Do you struggle to keep in touch with reality?

Reality, Reflection & Biases

This entry in my blog is dedicated to all of you who had, or are having, hard times to adjust to the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I write it hoping that I can inspire you to move on. Thank you for reading this.

It is since mid-2020 that the way we run our routines changed. That you are a professional or a student, you surely felt on your skin the impact of the pandemic and the restrictions that followed. This might have changed the way you relate with other people at work, at school and overall in society.

It is easy to fall victim of our fears, most of which are driven by:

  1. the arguably unregulated way that internet and the news abuse the information market; and
  2. the tricks that our biases play on our mind, clutching to our emotional brain and the sense of self-preservation.

Many of us reduced social contact, some even drastically. Also, quite a relevant part of it became virtual. Just think of virtual conferences and meeting, as well as virtual schooling. This continuity plan allows institutions to keep their flow; but that not necessarily mean that people are able to do the same.

What does mean to live in a Virtual Age

Perhaps you are not admitting it to yourself, but you might have become “rusty” in reading the body language of the people around you. If you began working with people on Zoom, Slack, Webex and so on, you noticed how hard is to communicate with people with only few opportunities to “meet”, leaving out the times the others put on the camera.

For instance, it could be frustrating to coach or mentor someone you can’t see in the face. And even so, you can’t observe the rest of the body. While people like me are actively observing body language when working, we cannot forget that our brain tend to keep in check non-verbal communication from the others: that is what actually gives us the perception if something is not right, or we said something awkward, and so on. Non-verbal feedback is an important component of the way we communicate one to another.

All this can bring you to feel like you are not used to meet people anymore. You could feel less self-confident than you used to be, and less decisive as well. At the same time, you might end up looking at the others with suspicion. In both cases, you are probably not reading reality right.

Looking beyond

The truth is, not everybody is done for this kind of life. While I have no problem to live in self-isolation (even if I feel coaching sessions might suffer from it), others really do struggle to adapt. While some love to spend more time with the family, others also could realize how hard is to balance work and life.

I think that one of the main problem is, that we may act differently and have different requirements at work and in private. That is also understandable, not only for a matter of etiquette or social convention: our colleagues have some expectations about us, so do our families. Once again, it is a matter of biases.

As communication suffers, so do performances. Many professions depend on fluent exchange of information between people. Despite common beliefs, working autonomously does not exclude co-dependence, that is a key factor of teamwork, especially with skills and cultural diversity in place. Even the most serious and mature person can start to feel jealousy and anger, which are in turn fueled by the frustration of this constrained, ongoing journey to virtual. As you may have guessed, forced change is never welcomed.

In all these circumstances there is a common denominator: that feeling of being stuck, overwhelmed, unhappy and to do not understand what is really going on.

Of course, that affects also the way we used to live our optimal experiences. The sports we love to practice, the hobbies we are willing to resume in our free time and, finally, learning: everything can have a different taste. Perhaps you might be feeling down so much, that you are not experiencing Flow anymore. And that’s a shame.

What to do?

Luckily for us, there are many ways to cope with this new way of living our life.

A word of caution: to you, it may seem a long, inexorable amount of time since all of this started. However, we shall consider this as just a period of our life, not its ultimate resolution. Although you might not like the new norm, I am confident that it will not last forever.

There are then multiple options to get a grasp on reality once again.

Keep a journal

Recording our whereabouts in the form of a diary can help us to reflect upon what we are living and how. It is a healthy exercise that I personally practice with regularity. You may use your journal as a tool to have a good conversation with yourself. This is especially great when you are losing motivation or you have some confusion in your head.

Look for constructive conversations

While journaling can be great to get your head clear, sometimes you may feel in need of somebody who would listen and interact without prejudice. Psychotherapy is what you would look for if you think to be in serious need of help. If your worries relate more to your performance or development, then you should look for a coach who would help you get back on track. Eventually, you may have that kind of critical friend that is able to look beyond appearances and provide honest feedback.

Change something

If you are unsatisfied with your life for how it is, it is time to do a major leap forward and leave something behind. By experience, I must say that this is mostly a job related problem. It is true that many jobs need the efforts of a big teams, but there are also other options, like solo-jobs or becoming a solopreneur. Besides the benefit of a change of air, this includes the opportunity to leverage new skills, explore new environments and know new people.

Replace old habits with new ones

Many complains that working remotely affected them negatively because they find themselves doing overtime, or having no time for breaks. That probably comes with the fact that at home we do not savour some of the habits we may have at work, like coffee breaks. What about using those 15 minutes to read that book you never got the time to read? What about exercising and sleeping more during the time you used to commute to the office? If you got so much time back – you just haven’t explored the options!

Take care of your mind

All the possibilities described above have a lot to do with mental well-being. However, our mind needs also to rest. Breathing exercises, long walks, meditations are all viable, low-cost options that can help us regain focus, energy and concentration. You should try those before you commit to some important task or deep work. You would be surprised the way such simple solutions can boost your performance!

In conclusion… maybe

There are a multitude of blogs, like this, that emphasize how many ways there are to cope with the times we are facing. I did not aim to be original, and I want to make a point. It is of my interest to help people to pursue their goals. That is my mission as a coach. Lacking happiness and struggling with frustration in the long term can make you seeing a distorted reality, but you can keep in check your emotions and channel your energy into something else. I hope these words will encourage you to get past your struggles and do better!

Published by Andrea Paviglianiti

I practice coaching, I love reading, and I work as a data scientist. I also recharge my batteries with meditation, martial arts, and video games. I perform career and skills coaching – thus I define myself as a “cognitive” coach: I help people improve their learning experience to succeed where they want. My method is based on behavioral analysis, psychology of learning, philosophy of dialogue, and classic literature. I write about how to get better at learning, the best books I read, and my personal philosophy of coaching. And I will not lie to you – I can get verbose at times! I’d be happy if you stick around and read more of what I have to share!

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