‘How you doin’?’, said with a heavy New York accent, always makes me think of Joey Tribbiani from hit ’90s sitcom Friends.
While Joey usually used this catchphrase as a chat-up line, it’s something I’ve been asking myself and friends a lot lately in altogether different circumstances.
It has been a rollercoaster few months as we deal with the change of isolating and then back to slowly opening up. We have had to move quickly to adapt to the uncertain pandemic environment, whether that be issues around our health, job security, economic downturn, working from home, home schooling children or staying on top of industry changes. It’s hard to stay resilient, make good decisions and protect your mental and physical health when coping with a new reality.
So I am asking seriously, how you doin’?
If you are having feelings of stress or anxiety around the pandemic conditions and recovery, you are not alone. These are normal feelings and it’s important to acknowledge them, remembering there are some things you can do to help yourself manage these feelings.
Queensland Law Society Organisational Psychologist Rebecca Niebler has been providing some regular wellbeing updates to help us deal with the challenges of our new lives. One of her wellbeing strategies, which I have found particularly valuable in maintaining psychological health, is a daily habit to ask five questions. Here’s Rebecca’s questions and then some of my answers that have helped me, and may help you to stay on track as we navigate daily life:
- What am I grateful for? I have discovered I’m grateful for a lot of things I previously took for granted or was too busy to acknowledge. It may be small things like the first sip of coffee in the morning, or listening to my son’s guitar playing. It may be a big thing like living in Queensland where the curve has flattened and life is starting to open up again. Being grateful has helped me stay grounded and banished some of the negative talk that pops into my head when faced with a new challenge.
- Who am I connecting with today? Most of us have become Zoom, Skype and Teams experts over the last months and they are fantastic tools for keeping in touch. We are social animals and all need connection to feel good, so I deliberately decide who from my colleagues, friends and family I need to call and connect with each day.
- What expectations of normal am I letting go of today? Letting go of beliefs about what ‘should be’ frees me to live in the world as it is. I’ve stopped saying “If only I could run that big event, jump on a plane, go to a crowded cinema…” Instead I am living and working in the present, enjoying what I can currently do and not pining for something I cannot do.
- How am I getting outside today? Working from home, I could go all day without stepping outside my front door. By consciously going for a walk, run or bike ride, it gives me a break and refreshes my mind, reminding me I’m part of a world which keeps ticking over no matter what. It also generates those good endorphins and reduces stress hormones, so physically and mentally I’m looking after myself.
- What beauty am I cultivating? I like this question because it embraces the joy that can be felt in a broad range of activities – I’ve done three jigsaw puzzles in iso’ and this has bought me a level of contentment. My partner has refined his cooking skills to become a (semi) gourmet chef, and I have other friends who are enjoying gardening, painting, crocheting, or just listening to their favourite music. Whatever the activity, it is the pleasure of the process that provides a feeling of satisfaction in the moment.
Rebecca’s wellbeing tips are all available as short recordings on the QLS Facebook page. She has also provided some other guidance on maintaining psychological health, available as free one-hour CPD recordings on the ‘on-demand’ page at qls.com.au.
If you are feeling in need of some help in maintaining your wellbeing and mental health, I encourage you to watch some of Rebecca’s recordings because QLS really wants to offer support to all our members, so you can respond to Joey’s question in your best New York accent saying you are “doin’ OK”.
Sandra Pepper is Queensland Law Society’s Head of Professional Development.
1 June 2020