Everything will be okay!
With many airports & countries closed and millions of people essentially on lock down in isolation until further notice, there is a obvious hum of anxiety and fear in the air.
Being confronted with restrictions myself, hiding out back in my parent’s home in Dublin, Ireland, in a completely different part of the world to my dog, my friends, my colleagues and clients. I messaged a bunch of them to check-in, ask how they were and how they were doing.
While some were doing fine, enduring new type of stress at work with the markets roller coasting or teaching from home online to their school students, some were not doing as well as I had expected.
I realized after some probing that a couple of my clients and colleagues while their initial response was “fine” or “ok” when I asked more creative questions “how are you feeling about the latest restrictions” or more direct questions “are you stressed?” I got some very revealing answers.
It is clear amidst a lot of this chaos and turmoil the problems some people are very real and very unprecedented, and understandably they are very worried. Nobody has seen this before, not many of us have any idea how long this will last with only a few reports from China that they have managed to reduce the severity of this virus on their population. We have no framework to use to compare the situation, except the worst cases coming from Italy and China previously.
So what do we mean when we say “everything is going to be ok”?
We all know nobody thinks EVERYTHING will be ok, some things will never be the same again. But what we really mean when we say it is, “we’re going to be ok in this together, I understand that you’re worried, and I’m worried too, a little.” But we can’t focus on the worry, we must focus on the positive. We must stay motivated, we must do everything we can and that includes thinking and speaking positively.
Imagine this, a scenario of a dressing room before a match, between a team running away with first place at the top of the league and a team flat bottom. The game has to be played, the players are there, the fans are there, the TV crews are rolling. What do you think the captain of the team flat bottom will be saying? Imagine his team talk before hand. It won’t be let’s roll over and get humiliated with a devastating score-line and admit defeat, even though that’s a possibility. He will raise his voice to try and fill his team with optimism and hope, spell out the strategy to contain the opposition and reassure everybody that they have it within to prevail. It will work, he’ll motivate his players to leave the dressing room ready for “battle” motivated and enthusiastic. The difference here there is a final whistle and a result at the end. We don’t know when our final whistle will blow sometimes, so we must be ready for a long match.
This is the captain’s role we all must play now; we must fill each other with empowerment and positivity. The news and the updates will look after the negative side of it, that bit we know, and that bit we need. We need to hear it to understand it. But we don’t need to focus on it, we see it around us enough in our periphery, how can we avoid it?
So if you take every snippet of negativity you hear as a goal against your moral, understand the easiest way to equal the score-line is to think positively, or act positively, or speak positively. You can keep the score-line a tie or you may even start winning! Once you start winning your brain feels good, your gut feels good, you know you’re getting ahead, you know you’re dominating your surroundings; you’re conquering that fear and anxiety. You haven’t stopped the virus, but your brain chemistry feels good again as the battle continues, a battle now you have the upper hand over.
When we speak positively we fill those around us with optimism, they know we’re not entirely sure of anybody’s fate, they know there’s no certainty to what we’re saying, but they look at us and for a moment they’re fooled. They see the belief in us, they hear in our voice, they read it in our words and each transmission is processed in their brain the same way as positive thoughts hitting the happiness button. Don’t think of a purple elephant…. You thought of it. It’s the same thing. When people think positivity, it’s their temporary reality; it’s flooding their brain. Flood them with it. It will flood your own brain with positivity too. You both will win.
So pick up the phone, call, send some messages out, use social media, anything to change all of our brain chemistry, make us all feel better. Make it a habit. Send out a message every few hours to a different person and have a very attentive conversation with that one person, however brief.
Ask better questions than just “How are you?” Penetrate that shell of the auto-response answering with a more thoughtful question, or a more direct question. You never know maybe the person has been waiting to get something off their chest. Isolation is a lonely place. Look for it when somebody messages you, maybe that’s why the person is sending you an innocuous message in the first place, it may be their way of reaching out for conversation because they’re scared.
I myself realized the importance of this when a friend I messaged surprised me by responding with “I’ve been at home sick with a fever for 4 days”. We spoke for a while, he’s doing ok, I did my best, but I’ll message him again soon for sure! I’ll remind him that everything will absolutely be ok!!