When Your Day Is Turned Upside Down | VIA Institute

When Your Day Is Turned Upside Down

By Ruth Pearce

Last week I was invited to facilitate a webinar on character strengths and mindfulness for a small group of office workers. They were working exclusively from home. For some of them, this is the first time ever!

There Is Always More Than One Perspective

On the video call, everyone looked a little drained. John told us he and his partner live in a tiny apartment in LA and are on top of each other with both of them trying to work in a small space. Jeanine commented that she does not notice how small her apartment is when she is out all day. Kristy observed that she is sitting more than normal. Another added that she just misses the camaraderie of the office.

Add endless possible stressors such as financial challenges, job insecurity, young kids at home, older kids refusing to stay home, significant other at home, or in some cases significant other stranded somewhere else, and no alone time or too much alone time feels - well too much!

We started to explore strengths options to see how we can make this new and somewhat uncomfortable experience more livable!

With a flash of creativity, the attendees made two suggestions.The first was to literally get a new Perspective. John said he stands on the arm of his couch and looks down at his screen to see things in a new way. Silvia has identified multiple locations in her apartment that can become workstations and she moves between them to create variety. Scott thinks about what things look like to his cat these days!

The Value of Self-Regulation

Joe described how in the first few days of everyone being home, the usual family routine was disrupted. Everyone was getting up late, the kitchen seemed to be filled with an endless line of people grabbing breakfast and coffee and then immediately after that the lunch shift seemed to start. The entire family was doing their work and schoolwork in PJs. Tempers were frayed to say the least!

The family decided that while everything is so abnormal, they would keep as much normality as possible. They used judgment, social intelligence, teamwork and self-regulation to reestablish a weekday routine. And each day, a different person gets to be the hall monitor and use Leadership for a day!

• Up by 7am • Kitchen closes for breakfast by 8:00am • All dressed and working – kids in school uniform – by 8:45am NO PJS!

• Lunch is 12pm – 1pm and everyone is required to go outside for at least 15 minutes of fresh air. • School finishes at 4pm and the kids change out of their uniforms. • Work finishes by 6:30pm (and homework is finished by then too). • Dinner together at 7pm

Strengths spotting with Honesty

Each evening at dinner they pass the equivalent of a peace pipe. For them it is a soft toy known as “red ted”. Each person gets to say two things about the day –

  1. something they were challenged by and
  2. a strength they saw,

There is no feedback, no argument, no back and forth. It is just an opportunity to express different feelings and observations.

Overcoming Overwhelm with Judgment?

Martin suggested to set up a basic plan. Assess at the end of the day what worked and what did not and then ask the question “which of these things is in my power to change?” Then focus on one thing to make better. He would either choose the most impactful thing or the thing which would be easiest to adjust by a small change in habit. What is it that will help you to feel even slightly better? Do this self-assessment!

  1. On a scale of 1 – 10 (1 not too good 10 wonderful) how are you feeling?
  2. Consider how you can nudge yourself 1 point up the scale – e.g. if you are a 3 what do you need and what will you do to get to a 4?
  3. If you are not sure what to do, think about times in the past when you have been able to nudge your mood slightly more positive. What worked? How can you apply that now? Who can help you?

Appreciation – Seeing the Power of Nature.

A last piece of feedback from a lot of people is that nature is both our foe and our friend. While we humans seem to be facing a significant natural disaster the rest of nature seems to be going about its business as usual. Birds are still flying, in the northern hemisphere trees are still coming into bud and in the southern hemisphere the leaves are starting to fall. This reminds them to have Hope!

After the webinar, one attendee emailed to say that she had carved out 10 minutes of her day to lie on her deck looking at the sky. She took the photo on this post to remind herself of that moment.

Unlike most of webinars, we did not focus on signature (top) strengths. We focused on strengths that will help us right now. What strengths will help you now?

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