We are living through an unprecedented time where many people are feeling a heightened sense of fear and anxiety, and so I want to check in with you.
I’m wondering, how are you bringing calm into your experience?
Now more than ever, it’s important for you to intentionally create a quiet time for mindful reflection. This will open up a space for you to think, feel and daydream beyond the current circumstances.
This is what I do on my morning walk, and why it is such a significant part of my day.
Most of us have been conditioned from early childhood to avoid uncomfortable feelings rather than to allow them in and process them. Unfortunately, this can exacerbate the anxiety by keeping us in a never-ending cycle of frantically running and avoiding.
And as we all know, we can’t problem-solve, create solutions, or make sound decisions from a place of heighten emotion. Calmness supports both creativity and a rational mind.
In her book, The Dance of Connection, Clinical Psychologist Harriet Lerner writes about the two ways people generally respond to their anxious feelings when faced with a significant challenge.
One way is by emotional over-functioning. Over-functioners tend to move quickly into fix-it mode rather than looking inward. They take control, tackle their to-do list, and get into other people’s business by offering them unsolicited advice.
And the other way is by emotional under-functioning. Under-functioners pull back and invite others to take over responsibility. They zone-out and tend to get less competent under stress.
Interestingly, as we over or under function, we often feel irritated with those who respond differently and criticize their behaviors as being odd and over-the-top.
These behaviors often feed off one another too. And so, if your spouse is over-functioning to extreme measures, and you are an under-functioner, you may go to the other extreme, and vice versa.
Lerner says it’s important to see these behaviors as patterned responses to anxiety rather than definitions of who we are. This insight can help us understand ourselves and others more easily, and be less judgmental.
It can also help us realize that we can change. Over-functioners can learn to allow themselves to be more vulnerable in the face of anxiety, and under-functioners can learn to better utilize their skills and strengths.
Are you emotionally over-functioning in response to the Coronavirus? Have you been in high-gear, chronically in motion, planning and checking off your to-do list, and advising others to do the same?
Or are you emotionally under-functioning? Have you been ignoring important information or denying the facts? Have you been avoiding taking responsible action?
Have you been numbing your emotions with food, alcohol, work, shopping, Netflix, gaming or something else?
If so, recognize these behaviors for what they are, conditioned responses to fear and anxiety, and they do not define you.
The key here is to purposely create some stillness for yourself, a time to sit with and sort out your thoughts and feelings. You must tap into your intuition.
The primitive part of your brain may tell you to avoid this at all costs, but that’s okay. Its job is to try to protect you by taking you back to a familiar response pattern.
I want to reassure you that you can handle it.
If you are ready to stop running and avoiding, you have to make time every day for quiet reflection.
This will help you to find peace no matter your circumstances.
I promise, you’ve got this!