By Laura Sheehan, May 7, 2020
Laura is a Ten Steps to a Federal Job Trainer and Coach,
a former attorney, and lives in Japan.
Here is her best advice for managing
your work and life during the Pandemic!
Have you ever wanted to change something about your life but it seemed that no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn’t do it? There just wasn’t the time, the motivation, the willpower to make that shift, take that leap, DO that thing that you really wanted to do?
And then something BIG happens. Something completely out of your control that FORCED you to make those changes. A truly life-changing event where time is divided between “before” and “after” that one moment in time.
And so it shall be with COVID-19. It will change everything. There will be a “before COVID,” an “after COVID,” and right now – in what author Scott Belsky imaginatively named “the messy middle,” where we are still holding on to what was, not yet ready to fully accept what is, and very confused and anxious about what could be.
I know what you are thinking: “Yes, Laura, I miss my life before COVID, I am pretty darn miserable right now in the current lock-down and I am completely freaked out about the future. Threat of serious illness or death + no clear plan on how to manage it + global impact = fear, anxiety, stress and feelings go being overwhelmed. I am feeling it all! I don’t need another person telling me how bad the situation is…I need someone to tell me how I might STOP feeling this way!”
Alright! Let’s dig in.
Let’s take a look at “Before COVID.”
For me, before COVID-19, life looked something like it might have for some of you… I had a pretty predictable daily routine and a (generally) clear idea of how I was progressing in my career. Life was good. Everything was okay.
But… My husband’s job kept him very busy and constantly away on travel. The kids’ schedules were packed. We took time where we could to be together and to socialize with others, but it always felt like we were living separate, scattered lives. With our individual commitments combined, it felt like we were racing at the speed of light every second of every day. Life was completely exhausting and only occasionally laughter-filled, light and happy.
And then along came COVID. And everything suddenly stopped.
Jolted into a new schedule, a new state of being…it was like a big slap in the face. It stung.
Here we are now, months into this “new normal.” After having recovered in part from the initial shock and having taken the time to completely restructure our daily routine, I realized that I needed to make some big changes in order to both fully function and move forward.
Now, be assured that though I am married and have kids, I am no expert on how to best manage new homeschooling or distance-learning needs, how to better communicate with your spouse during times of high stress or how to truly cope with the full range of intense emotions we are all feeling right now.
As a career strategist, what I CAN do is talk you through how to shift your perspective from the negative to the positive…and to see all of the opportunities in the here and now.
You see, there IS something to love and embrace about this time. This messy middle – this time of many unknowns – has also been aptly named by the media as: “The Great Pause.” The phrase does an amazing job of encapsulating the incredible, positive potential of the pandemic.
If you really stop and think about it… a GREAT PAUSE. Isn’t that exactly what you might have needed? (I certainly did!) Doesn’t the general concept provide some sort of immediate relief? (I find myself taking a big, deep breath every time I say it. “The GREAT Pause.” Ahhhhh.)
Do I still have my moments of anger, sadness and confusion? YES! Will you? Most likely. This is – no question – a time of unprecedented uncertainty, loss and great adjustment…yet it is through hardship and incredible discomfort that spring the greatest periods of personal growth.
NOW is the time to start thinking about what you want your future to look like, to start envisioning the bright “After COVID.” Though life is different than it was mere months ago, for most of us, the pace of life is definitely slower. I urge you to use this time – this gift of The Great Pause – to turn inward, to reflect on what was, what is and…most importantly, what can be.
Here are the questions that I asked myself and that I now pose to you. Consider just one a day… or one a week! Whatever you can manage without adding to the overwhelm.
What IS working for you in this new scenario? What are you LOVING about the new structure of work, of life? How might you hold onto this? How might you preserve these aspects of your “new normal”?
What ISN’T working? What changes can you make in an effort to course correct? Who can help you make these changes?
What are you missing about work…or about the time “before COVID?” * How has working from home or on an alternative work schedule changed your perspective on how your work might be done in the future?
Take a quick trip back in time…what did your teenage self envision for your adult future? Are you living out those dreams? Are you on a path right now that helps you live your best life? Who are you today? Who do you want to be tomorrow?
If you could do anything, what would it be? What is holding you back from living out THAT incredibly exciting vision for yourself?
Today, I can confirm that, for me, it “only took a pandemic…”to start sleeping better, eating better, having full and substantive conversations with my husband; to better engage with my kids; to call my parents more than once a week; to re-establish relationships with friends with whom I had lost contact and to establish new relationships with neighbors with whom I never really spoken (albeit now through a fence, standing 6 feet away); to take daily walks; to become more resourceful; to stop mindlessly spending; to clean out and organize spaces, make them beautiful again; to feel bold enough to experiment with new ways to work from home, new ways to produce new content; to garden, to grow things; and…most importantly, to think how I might better serve those around me and to REALLY appreciate the people who daily serve others – teachers, nurses, hospital staff to name a few.
In the “After COVID,” I will remember parts of this historic time fondly – for this is the time that I started taking better care of myself and that my husband, children and I reunited as a family. It is a time when I am learning a lot and pushing myself to try new things. Granted, I still have a long way to go, but I’ve got some good momentum going. Enough, anyway, to carry me through each day and closer to the incredible brightness of that proverbial tomorrow.
I sincerely hope that you will be able to one day look back, see the strong foundations you laid during The Great Pause, turn up a bit of a smile and say to yourself, “It only took a pandemic…for me to really start living my best life.”
* Of course that great scene from the iconic movie “Office Space” immediately comes to mind: Bob: “Looks like you’ve been missing a lot of work lately.” Peter: “I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it, Bob.” And if you are finding yourself emulating the role of Peter…what a clear sign that it might be time to re-direct!
— Bio of Laura Sheehan—
Laura Sheehan is a lawyer turned career strategist. As the wife of a U.S. diplomat, Laura has lived in eight countries over the span of nearly 20 years. With great determination, she succeeded in finding ways to continue her professional development despite her many moves. Laura now utilizes her diverse personal and professional experiences to empower her clients to find their place – wherever they are…in life and in the world.
Laura owns her own consultancy – E.P. Career Strategies, LLC – and maintains independent contracts with other career coaching platforms including RiseSmart and Global Connections. In addition to the full spectrum of private sector job search tools and techniques, Laura is a certified Resume Place Federal Resume Writer and, having been a federal employee and contractor herself for nearly a decade, knows the ins and outs of federal hiring practices and employment.
Laura was featured on the Thriving Abroad podcast in March 2018, selected as the 2018 recipient of AAFSW’s prestigious Champion for Career Enhancement award and was thrilled to be the first speaker for TEDx Hanoi 2018 event, where she talked about career change. The talk is now on the TED platform with more than 600,000 views! More recently, she was a speaker for the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) 2019 Annual conference and appeared on the October 2019 Zen Brothers’ “Everyday Masters” podcast. As part of her volunteer work as a mentor for the Tomodachi Metlife Women’s Leadership Program, she just last week provided a 5-part interview series entitled, “Own Your Life, Design Your Future.”
In addition to her paid work, Laura co-founded a free monthly speaker series and professional development group called “Empowering Perspectives.” The Empowering Perspectives community launched in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2017 and how has active chapters across Asia. With the social distancing requirements of COVID-19, Empowering Perspectives is now fully online.
Questions? Feel free to email Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org