Last week we talked about how to build your resistance to illness and build your resilience so that if you do become ill, you bounce back quickly.

This week we’re talking about the psychology of times like these and how you can mitigate your sense of strain, blame, and feeling drained.

Fear is Everywhere

Fear does funny things to our brains. With the uncertainty and sense of threat, many of us are feeling our brains function less effectively, making it hard to stay present, to focus on new information, and to remember to do things in new ways. A number of our clients describe feeling exhausted and almost like they’re drunk, yet they haven’t had a drink! Oddly, this response makes a lot of sense.

The Challenge: During times of fear, the brain is in reactive vs. responsive mode—making us hypervigilant and quick to get frustrated, angry, and blaming.

  • At a time when your world seems to be coming apart, you may find yourself impatient with people you care about or work with, blaming people who make mistakes or even get sick, and isolating yourself from the people who nurture your soul.
Things You Can Do: It’s important to do what you can to take down the threat level in your brain and in the brains of those around you.

  • Treat yourself like you matter and let others know they matter to you.
    • For most of us, we know when we feel like we matter, but we don’t know exactly how to matter in our own lives and to let others know they matter to us.
    • We’ve developed a simple framework called the Mattering Matrix to help people assess if they’re caring for themselves (or others), and if they’re recognizing and valuing their (or others’) unique gifts and talents.
    • When both are true, you’ll feel like you matter and others will feel like they matter.
  • Put that oxygen mask on yourself first.
    • When you sleep well, eat healthy, drink water, move your body, and nurture your spirit, your brain gets the message that even though things may not be what you’re used to, that there is no immediate or deadly danger.
    • Finding ways to laugh can be very soothing to your brain and your body. Funny movies, books that tickle you, and light-hearted calls or face-to-face virtual conversations can really shift your experience.
  • Remind yourself that everyone is off-balance.
    • Getting cranky and snarky with others increases the stress on the brain and communicates that there really is a threat. You have more control over this than you may believe.
    • Pause and ask yourself, “Is what I’m about to say or do in alignment with my goals?” Your perspective and leadership are called for!
    • Remember, this is a normal response to stressors and demands. Try not to believe your anger and blame as something true about others, but honor its information about you and the pressures you’re feeling.
  • Utilize the opportunities available to you to connect safely with family, friends, and colleagues.
    • Reach out by phone or use virtual platforms like Zoom, Facetime, and Skype—many of which are free.
    • Text and email them (include fun photos or videos to brighten each other’s day).
    • Remember, spend only a few minutes with all of your concerns, then share memories, funny stories, inspiring experiences, and possibilities inherent in these obstacles and challenges.
    • When our brains are under this kind of strain it’s tempting to spiral downward in conversations that highlight yet the newest concern. Don’t stay long there.
    • We’re already hearing about incredible gifts coming to individuals, colleagues, families, and friends. Look for them and grab them whenever you can.
  • Take back your power: Gratitude/Get to/Grab it
    • Don’t let yourself be a victim—at least not for long. We’re all going to go through times when we’re frustrated, scared, and grieving all that’s happening. You have more ability than you’re aware of at times to claim your power.
    • Set a timer on your phone, watch, or stove. When it goes off, pause, take a deep breath and remember what you’re grateful for. For most of us, there’s still much to be grateful for.
    • When you think or say out loud “I have to”, see if you can shift your language to “I get to”.
    • Regularly grab moments throughout your day to sit quietly. Breathe deeply and ask yourself, “What can I do in the next hour or so that would be good for me / good for the world?” And do it. Do it safely, but do it.

As hard as it may be to believe, you have a lot of power over how your thinking and emotions unfold throughout the day. Pause and experiment with some of what’s listed above and see if you can start to build your emotional resilience and manage your fear.

Take good care of yourself and encourage those around you to take good care of themselves.

If you or someone you love is feeling very distressed and would benefit from professional counseling, the federal government has a Disaster Distress Helpline that provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. Call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to speak to a trained crisis counselor.

In the video below, Linda and Heather talk about the importance of taking care of yourself.