Thriving during COVID-19 will take a shift in mindset, and that’s tougher than we think—especially when we’re afraid. Fear and anxiety can drive us to become very self-focused. The evidence from public health experts is clear. The threat from the COVID-19 virus is real, but it’s not absolute. Denial is unsafe, and panic never served anyone.
When we go into fight or flight response, the executive functions of our brains go offline, and we can’t see clearly. This makes us prone to bad decisions that at best waste our time, energy and resources when we need them most, or at worst put ourselves and others at risk.
What can I do to stay calm?
If you’re feeling stressed, pay attention to how you’re feeling and breathing. Take a deep breath in through your nose and let it out slowly from your mouth, focusing in on belly breathing. This will calm the fight or flight response and reboot your prefrontal cortex so you can use your critical thinking.
Then, get curious about what’s happening. What do you really know? What’s most important right now for you? Your employees? Your organization? What information, resources and other support do you need or can you provide to others through this challenge? This is what it means to keep our wits about us.
What resources are available?
Today, there are many resources we have access to—whether you need to destress, stay active and healthy, or talk to a therapist. Here are just a few:
- Telemedicine (e.g. Anthem LiveHealth Online, which is free to all members through June 14, 2020)
- Employee Assistance Programs, if your employer offers one, can offer support to find the right solutions for your needs
Remember, our fight or flight response evolved to help us overcome simple challenges, and our prefrontal cortex evolved to help us overcome more complex ones like this. By paying attention, taking a deep breath, and remaining curious, we can ensure we see clearly so we can act wisely in response to these challenges.
We can all get down fast when we’re afraid. I’m using deep breaths along with my own personal mantra: “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Feel free to borrow both, as they can be helpful.
Stay brave and kind. Spread calm and love each other.