How to Maintain Control in this Crazy Time

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To say this is a tough time in the world would be an understatement. As we all are taking precautions to minimize the spread of COVID-19, every aspect of people’s lives has been affected by this pandemic.

For most people, most of the adjustments related to “social distancing” are perceived negatively.

With businesses shut down, the stock market taking a historic tumble, people losing jobs, kids being out of school, and virtually all recreation activities, sports, and entertainment events canceled, there’s a lot to be anxious about. When you add being isolated in your home for weeks or months on end, you start feeling like you don’t have any choices or control in life.

While there is a lot of truth to that, we have to remember this is a short term thing. Eventually the virus’ curve will flatten, we will be able to get out of isolation, and we’ll return to life as we knew a few weeks ago.

Life may not turn out exactly how it was before, and that’s certainly a popular debate these days. The truth is, no one knows exactly what life will look like, but it will certainly be closer to what it was before this pandemic.

In the meantime, here are a few things you can do to weather this storm and ensure you come out better on the other side:

1. Control your thoughts and attitude

In his famous book Man’s Search for Meaning, Austrian physicist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl says, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

While our experience in today’s world is clearly not comparable to Frankl’s experience in concentration camps, what is the same is our ability to dictate our thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

What you choose to focus on grows.

If you spend your quarantined time focused on the negative aspects of this experience, I guarantee you’ll see more of that than you’ll see good. That thinking will cause you to dwell on things you truly don’t have control over, and you’ll miss out on opportunities that, even in these dark times, are right in front of you.

Focusing on the positive aspects of this situation doesn’t mean you disregard the challenges. No doubt, these are tough times. But it means you are shifting your focus toward solutions and what can be done, as opposed to spending the majority of time dwelling on things you have no control over.

You are always free to choose how you feel, look at, and act on situations.

2. Create a daily to-do list and commit to it

I’ve always believed people are happiest when they are productive. In my own life, that has definitely been proven true over the years. When I’m sitting around too much, not doing enough, I don’t do well mentally.

Generally, it seems like people who are the most miserable are the ones with too much time on their hands. If you’re busy and focused on productivity, progress, and moving forward, there’s something contagious and motivating about that.

As Tony Robbins says, “Motion creates emotion.” I’ve found this to be incredibly true. It’s one of the reasons people who enjoy early-morning workouts swear by them.

If you’re like my family, your to-do list may look a little different than it usually does, and that’s okay. During this time of quarantine, now is a great time to knock out projects, focus on hobbies, or honey-do’s you haven’t been able to do ordinarily.

Use this time to clean out that closet or garage, make a trip or two to Goodwill (maintaining appropriate social distance, of course), read a few extra books, start that blog you’ve want to for years, and anything else you’ve been putting off. Binging on some Netflix won’t hurt, but just make sure it’s kept in check and during times you’ve planned.

3. Exercise daily

For most people, this is one of the biggest adjustments of all. Especially for gym goers, the adjustment to an at-home workout can be extremely tough. However, there are several things you can do to transition to at-home workouts and still maintain a solid level of fitness.

There are several apps and programs designed specifically for at home or on the road workouts, and many of them don’t require any weights or equipment at all. Additionally, most fitness clubs have also launched at-home workout plans and additional resources for their members.  If you haven’t checked your health club’s website or mobile app, log in and see if they have launched a virtual workout plan you can follow.

Another challenge to working out at home can be family getting in the way, especially if you have young children. Three options I suggest: work out with them, let them tag along or play nearby (and realize it won’t be exactly the same), or wake up before everyone else and knock it out.

One of the group fitness classes my wife takes has transitioned to virtual classes on Zoom. Since there’s no gym daycare at the house, and often times I’m working in my office, our little guy does the workout with my wife.

While it may not give her the adult alone time she usually enjoys during her usual routine, she still is able to get a solid workout in, and it also sets a great example for our kids of staying active and healthy. Plus, the other ladies in the class are most definitely entertained by our video-bombing pre-schooler.

4. Monitor your information consumption

My old friend Isaac Tolpin likes to ask his clients, “Are you producing more than you’re consuming?” This plays out in multiple areas of life, but the area that gets most people into trouble is on their mobile device.

Do you find yourself spending too much time scrolling your news feeds on social media, “spying” on people, liking too many things, leaving a ton of comments each day? Additionally, how much time are you spending on news sites, watching politically-charged television, and allowing yourself to get swept up in that vicious cycle?

That’s consuming.

I’m not saying it’s not important to see what’s going on in the news. I definitely read the news every day, and I encourage you to do the same. However, keep a limit on it.

There are two ways I’ve found to work best on not over-consuming the news. First, limit your exposure to 30-60 minutes first thing in the morning. This is more than enough time to get a general pulse on what’s going on in the world. Second, check or tune in for 10-15 minutes in the early evening. If you’re on a news website or a television newscast, any significant happenings for the day will be readily available.

More than that, and you’re spending too much time focused on negative topics, most of which you have no immediate control over.

5. Spend extra time with family

There have been some silver linings during this pandemic, and the best one for me is it’s given me more time at home with family. While we haven’t been able to go to playgrounds or visit fun places like we usually do, we have been able to spend more quality time together, when I’m usually gone for most of the work week.

We’ve gone on numerous bike rides around the neighborhood, played baseball in the backyard, built crazy Hot Wheels tracks in the playroom, read books, worked on puzzles, and played board games. Also, my wife got me hooked on Ellen’s show Game of Games, which reminds me of an adult version of Nickelodeon’s old show Double Dare.

I recently re-read Gary Chapman‘s book The 5 Love Languages of Children. One of the love languages that can have a profound impact on our relationships with our spouse, children, and family is quality time, which simply consists of spending time together where you’re present and focused on them. Now is a great time to practice that.

Undoubtedly, these are unprecedented, uncertain, unbelievable and crazy times. None of us know for certain how this pandemic will end, and exactly what things will look like when it’s over.

There are a lot of outcomes that will be outside of most of our immediate control, that’s for sure. However, uncertainty doesn’t give us the excuse to not control the things we can influence directly.

One of my old bosses used to say, “Control your controllables and the rest will take care of itself.” Let’s remember that as we move into our new future.


Bret Barrie was a Hall-of-Fame and President’s Club-winning sales rep and has been a top-producing sales leader in multiple industries. He is also the author of The Selling Edge: How to Reach the Top in any Sales Industry. A baseball enthusiast and fitness junkie, he is happily married with three children and lives in the greater Sacramento area. For more information, visit bretbarrie.com.

About Bret Barrie

Husband & Father | Sales & Leadership Expert | Baseball Enthusiast
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