Remarkable times bring opportunity

Many have rediscovered gardening of late. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Many have rediscovered gardening of late. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
How was the April challenge to build mental strength and resilience, asks life coach Jan Aitken.

It sure was a challenging month. Don’t worry if your gains weren’t all you wanted them to be, this year isn’t quite “normal”, so cut yourself some slack and go gently. Don’t give up, though. Keep trying and tweaking things, this is a challenge that has plenty of long-term payoffs.

Take some time to reflect on the following questions: What worked well for you and what wasn’t quite so helpful when building your resilience? Do you need to tweak anything to continue to build that strength and resilience? What have you learnt about yourself during the April challenge?

On that note, welcome to the May challenge. You might argue that 2020 has had enough challenges already! However, the monthly challenge has been designed to help us get more of what we want into our lives and less of the stuff we don’t. So why not use this “break in normal transmission” as a pivot point to turn things around? Things are up in the air anyway, so why not think about what we want to put back into our lives before it all lands again and we start down the road of our new normal?

Most of us will have had a month that has been like no other. A Facebook meme described the year to date like this: “so far 2020 is like looking both ways at a crossing and then getting hit by an aeroplane”! It’s certainly been full of the unexpected and we’ve been forced to do things differently. Has it been stressful? I can honestly put my hand up and say, “yes it has”. No shame in admitting that. Nearly every aspect of our lives has changed and not through choice. That lack of control tends to make changes more stressful and be anxiety provoking.

But not everything has been “bad”. There must have been some gains on both a personal and global level.

Globally the environment has taken a deep breath, pollution levels are at their lowest in decades, wildlife are coming back to their habitats and waterways are cleaner. Long term, as individuals, we can’t control this worldwide but we can do our bit to look after the environment better in our own patch post-lockdown.

It’s been reported people have started vegetable gardening, what could be better than your own fresh produce to eat? The excessive intake of fast foods has dropped, better for health and wellness individually and as a country. Many have started baking their own bread again, cooking from scratch and doing these things together as families or in “bubbles”. You only have to look beyond your own gate to see more people out walking and cycling, enjoying the fresh air and having time to chat or just ponder and muse. Friendly “hellos” are exchanged from 2-metre distances and people seem to be happy to acknowledge others. Board games and reading have become popular again. We have seen the rising importance of the workers often taken for granted in our society. They have kept our bubbles fed, our cities running, collected our rubbish, made deliveries, kept the peace, prepared to look after those of us who catch Covid-19 and much more. I suspect anyone who still undervalues teachers has not had to home school their offspring!

None of the above is meant to dismiss the stress and distress of businesses collapsing, jobs lost and the resultant financial hardships as individuals or as a country. These are longer term problems that will need creativity, time and resilience for us to get through.

We don’t often get the chance as a society to think about how we want the future to be. World wars, massive natural disasters and now, it seems, pandemics give us that chance.

What are the things that have been a positive change for you and your family/whanau/bubble? What do you want to carry forward into the phase of rebuilding? What are your core values and how can you orient your life to reflect them?

These are the things I challenge you to think about and to write down. However, more than just thinking, I challenge you further to start taking the action needed to put these things in place permanently.

Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach. For more go to



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