that can remind you how to survive and provide brief returns to familiarity in an ever-changing world:
- Valued relationships (well-established connections with colleagues, friends, and family members)
- Tasks (clean your home, organize your garage, do yard work…)
- Routines (cook your favorite meal, maintain a regular/healthy sleep schedule, volunteer with shifts for a cause/charity…)
- Entertainment (television shows, movies, video games, music…)
- Art (painting, knitting/crocheting, playing/writing music, dance…)
- Hobbies (reading, exercising, gardening…)
- Self-Care activities (cuddle with a pet, take a nice bath, journal…)
No matter how intense the lifequake, remember to access touchpoints that help you feel more stable, even for a few moments.
Learn The Lessons.
“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”Franklin D. Roosevelt
Those who have lived through earthquakes often can tell the story of their experience vividly. They can detail where they were, what they were doing, how they felt, and the aftermath of the event. Depending on the severity of the earthquake, they may even tell about improvements they made while doing repairs… a new picture to replace one that feel, a new light fixture to take the place of one that broke, new wallpaper or paint for a wall that cracked. They not only fix what broke; they make it better.
Shifts in our foundations cause defining moments.
Times of abrupt change bring to light our gut instincts. Did we know how to survive? Do we run to safety? Are we searching to help others? Is our concern about protecting our possessions? Do we pause and justify what is happening?
We learn who we are. If we like it, we build on it. If we don’t, we seek paths of improvement. We can remodel our lives. Either way, we can recreate better and stronger versions of who we are.
Having a hard time pinpointing what you’re learning now? Consider making a list of lessons you’ve learned from previous changes in your life. You may be surprised by how many there are.
Normalize The New.
“There is grief in change. Be careful not to mistake grief for a sign you’re doing the wrong thing.”Lisa Olivera
During an earthquake, your favorite vase falls and breaks. You loved that vase. It was invaluable to you, and you are heartbroken. Since you consider it irreplaceable, you display a vintage book in the spot on the shelf where it once stood. And, honestly, you have to admit, it looks pretty great there.
It’s not what you originally imagined, but the new set up works, and you like it.
When they arrive, we often are unsure how long the season of change will last. Some go on for a few days or weeks. Others continue for months or years. Sometimes, we can wait until the chaos of change settles before we settle into a new normal. Then, there are times when even as things rattle around us, we need to create our own stability.
Building our new normal doesn’t mean we can’t miss the comfort before the quake. But the grief for the past shouldn’t distract us from how to survive and hold us back from a better future.
Everything works in seasons. Even your previous comfort zone was at one point new and unfamiliar. You grew to love it. New normals feel foreign at first. The more you allow yourself to accept new realities and be agile, the quicker you will find comfort once again.
As you go to bed this evening with questions about what may happen next in this turbulent time, just remember that you’ve known how to survive shake ups in your life before. You have the experience, wisdom, and strength to find steady ground again.