Crazy how the world can change so suddenly.
Two weeks ago, Avery and I had dinner with our two best friends. As always, we exchanged lingering, heart-felt bear hugs and "love-you-guys" at the end of our get together.
Then Avery and I went to Belize. Nine days later we came home and everything had changed.
Our besties came over the other day and there were no bear hugs, no elbow-bumps, not even one kiss blown from afar. We sat around our patio table, 8 feet across from each other, like opposing teams in a friendly ping-pong match, rallying conversation back and forth, but never touching.
I already miss hugs.
The hidden threat lurking in the coronavirus shadows
The destruction from this pandemic isn’t entirely caused by a deadly germ. There’s an equally pervasive side effect that is spreading faster than the virus itself…
We humans don’t do well with uncertainty. And when everyone is in fear, it oozes out into the atmosphere and catches the whole world on fire. The collective fear we’re all feeling will have much worse and longer-lasting consequences than the virus for most people.
What fear does
- Fear holds your emotions hostage.
- Fear conspires with worry and doubt.
- Fear hijacks your ability to make decisions.
- Fear blocks you from being loving to others.
- Fear creates anxiety (anxiety is just multiple loops of fear set on autoplay).
- Fear messes with your sleep.
- Fear demands to be fed— with food or sugar or alcohol or any other short-term "check-out-of-reality" habits you find comforting.
I’m not immune to fear. Sometimes I can feel it sneaking into my thoughts, like water finding a pinhole. Sometimes I catch myself slipping into it by default. Other times I don't even see it until I'm soaked from trying to doggie-paddle my way across an ocean of it.
Fear is insidious that way.
But I have a special tool that helps me to keep my fear in check. It helps me to stay focused on my daily work. It helps me to continue being loving to others, even when they are behaving badly. It helps me feel generous and comfortable sharing with others. (Yes, I’ll even share my toilet paper if it comes to that!)
Would you like to know what that special tool is?
It’s something you can have right now, if you want. It’s free.
Your thoughts control your emotions. And you get to choose your thoughts.
Understanding how your mind works and knowing that you can choose your thoughts about any given situation is the key to your emotional well-being.
There are circumstances (things that "just are") and then there are our thoughts about those circumstances. Our thoughts create our emotions... the circumstances do not.
When you understand (and remember) this, you are free from fear.
You can’t change the circumstance of the coronavirus. It’s a real thing and it’s affecting a lot of people. What you can change are your thoughts about it.
You can choose to tell yourself scary stories (a story is simply a string of thoughts tied together) about the future, or you can choose to let go of future thoughts and focus on the thought that best serves you in this moment.
Where are you right now? Are you ok, right now?
- You can choose to be ok in this moment.
- You can choose to be grateful for this minute.
- You can choose to love what you have in front of you right now.
That's all there is. Only this moment. Fear lives in the future. If you can live in this moment, fear can no longer hijack your life.
Living with fear
Fear won't go away. It's not something to be conquered. It is a natural emotion. But you don’t have to let it take over your life.
Allow it to show up in your life. When you see it, say, "Hello, fear. I see you." and then choose your next thoughts carefully. Just because fear knocks, doesn’t mean you have to invite it inside for dinner.
Here are two practical tips for avoiding fear:
- Don’t stay plugged into the news. Giving yourself a break from the news will dramatically improve your ability to be happy, even during uncertain times. If you choose to follow the news (and yes, it is a choice) give yourself a news allowance and stick to it. For example, maybe you check the news for 10 minutes every other day. Make up a rule, and stick to it. You may want to do this with Social Media as well.
If the news stresses you out, ask someone you know to give you important updates… when (and only when) they affect you directly. Let your friend curate the news for you so you are on a "need to know" basis.
- When you are in fear, talk to someone who is NOT in fear. The problem with a pandemic is that almost everyone is in fear. And when you’re in fear and you talk to someone else who is in fear, there’s no way to end up with less fear. It’s impossible.
Fear + Fear = More Fear
The one thing that we can control
Remember, circumstances are neutral. Your thoughts control your emotions. In order to experience positive emotions and not get trapped in a pit of fear, you must intentionally choose your thoughts.
Image: Renee Fisher - Unsplash