What I am learning about myself during COVID-19

Right now we may not be our best self, and maybe we’re also a bit up and down in our moods.  

I share this blog to encourage each of us to ‘lighten our load’ by sharing with our ‘tribe’ the way we truly feel during such unprecedented times.

Learning 1 – Amidst Complex and Unprecedented Change I take more and more comfort in the power of our collective heart.

This blog was written on 5th June.  It is amidst NZ’s collective sigh of relief from 14 consecutive virus-free days – free, that is from any new COVID-19 cases.

By contrast, I also write this blog amidst the news of ongoing racial violence in the USA brought to a head by the recent and tragic George Floyd incident.  It has been the ‘lighter fuel’ for protests against systemic racism around the world.  My deep hope is that with calm, clear heads and with compassionate hearts, we will nurture meaningful and inclusive conversations. This is because I take more and more comfort that it is ‘the good feeling’ we bring to the conversational table, that will provide the container for future peace and inclusion.  Judith E. Glaser, the originator of Conversational Intelligence®, used the word hope in an inspiring way.  [See An Intro to Conversational Intelligence].  Dr Glaser re-defined the meaning of the word hope for me. Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen.  Hope has much power, since it integrates our head heart and gut in its very definition.

Learning 2 – Just as we as humans are the creators of complexity, I believe that when we are at our best, we are also the collective solution providers! 

Both A Virus free world and Inclusion are examples of wicked challenges.

 ‘Wicked challenges’ or problems https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problems are those that cannot be ably answered by any one person.  Such problems stand a far better chance of being worked through with a willing and collective ‘good’ heart.

Moving from the big ‘wicked challenge’ picture, to the local one:

Learning 3 – When my thoughts, feelings and gut are connected, my day has a seamless flow about it, rather than using a lot of energy trying to force or push it things through. 

The above two examples of unprecedented change have affected me more than I had initially thought.  I am learning to think more deeply, and also to feel things that I ‘already know’ in my head.  That’s hugely different for me.  The benefits are that it feels like a more integrated way of being and of responding to the world.  It feels like I use less effort.

 For example, I recognise in my head that it is during such times of unprecedented change we tend to reveal our feelings compared with times when we perceive a steady state.  NZ’s Lena Waizenegger of AUT, [https://www.aut.ac.nz/research/academic-departments/business-information-systems/business-information-systems] studies the digital future and has reported this tendency of emotionality.  [Lena has also recently completed a study on the impacts of enforced remote working and the picture is mixed with both advantages and disadvantages].

It is an entirely different thing to take Lena’s insights and apply them to accepting how one actually feels about things.   There are big benefits in doing so from a business point of view.  Dr Dan Siegel provides this evidence. [Listen to your gut and improve your intelligent response to make better decisions].

Dr Dan says that many leaders think the best way to make a decision is to focus on the logical, reasoning part of their minds.  Actually, what neuroscience tells us is that there’s more to our brain than the grey matter that rests between our ears. Other parts of our body do essential work processing information. And, the best leaders know how to analyse and use ALL of the clues.

Learning 3 – Acknowledge and accept that we may not be our best selves right now.  We’ll learn a lot about ourselves.

As said, we may be a bit up and down in our moods.  

During such low moods, Elsie Spittle, Co-founder of the Three Principles Foundation [the Three Principles being Mind Consciousness and Thought [Elsie Spittle talks of the power of Experience] provides a helping hand for me during such times.

In her book, Our True Identity, Elsie says that ‘low moods can be like watching the tide go out. When you see the tide roll out, you don’t blame it or judge it for being low. You simply acknowledge it as a natural gravitational process. Interestingly enough, when the tide is out, you can walk along the beach much further, observing new shells and rock formations never before noticed. You can also see garbage in places and clean it up. In like manner, when the psychological mood is low, you can take the opportunity to survey what needs tidying up in the human landscape’.

For me, it is the acceptance of my low mood with an attitude of self-compassion, which gives me new insights which then help me to move forward.  It does mean that to get there, I am connecting how I feel with what I think and that the cause in my low mood is my thinking.

An example of where I had segmented my thoughts from my heart and gut was this:

During COVID-19 Levels 4 and 3, I voluntarily – and on occasions IN-voluntarily – took on the unofficial role of the COVID police officer.  In my thinking, this was to ensure people abided by the 2-metre physical distancing rule.  My head was consumed with the logic of it, [Why Being Right is So Addictive]. 

My thinking seemed divorced from the anger I was feeling in the face of what seemed to me to be transgressions from the rule.

Normally fancying myself as an understanding person, I actually reacted by becoming angry when I saw people ‘not abiding by the rule’.  I then became disappointed in myself for having this reaction. I started going out later in the evening for my walk.  My husband Dave said I was becoming very unpleasant to be around.

I know in my heart that walkers aren’t out to get me: they are just going for a walk, and setting out to enjoy themselves and chat with each other.

I seeded a positive intention before my walk and also avoided the ‘busy walking times’.  Despite these things, I had let walking become a mentally draining activity, which left no room for day-dreaming.  My walk had become a zig-zag across the relatively car-less streets to avoid groups of people.  These groups of people were on street corners and there were families too who came at me like a moving wall across the narrow footpaths.  I’d created an unpleasant experience for myself, despite me ‘being in the right’ about the benefits of physical distancing.

One thing that eased my anger was to speak out when I felt the needed to, during the walk: ‘single file please.  Two metres keeps COVID at bay’. 

One joker said ‘why don’t you wear a cruise cap (called Ruby Princess) or walk around with a 2 metre stick!’  It’s important to keep a sense of humour, I do understand this. 

So what works for me is to acknowledge and accept my anger.  And then to be proactive with groups of walkers by asking them from a place of good feeling to walk single file.  The walkers’ responses vary, despite my politeness.  I am feeling quite proud of myself.  

I know that this example is microscopic in the face of worldwide wicked challenges.  However, it is something I can do each day /several times a day to make sure I show up the best I can be: I am taking responsibility for my own anger.  Also I am being proactive, asking people to help all of us have a safer walk.

Learning 4 – Attitude counts. One’s own practices for calmness and compassion matter too.

To be with ‘feeling emotional’ is another matter.  It is rather [scarily] unpredictable.  It certainly has meant that I am regularly meditating, journalling and walking.  I am trying to do these things with an accepting and loving feeling, rather than an impatient feeling.  And I think it calms me down because it gives me a better sense of perspective over what I am prepared to stand for.

So as I continue to go out for my walks, I do feel more hopeful that I have a strategy to keep me composed in the face of a wall of ‘a family of five’ coming towards me.  It’s a strategy that acknowledges how I feel and uses my voice in a calm and a compassionate way.

Learning 5 – On a positive note it really helps lift the mood and create good collective feeling by being grateful and by appreciating those who do have the capacity to give.

You’ll remember that pretty early on during the COVID-19 pandemic, a worldwide ‘teddy bear hunt’ was born so as to get children focussed on the good stuff happening in the streets.  It still is a point of focus for some.  We still have our fare share of teddy bears in NZ.  One really stands out.

He features as the blog’s image.  I think he’s a boy.

He was our Auckland Milford Beach bear and he sported a different message around his neck for each day.

Every day on our walk, Dave and I looked forward to a Grateful message from our neighbour-cum-comedian.

It began as

  • Grateful for the opportunity to thank my country for keeping me safe 


  • Grateful for the opportunity to 

– eat

– prey (I think they meant pray!)

– love.

Followed by a whole series of ‘Grateful for’s’

– Grateful for the opportunity to take selfies all day long

– Grateful for the opportunity to enjoy NO traffic!

– Grateful for the opportunity to daydream and not get in trouble

– Grateful for the opportunity to do SnapSHOP (picturing shopping)

The build of messages culminated in a humorous:

– Grateful for the opportunity to secure a job as Milford Entertainer (essential service).

And then suddenly it finished just as quickly as it had begun.  A special moment in time, to be appreciated forever, rather than ‘missed’ or longed for.

A couple of days later we happened to speak to our kind teddy bear humorists.

They are a couple who own their own business.  It was interesting to hear that they were feeling the pressure of creating innovative teddy bear ideas, and were actually rather relieved to be back at work!

So to the couple, thank you for your kindness.  Thank you for the joy you gave to us as adults, and to the many adoring children who walked past and were allowed to stop and laugh, well just for a bit.

These are the key things I am learning about myself during COVID-19.

I blog about them here to encourage each of us to ‘lighten our load’ by sharing with our ‘tribe’ the way we truly feel.  My deep hope is that with calm, clear heads and with compassionate hearts, we will nurture meaningful and inclusive conversations that will have a positive ripple effect throughout the world.