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How we can turnaround that Groundhog Day feeling…

Punxsutawney Phil’s shadow

Here we go again… The alarm goes off and it’s the start of another day, except it feels like the same day, over and over again. A scene from the film Groundhog Day, or our lives right now during  COVID-19?

I recently watched Groundhog Day with my family and my interpretation of the film’s message is that it’s not what you think about that matters, it’s the way you think about what you think about – sounds very familiar to me….! The main character, self-centered TV weatherman Phil Conner, gets stuck in Groundhog Day and it seems interminable with no way out. A bit like the feeling many have right now…

Desperately seeking something

The way we feel on any given day, at any given moment is a direct result of how we interpret the incoming data – i.e. people, events and situations; we become aware of something, we process it, too often with unconscious thoughts and the direct result is our emotions. This is a whole new normal – something we have never experienced before, and we are all desperately trying to get our heads around it. Whenever we are faced with a new situation in our lives, our subconscious mind searches our memory banks for a reference point – something similar we may have experienced before and we can therefore apply the same thinking to it and emotional response.

But we have no reference point for what’s going on at the moment – we’ve never experienced anything like it before. So, our subconscious mind is frantically searching for a reference point to give us an idea of how we should be feeling about this, but we’ve nothing to compare it to, so the search comes back with zero, nada, nothing. That’s why we’re feeling a bit like a ball in a pinball machine being knocked around by the flippers and springs of this situation – we can’t decide how we feel because we have nothing to compare it to – it is unique, it is global, it’s affecting every facet of our life. And that’s why it feels like Groundhog Day when we wake up. But, that just like the film, we can change our day by changing the way we’re choosing to think about it.

One more time

For many, upon waking, thoughts turn to dread of yet another day of Lockdown, living with our partner, family or housemates who we may or may not get along with. Another day perhaps worrying about our business, our job, lack of income, concern about getting the next food shop, or medication. The whole home-schooling scenario – the kids are finding out how much we don’t know…! Many are juggling working from home with home-schooling. Many awake knowing this is going to be yet another day isolated – no physical contact with anyone, no chatting unless there are at least two metres between you and them.

So, some might feel fearful, frustrated, disappointed, angry maybe. These emotions started with a thought. These emotions might mean they don’t feel like getting dressed, watching, reading and listening to the news all day. Perhaps spending hours on the phone, scrolling through social media, maybe being consumed by all that is bad that is going on, perhaps fuelling the conspiracist in them. They feel more anxious with all this information, perhaps want to close themselves off from others they know and love – not wanting to talk about how they’re thinking and feeling. Tempers becoming frayed in the house; friction abounds. There’s a feeling of hopelessness about the whole situation. These become habits and by the end of the day, they’ve got themselves in a downward spiral and feel worse than they did when they woke up – confirming to themselves just how bad all this is. A big fat self-fulfilling prophecy right there. These are the circumstances you will find yourself in if these are continuously your waking thoughts if you are doing nothing to reframe them. I wonder how this is helping you in this present situation.

Or, you can be more intentional with the type of thoughts you’re having. You might wake up with those thoughts and feelings of dread however, to get different results for yourself, you need to understand that the way you’re thinking, is going to achieve those different results. So, you might wake up feeling like Groundhog Day but recognise this and process it. Then, you can do something to reframe those thoughts – be it showering, dressing, eating breakfast. Exercise is always incredibly powerful to change our mood – it’s almost by exercising, we are exorcising those gremlins in our head. Perhaps watch something inspirational. Or listen to your favourite track which without fail, always gets the shoulders going Dad-dancing style and lifts the spirits. By reframing, you reset your mindset – you change gear and with a different attitude, you have a new perspective on the situation and can have a more open and resourceful frame of mind – you become more solution-orientated and opportunities seem to present themselves to you. And that’s when you have that sense of control – you no longer feel a passenger in all of this – you are the pilot and whilst you cannot control the situation per se, you can control your response to it.

By changing your thoughts, you are producing different results – you can feel dread and anxiety and end the day confirming to yourself that this is all black with no good outcome in sight; or, you can decide that you want to feel hopeful, calm, resilient and resourceful. The same 24 hours will come and go whatever, you get to choose how you think, feel and act in that time.

The 4 steps to rewire our mindset:

  • Recognise - acknowledge your feelings rather than allow yourself to be swept along by them.
  • Process - what’s at the root of the emotion? Very likely at the moment it’s going to be COVID-19 but what specifically are you worried/frustrated/disappointed/angry about? Pinpoint it.
  • Reframe - mentally remove yourself from those thoughts through exercise, connection with someone, music, watching something inspirational etc. Reframing will help you to shift your thought pattern.
  • Control - take back control of your thinking. We are not our thoughts and we can run our brain, rather than to let it run us. During times like these, it’s especially important to know that the one thing we can control is the nature of our thoughts.

So, if we want different results for ourselves – to feel more in control, more resilient and resourceful, it’s being intentional about the results we want for ourselves by consciously thinking about the way we’re thinking.

!!SPOILER ALERT!! In order for Phil Conner to break the Groundhog Day time loop, he needed to think about the way he thought about his life and the difference that would make. We’re not going to be able to break the COVID-19 time loop in quite the same way but we can break the unhelpful cycle of thought patterns by choosing to think about the situation differently. Challenging but it is do-able.

Try the 4 steps to rewire your mindset – and let me know how you get on in our Mindset GameChangers Facebook Group.

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