During these times, it is easy to stop thinking on purpose. It is easy to feel like the world is out of control and we can follow suit. But! I know that, even in the midst of this unprecedented and uncertain time, we have an amazing opportunity to take back the power of our thinking and make our mental health even stronger.
This is an opportunity for all of us to lead ourselves and to lead others. We can move towards fear or we can move away from it. We can move towards confidence and opportunity and leadership or we can move away from it.
You have the opportunity to live your best life right now.
My intention here is to help settle things down a little bit and give you some ways to think about what is happening so that you can continue, in the midst of this environment, to be who you want to be, to lead your lives personally, to lead your families, and then also to continue to lead your communities, whether it’s your colleagues or your employees or people that you know or your neighbors, in the midst of all of this, to be the very best version of yourself.
Things I’m Going to Help You With:
- Three actionable tips to handle the chaos in your brain.
- The value in acknowledging what is really causing our fear.
- How to manage collective thinking.
- Why feeling stressed or overwhelmed is OK.
- How to feel your feelings and not over eat, over stress or over anything!
I want to remind everybody that without our thoughts, there is no fear; and without our thoughts there’s no anxiety; and without our thoughts there’s no discomfort. It is very important to distinguish between these current, external events—what I call the ‘X marks the spot’—and our thoughts about those events.
We have to remember that these current events—whether we’re talking about the coronavirus or the stock market or handling college kids who’re now home or homeschooling our kids or dealing with family members—that all of those circumstances are in fact neutral and that the way that we think about them is what causes our anxiety or our fear.
I believe that these new, uncertain thoughts and these new, uncertain circumstances are opportunities for us to work on our minds and to get stronger and to embrace the experience of being human. Because if we look back in history, there have always been opportunities for us to practice this very same thing, whether we’re talking about other viruses, wars, terrorism or anything in history that you can think of. There is always an opportunity for us to understand the environment and then for us to decide how we’re going to react to it. That’s exactly what is going on here. And the ones who emerge as leaders are the ones who are able to understand that, witness it, experience it and then act accordingly. So it’s very important right now to stop and acknowledge the very simple fact that there are external circumstances in the world that are neutral, that there are thoughts in our brains, and only one of those causes us to freak out – our thoughts.
The reason that this is important to understand right now is because when we see that, we can take back the power of our thinking and own it and remember that we have the choice, right now, to choose our thoughts and use this opportunity to make our mental health stronger and to model that for other people. Because we know that we do not get stronger by doing easy things and through easy times, but that we get stronger through difficult times, just like the ones that we are all experiencing right now.
That is the first point: to really understand the difference between the external environment and our thoughts about it.
The second point here is to remember that if we are experiencing anxiety and sadness and feeling overwhelmed, that is an opportunity, not to hurry up and change our thoughts —even though we recognize that it is our thoughts that are causing those emotions—but to also recognize that we are human and that we have brains that are going to look for the danger in our lives—that’s how we have survived as a human species. It’s the job of our brain to look for what is going on and what might be putting us at risk. And so, when we have those thoughts and we have those emotions, it’s not necessarily time to change our thoughts and to try to avoid feeling those emotions, but this is also an opportunity for us to experience our emotions and to experience those emotions without freaking out, without buffering or overeating or overdrinking or throwing our hands up in the air and saying, “Oh, there’s nothing I can do about it!” We have an opportunity right now to experience our emotions, to let them flow through us, and to be sad and to be upset or to be whatever it is that you need to be and to let that flow through you.
There are many ways for us to approach this, and one of them is to change our thoughts and to experience different emotions. Another way is to just experience our emotions and to let ourselves be human and to be okay feeling what we’re feeling. One of the main reasons that’s really important is because we learn we can do sad; we can do upset; we can do anxious; and we can do fear. We can feel those emotions without having to react to them, without having to yell at our children or our spouse, or to overeat or to overdrink.
That’s the second point: allow yourself to feel your emotions.
The third point has to do with our actions. Now we know we are responsible for our thoughts and our emotions, and that we do get to experience our emotions, whatever they are. And then, we get to consciously decide what we are going to do in the midst of this environment, which is in reference to our actions—what are we going to do? I have a couple of different ideas that are linked to our thoughts and our emotions and how we can help serve ourselves in the midst of all this. My first suggestion is really to limit the fuel in terms of the conversations and the information that we are receiving on a daily basis. I’m not saying to put your head in the sand and not turn on the news and not understand what is going on, but to recognize that you are literally feeding your brain thoughts and to be very conscientious about what thoughts you are feeding your brain—what ideas, what words you are feeding it—and how long you are doing that for. I’d like to suggest that if you are going to listen to the news for a half an hour in the morning and a half an hour in the evening, that you follow that with a half hour of a podcast or a half hour of journaling or a half hour of playing a game with your students who are home or doing something positive to remind yourself and your brain that there are other things that are still happening in this world.
I would also like to encourage you at this time to really think about what it is that you can do to continue to make yourself healthy and happy. Maybe that has to do with cooking a homemade meal—a healthy homemade meal—or going out for a walk or deep breathing or meditating or just spending some time out in nature. You now have probably more time to dedicate to your health and to your energy so that you can manage your mind in the midst of all this.
That’s the third point: leading yourself in the midst of an unprecedented time. You have an incredible opportunity to step up and to practice and dare to be your optimal self right in the middle of all of this.
Thank you for spending time with me today and for being willing, or what I call “welling,” to be aware of your external circumstances, to choose your thoughts around them, to be aware of your emotions—to change them or to sit with them—and then to take your next right action. Know that you are supported and uplifted by me and so many others as you, right in the middle of this world that we are living in, dare to create who you want to be.
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