We are living in an unprecedented time, a surreal time. Business has been put on pause, hugging our loved ones is on hold, and shaking the hands of our neighbors has been restricted. We have no choice but to focus on our family and ourselves. Whether we are single and living alone, co-living with roommates or partners, or married with children - we all have to change our focus.
During this time we are flooded with self-help mantras, meditation apps, webinars, online classes, news headlines, and more. Some of these tools are helping while others lead us down a more reactive path. No matter who we are, or how we are affected, it is important to understand that we are all experiencing trauma.
Trauma is defined as a "deeply distressing or disturbing experience". When we experience trauma we usually tend to stay as busy, and as productive, as possible. However, this is not always the solution. There will be days that we feel lost, angry, panicked, or depressed. We have to make sure we are taking the time to process the trauma we are experiencing, so that it does not come with us into the new normal.
The world will change from this experience, but we need to make sure that we are changing with it. There are four emotions that I have been feeling a lot during this crisis, and I have worked with my coach, and therapist, to navigate through them. I was granted permission to experience my feelings and I hope to give you the same permission.
During this time I feel angry, and as a coach I have learned that anger stems from the seed of entitlement. What does this mean? We experience anger only when something doesn't go our way, or the way we expected it to go. The virus was not part of my plan, and therefore is ruining my plans. I don't want my business to fall apart therefore, I am angry. All of these angry feelings stem from the fact that things are just not going my way, whether right or wrong. And even with all the knowledge to help me understand why I am angry and upset I still feel it. It is ok to be angry and feel this emotion. Sometimes the more we fight it the more it grows.
My coach once shared a story with me that helped me understand the importance of giving time to my negative emotions. Imagine that we are eating dinner and a starving, angry, dog approaches us. We are cornered, we are trapped, and there is no way to escape. However we haven't finished eating, so we throw the dog some of our food to distract it allow for our escape. The moral of the story is that sometimes we have to give our anger a small amount of our time so that we can escape it in the long run. Give yourself some time to experience and feel your anger so that you can escape it in the end.
Fear is a tough emotion. Most of the time it comes from a place of lack. What if I lose my job? What if I lose all my money? What if we get sick? What if I go bankrupt? Even if one of our fears comes true we just add to the what if process. If I lose all my money then I fear that I might not be able to support, or feed, my family. Fear stems from the seed of lack. It is very hard to come from a place of abundance when we are feeling extreme lack.
During moments of fear it's important to express the fear. Discuss your fears with your partner, friends, therapist, coaches, or anyone you feel will listen without judgement. Share your worst fears and discuss some of the solutions, real or imagined. When we do this we quickly realize that we can survive any lack and fill every void. Getting the fears out of our head and into the conversation is very powerful. Expressing your fear in full form is sometimes enough to distinguish it.
If you do not have anxiety or panic at this time then consider yourself lucky - and maybe a little bit supernatural! But for the rest of us, anxiety will be heightened at this time. For me I have not only experienced anxiety but also extreme panic that can get quite ugly for those around me. Many of us already have anxiety issues and so to add this pandemic on top it simply increases the stress.
I have heard many people say "everyone has anxiety now-a-days", with an eye roll added in for drama. This is very true, however, it's not just now-a-days, it has always been this way. Only in the last 20 years have we started diagnosing anxiety and panic disorders properly. Many older generations have anxiety, panic, PTSD, and a host of many other disorders, but were never properly diagnosed. People have anxiety - it's quite normal and quite expected in a capitalistic society experiencing economic decline.
Anxiety stems from the seed of control, or lack thereof. Whether our anxiety is caused by internal chemical stimulus or external environment stimulus, the feeling of control vanishes. We begin to feel things like impending doom, heart attack symptoms, numbness, hyperventilation, and many more undesirable feelings. These feeling are difficult to control once they start. It is important to take care of your anxiety with whatever tools work for you. Medication is a very powerful tool for anxiety, and I encourage people to seek advice from a medical doctor to learn more about managing anxiety with medication. Some people control their anxiety with exercise, meditation, sleep, therapy, and many other tools. The important thing to understand about anxiety is that everyone is unique in their experience and must find unique solutions that work for them.
I personally suffer from panic disorder, which sends me into downward spirals of thoughts from "I am having a heart attack" all the way to "Im dying". I would describe having panic disorder as feeling as if a meteorite was heading toward earth, and we were all doomed. No control, just waiting for something very bad to take place. Each person experiences their anxiety and panic differently, and that is why we must all deal with it differently.
I know many of us may have been feeling more anxiety and panic lately. I encourage everyone to focus on their mental health and speak with a therapist, psychiatrist, coach, or friend about ways to cope through this time.
As a coach I work with many strong individuals. Many of whom would describe themselves as independent, hard-working, and someone who never asks for help. This is how we know that not wanting to ask for help stems from shame. Many of us believe that asking for help shows weakness, neediness, or a lack of competency.
However, my coach taught me a lesson many years ago that has helped me understand how to properly ask for help. When we ask for help in a proactive way we never run the risk of feeling shame, or any other undesirable feeling. We have to change our consciousness to the idea of sharing. When we ask for help proactively we being to realize that we are giving another person an opportunity to share. When we do not ask for help we deprive our friends, families, partners, and co-workers the pleasure of giving.
Asking for help means giving others the opportunity to share. When we change our consciousness in this direction we can begin to remove the shame around asking for help. Asking for help is giving the gift of giving.
I know we are all feeling a bit of helplessness and hopelessness right now. The longer this crisis lasts, the harder it gets to keep our heads above the chaos. Fear and anxiety creep in and set up shop. Take this time to feel your feelings and ask for the help that you need. When we begin to take care of ourselves, we can then begin to help others, and that is when the real healing begins.
Co-Founder & Leadership Coach