Well this is it, the second wave is officially upon us. It’s time to suit up in your best leisure wear, tie your hair up in a scrunchie and cue up Ride of the Valkries. We are heading into the final months of 2020 and if this year has taught us anything, it’s that if it can get worse, it will.
As I mentioned previously, we need to treat our mental health like a full time job this year because it is. This hasn’t been just another run of the mill year after all. Between the pandemic, environmental destruction, and widespread civil unrest, the world truly is out of control. This does not however mean you have to be.
The hardest part of any marathon, any battle, or any achievement worth winning is in the final stretch. Those who emerge victorious from any great struggle may be battered and scarred, and slightly worse for the wear, but they also emerge stronger and more resilient. This doesn’t just happen, it’s executed with a plan, and in this case, since 2020 is taking no prisoners, we’re going to call this a battle plan. We can deal with 2021 when we get there, but for now, let’s get through this bitch of a year first.
To be fair I had no idea what the elements of a battle plan were before writing this. A quick Google search though produced the following components; objective, offensive, mass, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command, security, surprise, and simplicity. If it’s good enough for going to war, it’s good enough to get through 2020.
I recommend you grab a piece of paper and write down each component as a subheading and then write down what works for you. The expression, “everyone is fighting their own battle” has never been more applicable than this year. Let’s dive in shall we?
I think this one is fairly straight forward. Making it to 2021 with our mental and physical health intact is a solid objective. It’s fair to say that every other goal can chill for the next three months, unless you’re still determined to be a master of the universe, then you do you, the components still work.
At first I wasn’t sure how this would fit into Operation Darwin but when I looked further at what it meant I came across this explanation, “The offensive aim is to act rather than react and to dictate the time, place, purpose, scope, intensity, and pace of operations.” And suddenly it all came into focus.
Around about January 2nd it was clear that the world was out of control. That didn’t mean we had to fall in lockstep of course, but we did if rising signs of depression and anxiety are any indication. At some point though you need to step off the damn ride.
I can only hold myself up as a student, not a master in this regard, but I do know for certain that I can only control what I can control, like making my bed in the morning, establishing structure in my day, working out, writing, etc. When I act on these things, my days belong to me and I don’t get caught up in the spin cycle of the world’s underwear load.
On a larger scale I may not be able to control things like climate change, racists, or anti-maskers, but I can consciously choose to act rather react. Instead of reacting with despair at the daily barrage of climate emergencies, I can make sure I’m composting, driving my car less, and truly evaluating rampant consumerism. Instead of reacting with disgust at racists who share messages of hate and divisiveness, I can act by amplifying messages of love and equality.
The time, place, purpose, scope, intensity, and pace of actions and not my reactions is on me. That feels pretty good in a world where I can control little else.
Thankfully, this one time, mass is not a reflection on the quarantine 15 we all picked up in isolation. Mass is about concentrating your efforts to achieve results, decisive results. Only you can decide what that is, but for me it’s all about health – mental and physical, which aligns with my objective.
The driving question for me until the end of 2020 will be thus; Will this action I’m about to take make me healthier either mentally and/or physically?
I’ve started to ask this question a lot on everything from my evening glass of wine to reading comments on a politically charged Facebook post, and the shift has been notable because when you concentrate your efforts on one objective a lot of garbage just naturally falls away.
Economy of Force
The more I dive into the components of a battle plan, the more I realize it’s a manual for life, and frankly I’m a little sad I haven’t been implementing one longer.
Simply put, economy of force means you allocate the minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts. Translating that to life in 2020 then is pretty straight forward. For example, yes, we need to be aware of what’s going on in the world, but do we really need to know every headline? Will it help change anything? It doesn’t serve us to allocate precious resources on things out of our control. Personally I’ve drastically reduced my time with the news and I can confirm, ignorance is bliss.
In a battle plan an effective maneuver keeps the enemy off balance. In 2020, the “enemy” is hard to get a fix on. Depending on your situation it could be isolation, disinformation, the virus, job instability, or a combination of any and all the above. This is not a conventional us vs. them war, but a us vs. everything battle which means you have to be slightly more thoughtful when maneuvering.
I’m not even going to try and pretend that 2020 isn’t kicking our ass when it comes to this part of the battle. At every turn 2020 has kept us off balance, wondering what’s next, shaking our heads or running for cover at every new headline.
In an attempt to flip the script I’ve started to draw clear boundaries, both physical and mental to keep the various attacks to my well being at bay. I will point to the student/master reference above, and acknowledge this is fairly new tactic for me. However the six foot rule for the virus has provided me with a pretty clear construct for all manner of 2020 nuisances. I keep the virus at bay by keeping a physical six foot bubble around me at all times, I mentally do my best to keep a six foot bubble around me when it comes to anything that messes with my mental health.
Unity of Command
Unity of command means that all the forces are under one responsible commander. Well if that doesn’t explain the United States right now I don’t know what does. But I digress.
As a parent, this feels fairly straight forward but in theory it can be challenging. Even normally responsible adults are feeling the pull to check out, and who can blame them. The attacks on our sanity have been unrelenting, which makes it even more important that you resist the urge to numb. Alcohol, drugs, and yes, social media are all addictive. They are also especially deceptive in that while it may feel they are making things better, you know it’s just making it so much worse.
Lest you think I’m being preachy let me just share that in the early days of the pandemic red wine was my BFF, but I quickly realized it wasn’t helping me cope, so I laid off in a big way and got it under control before someone else had to to that for me. As my Dad used to say to me as a young adult, “Be your own liquour control board.” The same can be said for “be your own internet provider”, “drug dealer”……….you get the picture.
It’s not always fun being the adultiest adult in the room, and you’re not always going to do it perfect, but at least do it with your faculties about you.
From a physical perspective this is fairly straight forward. I wear a mask, I avoid crowds, I don’t eat out or enter indoor spaces unnecessarily. I’ve read far too many stories about the long term effects of Covid and I’m doing everything I can to protect myself. This also means getting enough sleep, working out, taking appropriate supplements like Vitamin D, and eating healthy.
From a mental perspective, it means being fully aware of what is sucking the life out of me and managing that. I recorded a podcast with Dr. Andrea Dinardo for What She Said recently where we discussed energy management versus time management, and it’s been a bit of a game changer. Once you start to recognize what sucks the life out of you, it’s much easier to divert your energy to the things that fill you up. Try it for one day and see how different things are for you.
You know how you fight back against this year? By remembering to seek small joys. Choose happy as often as possible. Want to put your Christmas tree up next week? Do it, and then hold up your middle finger and quietly say to 2020 “Surprise motherf*cker, you can’t keep me down.”
Sign up for a charity like Chatting to Wellness and keep seniors company who are in lockdown. You’ll be surprised by the joy it brings you. Resist the urge to become insular and stay focused on building community. It can be done responsibly even during a pandemic. 2020 is hoping you’ll forget how to be kind, show it you know it’s the very weapon that will win.
When this pandemic first struck the days were getting longer and the promise of time spent outdoors helped us through. The second wave unfortunately coincides with the onset of shorter days and longer nights, and a return to all things indoors.
Don’t overcomplicate this. If your objective is clear the steps to achieving it should be fairly straight forward, and then you can begin to cut the fluff. Remember this is war, so be brutal about what you’re hanging onto.
Keep it simple stupid may be a harsh idiom but oh so apropos this year.