In the midst of this pandemic we are not facing one fear, but three: the fear of loss, the fear of scarcity and the fear of isolation.
I enjoy engaging in thought-provoking conversations with my dad who’s 87 years old. Realistically, my parents are in the vulnerable category of the covid-19, and I believe they are stewarding this pandemic with remarkable thoughtfulness. My dad wrote this to me, “The greatest fear of all is the fear of dying from the covid-19 virus. To prevent such a death, we must make friends with our lesser fears.”
THE FEAR OF LOSS
When coaching people, tears happen. I personally believe there are two reasons we well up with tears: loss or relief.
Think of a finals game to win the championship. The team that wins cries with relief. The team that loses cries because of loss.
Or how about America’s Got Talent. When the judges applaud a performer, they cry out of relief because they get to move on to the next stage. When a performer is no longer chosen as a contender, they cry from a place of loss.
Another example is when a business is cutting back their budget. One employee cries because he or she lost her job, the other remains on staff and cries from a place of relief.
Loss has many faces. How you experience loss and how I experience loss is quite different. And equally valuable. Why? Because loss is the state of being without something that one has had.
What have you had that you don’t have now?
Freedom to move around?
No access to your adult children?
A working office with your team?
Your kids being educated by professionals?
Access to your dentist?
No human connection because you live alone?
Grocery items you can’t buy?
In this time of uncertainty many are struggling with the fear of loss.
Some of the questions being asked are:
“Will I lose the social connection with my community?”
“Will I lose my patience for my children?” (yes, parents are experiencing the strain of both working and schooling kids from home)
“Will I lose my job or my business?”
“Will I lose the ability to pay my bills, mortgage or rent?”
“Will I lose the treatment and medicine I need for health matters unrelated to covid-19?”
“Will I lose any of my loved ones to covid-19?”
If you’ve asked yourself one of these questions, or, if these questions sound similar to the ones you’re asking, you might be struggling with the fear of loss.
THE FEAR OF SCARCITY
Another aspect of coaching that I see often is the “what if” questions. It stems from a “just in case” outlook.
For example, if a family plans a camping trip and someone says “What if it rains?”, the answer is, “Just in case, we better bring a tarp.”
Another example, if friends want to see a Broadway play on opening night, they’ll ask “What if it’s sold out?” and the answer is, “Just in case, let’s check the website.”
In the professional world, another word for ‘just in case’ is Risk Management. Walt Disney World has a risk management team that works around the clock to ensure there’s no unforeseen problems they need to address, just in case.
We are designed to gather and create shelter. We have cupboards and pantries and freezers where we collect food. We have grocery stores that promote bulk buying. Costco encourages us to buy in large quantities.
We keep our belongings in closets, storage areas, garages and attics.
We have cars that warn us when the tank is nearly empty, reminding us to fill up again so we have enough gas to get us places.
We’re encouraged to eat three healthy meals a day, storing up energy in our bodies, so we can be strong and accomplish the tasks we have set out for the day.
We have technology where we store our images, emails and documents.
We have a savings account, investments, stocks or money set aside for a rainy day.
We gather. It’s a natural human instinct.
The fear of scarcity is very real. Scarcity is being in short supply.
We have seen the barrage of social media on stocking up with toilet paper. Some have found it humourous, others have been offended, others view it as being selfish, while others think it’s sad.
Some of the questions being asked are:
“What if I face a shortage of food?”
“What if I face a shortage of earnings?”
“What if I face a shortage in revenue to keep my business running?”
“What if I face a shortage of time that I need to focus on work?”
“What if this pandemic lasts the entire year?”
“What if I or my loved ones catch the virus?”
If you’ve asked yourself one of these questions, or, if these questions sound similar to the ones you’re asking, you might be struggling with the fear of scarcity.
THE FEAR OF ISOLATION
Often in coaching, we tackle the tension of “What is the best decision for me? And, in turn, how does it have a positive impact on others?”
Self-care is “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety.” – Raphailia Michael, Psychologist. [article]
The fear of isolation is a very real emotion. It can be a trigger for people.
For example, extroverts draw energy from people. Interaction with their community is an important life source. Remaining in their home with limited human engagement might feel overwhelming.
Another example, is people who live active lives. They like to keep themselves busy. They wake up and are ready to start the day. And now, they have to be more cautious of what an active life looks like.
In San Diego, outdoor sports is year round. The beaches are filled with surfers, Coast Highway 101 has countless cyclists and the boardwalks are crowded with people walking and running.
As someone who grew up in Montreal, winter cities normally come alive when spring weather arrives. The buzzing of renewed life is everywhere. Kids are playing on the streets, parks are filled with activities and patios are crowded with conversations.
The fear of isolation threatens our longing for human touch and engagement.
With that threat will naturally spark an “I’m so bored!” frustration.
It’s imperative you conduct a daily self-check on how you’re coping with this time of solitude. How are you really doing?
Why do I believe this to be undoubtedly necessary? Because the fear of isolation might exasperate loneliness or morph into social withdrawing. [article]
We’re being asked to practice “social distancing” not social withdrawing! There’s a significant difference between being alone in isolation and feeling lonely in isolation. When a person feels alone, they will most likely reach out. When a person feels lonely, they tend to withdraw.
“As social animals, our health depends on interactions with others. If placed in isolation, without those connections, our physical and mental health take a hit.” – Brain Facts [article]
Some thoughts associated with social withdrawing might be:
“I don’t want to do anything.”
“I don’t want to shower.”
“I don’t want to change my clothes.”
“I don’t want to eat healthy.”
“I don’t want to clean the house.”
“I don’t want to talk to anyone.”
“I don’t want to see anyone.”
“I don’t want to socially engage.”
If you’re struggling with wanting to withdraw, get quieter or have less contact with people, you might be struggling with the fear of isolation.
HOW TO OVERCOME FEAR WITH CARE, CONSIDERATION AND COMPASSION
Everyone deals with fear differently. Some get quiet and hold it in. Some ignore it because they don’t want to give it any power. Others express it emotionally or through verbal processing. Some keep themselves busy. While others turn to God for guidance.
Scott Kelly, a retired NASA Astronaut, wrote an opinion piece about how to stay healthy in times of ‘isolation’. He’s all too familiar with this topic! [article]. Two key points he suggests is: have a routine and connect with others; along with other excellent suggestions.
Before we can care for others, we need to steward our own health and well being.
When flight attendants run through the safety procedures before take off, they say, “Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.” First, you don your own mask, then you help others.
Metaphorically, we’re in a time where the oxygen masks may have dropped from the overhead area. And the principle of self-care is critical to the well being of our communities.
The world needs you to self-care. By donning your mask, you will be able to help others don their mask. We each carry a tremendous and loving purpose during this season of solitude.
By self-caring first, we then have the readiness to care for others.
- What is one thing I could do today to improve my quality of life?
- What kind of daily routine do I need to incorporate?
- When was the last time I learned something new?
- Do I enjoy my own company?
- What makes me happy in this home?
- How do I be alone without feeling lonely?
- Do I check in with one person every day?
- For the professional, how do I manage my time between work and family?
With the new guidelines to help slow down the spread of covid-19, we are petitioned to keep our social footprint to a bare minimal.
When you notice fear in others, it’s in those moments you activate consideration. Being thoughtful of their health, their well-being and their emotional state is loving. Maybe you’re not affected by fear, and that’s great! What if they are? Love diffuses fear.
I must not assume that everyone around me is feeling the same way I am. By being thoughtful and considerate, it takes my eyes off myself and onto what is taking place around me.
Consideration is a powerful word. It’s during this time that human awareness can take the lead. It requires careful thought and keeping others in mind when making a decision.
Consideration is one of the greatest ways to love your neighbour.
- Am I a good example and a good citizen?
- Are my actions showing love to someone else?
- Am I making decisions with careful thought?
- For the professional, how do I empower my team effectively while working from home?
Being a good citizen is to express care for your community.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her address to the nation “I know how hard these demands are to us. Especially in times of distress, we want to be close to each other. But at the moment, unfortunately, the opposite is the right thing we all need to do. Distance is the expression of care – this is how we save lives.”
What is compassion? How does it look like today, in real-time?
Compassion is a deep feeling you experience that is accompanied with a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
Most likely, people will not expose how they’re really doing, what they’re really feeling and what they’re really thinking.
However, I’ve noticed people are communicating through body language.
- Are they walking quickly, scurrying?
- Are they moving away from you?
- Are they keeping to themselves, head down, no eye contact?
- Are they responding emotionally, rudely, curtly?
- Are they not wanting to smile at you?
- Are they appearing indifferent?
Fear has many faces. And we all overcome our fears in different ways. To extend compassion is being encouraging, affirming and accepting on how each individual confronts fear.
Perhaps the questions listed above are ways people are managing their fears?
Pay attention to the “why”. Why we do what we do. This will increase your level of compassion.
Express warmth to someone every day. Avoid criticizing other people’s decisions on how they are navigating this virus. Your way is not their way. Their way is not your way. Trust that people are making the best decisions for themselves. Compassion dissipates judgmental perceptions.
Do I notice people from a loving place?
Who can I show my compassion to today?
Am I a pleasant person to be around?
How can I enjoy the company of my household to greater measures?
Professionally, how can I be more thoughtful of my team’s stress levels?
CARE, CONSIDERATION AND COMPASSION
In a time of uncertainty the greatest expression of love you can offer others is to:
- be considerate of what other people around you are going through or might need.
- commit to taking good care of yourself, so that you, in turn, can care for others.
- be a beacon of light to your community by expressing warmth and compassion.
Warmly in my thoughts,