I know things are bad when the strongest most confident person I know calls me for reassurance about whether things will get better. But he did, which, of course, was rather unnerving to me.
It’s a deeply scary world right now. Some are most frightened about the spread of COVID-19 and the many people who may get sick…and possibly die from it. Others are worried about the potential economic collapse of the country, if not the world, should COVID-19 not pass within a short time. And, apparently there are those who have a mortal fear of running out of toilet paper. Some are just frightened by all of it.
I’m more in group two—the economic collapse crowd. I am truly, deeply concerned about the economic impact of essentially shutting down life as we know it for an extended period, but I must believe in the resilience of what has been a very strong economy and the resilience of people to overcome horrors. We’ve done it before—gotten through both manmade and natural disasters, including past outbreaks of flu-related ailments. Somehow we come through and realize two things after the fact…
1. We are all a whole lot stronger than we realize, and we have the ability to face challenges far greater than we can even imagine. Just ask anyone who survived the Great Depression or World War II or the polio outbreak in the 1950s.
2. We learn and grow as a result of these challenges. Many, many lessons were learned in past crises, and this will be no different both from a health-care and a financial point of view.
Here’s my lesson for the day.
It’s easy to become obsessed with the messaging and the news right now given that we can’t get away from seeing it or having a conversation about it with a friend or family member. Here’s the problem with those conversations…I don’t know about you, but for me, by the time I’m at the end of those conversations, I am now not just nervous but also frustrated because I have no control over changing or improving the situation, and I am unnerved by the uncertainty of what’s to come. I can feel my stress hormones rising within me, and that is unhealthy for the rest of my body. It raises inflammatory cortisol, increases my anxiety and heart rate, makes my blood sugar go up, increases pain of all sorts—the list goes on and on.
To counter those fearful feelings and their effects on my body, I’ve started something before I end these conversations. Rather than finishing them bathed in fear and anger and confusion, I suggest that we take a moment to think about a happy place or time or moment. A person that gives refuge…a family member’s wedding…the hug from a parent or child…a playful dog…a place of great beauty that brings you joy and calm—whatever image that can shift your body out of the torment into a more stable and joyous place. The person I am speaking with and I take a moment to share that memory or imagery and then enjoy the good feelings for a few moments before we say good-bye.
I did an exercise with an executive coach years ago in which I had to write a plan for my day and then report on how I did relative to the plan. Some days a lot got done, and I felt great. Other days weren’t as successful, and I could easily have wallowed in the defeats and lack of success. However, here’s the interesting part of the exercise—I had to create another version of the day after each report that reflected how it would have been had I actually accomplished what I set out to do. Doing that put my mind and heart into a place of strength and confidence rather than leaving it in a place of shame. No, this wasn’t participation rewards for all and pretending things were different. But it was training my body to feel success and put it into a state of satisfaction and confidence so that I could face the next day’s challenges with confidence.
While we are being bathed in angst and fear, it is important to rinse ourselves off with the joy and magic that still surrounds us. Before you end a conversation, spend a moment on a shared memory with the person you’re talking to…or if you don’t have shared memories, trade one with one another. Before you go to bed, whether you journal or not, put yourself in a place of peace—a happy memory or an exciting future.
Like the rule of thumb to not go to bed mad…don’t stay in the sludge of a bad conversation.
Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast, where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life.