The notion of “starting today” seems really cliched…but we focus on “today” to ensure that we are looking at the reality of what is in front of us. That we try to set aside the worries about tomorrows and any past mistakes that may have gotten us just quite *here*. (This doesn’t mean that we won’t address both of those; however, *right now* our attention must remain on the *necessary*s and the *actionable*s of today.)
We have to set everything else to the side. (I have to picture this as putting these issues, stressors, or uncertainties in neat little labeled boxes and filing them on shelves. *I* am okay leaving them there for a bit because I know that *right now* I can’t have the right perspective on them yet. Maybe it needs more data. Maybe I’m too bothered emotionally to focus clearly on it; and, if I can’t focus clearly on it, i can’t begin to solve it.)
So we put away the things that we can’t do anything about right now.
Then we identify the things that don’t need to be done today. Or maybe even this week. It’s okay to reschedule. The vast majority of human beings on the planet will understand. They might want to reschedule anyway. Be excellent to yourself. (I wrote “forgive yourself if you can’t do a lot of the ‘should do’s”. But, screw that. You don’t need forgiving for taking care of yourself. So…be excellent to yourself.
And be excellent to other humans; their whole world was turned upside down too.
We won’t all deal with this the same way. And the tragic truth:
(At least in America…)
We are absolutely not given the skillset to cope with a crisis. We only address the concept of coping once something has already come undone, and the success rate is much lower that way.
Our instincts in a prolonged state of anxiety and crisis are dangerous. Our brains can lie to us and self-sabotage because our amygdala and hippocampus are diverting all of the attention away from our rational and structured executive functioning. Basically, our fear-based kill switch is activated, leaving only our emotions and a flood of neuro-chemicals in charge.
And different people respond to this *glitch* in different ways. None of them is sustainable in the absence of practiced coping skills.
And, we have to get the other systems running, slap our hysterical emergency copilot, calm down the whole crew (you might wanna drink some water and stuff, adrenaline crash can suck). We have to *actually work* sometimes just to keep focus on the next actionable thing in front of us.
But that is what you have to do today; the *next actionable thing*. And you keep doing that, for as many todays as you need, until you’re adding in more and more pieces back, and have more accurate information, and you have gained more clarity and can re-examine issues.
Okay….so, start today wherever we may be.
But…where am I?
This is a question we all must assess on our own; many different variables need to be considered. Examining these points and accepting the information (rationally agreeing that they are *reality*, not that you are okay with that reality) are the necessary first steps to setting up a functional framework for adapting and coping to events as significant as this.
*Accurate information: having access to and understanding unbiased evidence-based information and news coverage is necessary.
Limits are also necessary.
There are currently lots of data gaps because we are living a couple days (at least) ahead of the data and we are also receiving data from multiple moments in the timeline all at once.
There will be a specific video about coping in the absence of clear and accurate data.
Basically: we definitely want to receive public health alerts in our area, check local data regularly, and keep informed on our own community’s endeavors.
We should check national and global headlines when able, but we can’t get sucked into every city’s story and every article on the genetic origins of the coronavirus; there is just too much, and it is perpetual. (I currently have an ever-growing folder in my bookmarks specifically for things I should read, but not necessary right now.)
*Meeting immediate needs for us and our family. Essential needs include:
– biologic: food, water, digestion, sleep, exercise*, hygiene, necessary medical treatment
– social connection. Digital connection can affect us in the same ways (neurochemically, psychologically…) and, while it is hard to forego physical affections beyond immediate households, our friends and family are the same in video calls. Seeing their faces and hearing their voices (or any alternate means of communication) maintains our bonds with them.
-safety/security: every one of us feels threatened here in some way. And this is an area that can be more complicated for us. But it is important to look at how safe/threatened we feel in terms of physical health, psychological wellness, family security, and financial security. The idea is to separate the threats into categories; “irrational”, “potential” or “can’t assess”, and real/likely. There will be more on this later but, basically, the goal is to keep focus on the actions we can reasonably take now to prevent, minimize, or rebuild after any fallout.
*Identity/Self-confidence and Purpose: it is completely understandable that we will begin to feel inadequate or insecure; many of us have shifted focus away from things that gave us a sense of purpose. Nearly everyone is feeling the effects of being largely isolated from society when something *this enormous* is happening. We feel helpless. Maybe we are feeling compassion fatigue and fear that our morality is changing (it isn’t…don’t worry).
So what can we do now to feel like we are moving forward?
We want to assemble structures as a solid foundation for moving forward.
A simple way to start is to ensure we are meeting all of our basic needs, recognize what is actionable and address threats to safety/security, and have good information on our current situation and the needs in our community. With all of this, we each have to find needs we can help fill. Some local organizations need immediate assistance and risk is low but should be assessed by contacting their coordinators. We may see needs around us that aren’t being addressed. Some of them will speak to us because we have something to offer. We should find ways to become involved in community efforts that relate to who we are. We need food bank volunteers, advocates, and crisis counselors; and we need comedians, seamstresses, carpenters, babysitters who have been responsibly isolating, rube goldberg machine makers, online bookclubbers, rational voices, songwriters, and shoulders to cry on. We are all necessary.
We need solid structures, but it is also necessary that we have a soft place to fall.
Stay connected to support systems. Locate and save local community resources; we may need them or we can share them with others. We need to foster cooperation and support in our communities. We need to listen to others; their experience may be different than ours and we should ensure all experiences are understood. We need to support others. We can be part of the soft place and also need support at times. Remember to honor both.
*i have never found another (healthy) way to cope (and i have been given many opportunities and tried numerous approaches). The good news is this one works for pretty much everything…just sometimes it needs some adapting or support.
That’s what everything needs when it isn’t quite fitting neatly…adapting and support.
More on Hierarchy of Needs: Maslow is Upside Down
Next: Locus of control/serenity n coming to terms