I have been struggling to figure out what to do during this crisis. In many ways, I am fortunate. I have my health, my job, a safe and secure living situation, and companionship. The world is undoubtedly troubled, and more than anything, I notice my privilege at this moment. And with that, I feel like I should do something, use my skills to help people. My greatest gifts are as a coach and writing about leadership. I have volunteered pro-bono coaching for people who have lost their jobs (if this is you, please contact me here), and I have put a lot of pressure on myself to write, but it has been a struggle. There is so much that I feel that I need to say, and yet the words don’t seem adequate.
I am grateful for my situation, and I also have had feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, and concern. As I watch the news, I see the struggles people are facing. People fear for their health and concerned about their access to healthcare, they worry about paying their bills and feeding their families, they feel lonely and isolated, and they are uncertain about the future. What has dawned on me is that these challenges are not new; many people had these same challenges before the pandemic and will continue to when it is over. The problems are more pervasive, and the pain is more acute, but they are not new.
One of the hardest parts of this pandemic is that there is so little that we can do. Many people give advice focused on what you can still do: learning through an online course, trying new recipes for cooking or baking, having a virtual cocktail party with your friends, play Animal Crossing, or just zone out to a show like Tiger King. These suggestions come paired with advice to avoid watching the news or to limit your consumption. The problem with both of these approaches is that they make the same assumption. That the source of your anxiety, stress, and concern is somewhere out there, and by keeping busy and avoiding the news, you can escape it.
Working through this, I paid attention to how I felt. I named the emotions, but also, at a lower level, I noticed the physical sensations that came up. After one long day, I stopped, and I sensed within, and I could feel a weight on my shoulders, I could feel the pressure pushing me down. When I felt the inner sensations, I noticed that my body shape was reacting as well. My shoulders pulled forward, my chest closed, and my body shrunk under the weight. It became clear the stress I was under and that I was creating that feeling. I noticed that emotionally I felt frazzled, like an animal struggling to get out from under a boulder.
As I focused on the weight and the emotions it was triggering, it gradually shifted. I saw it wasn’t permanent, and it was a weight I was placing on my self. It wasn’t possible to fix everything, just writing something that could be valuable to one other person would be enough. I moved my body to a more centered and upright position, and I felt the load I was carrying drop away. And the frazzled emotions began to settle.
Rather than distracting myself and pulling away, I, for a moment, leaned in, and I looked with curiosity at my feelings. I was with my emotions and the sensations in my body, and I transformed them. I was able to be compassionate with myself and my expectations. And I broke the reinforcing loop of my body, feeding my emotions, which further impacted my body and instead use my body to break the cycle.
Nothing outside of me had changed, but the world did seem a bit different. I was more ready to handle what was going on. While I can’t control what is going on out in the world, I could notice how my body was responding and break the cycle there. With this, I was able to find my resilience, and by sharing it, maybe I can help someone else find resilience as well.
You can try this yourself
- With everything going on, what are you noticing in your body? Where do you feel pressure, movement, tension, release, heat, or cold?
- How is the shape of your body changing with what you are feeling?
- What emotions come up for you related to what you are feeling?
- What stories are you telling yourself that feed those emotions? How can you change that story?
- How can you change your posture to help shape those sensations and feelings?
- What do you notice with your emotions as you do?
We often try to escape our more challenging emotions and feelings. It is a hard time, and sometimes the best thing you can do is to take a break and distract yourself. I know I have certainly needed to do that. But I think the real opportunity comes when we lean in, and we do feel what is happening. We notice the sensations and the emotions, and we see the power that we have to change those sensations and grow from the experience.