Right now, most people I know are feeling like they have to be braver than they want to be.
I am among them.
Four weeks ago my husband Andrew came down with a fever. Within two days he was admitted into hospital, diagnosed with COVID-19. While I’m grateful to report that he is now making a steady, albeit slow, seeing someone so close to me become so sick, so fast, was extremely unsettling.
I know I’m not alone in feeling like the rug has been pulled from beneath me and the floor beneath that. So many people I speak to are feeling ungrounded. With so much uncertainty, it’s little wonder fear has crept into our lives in whole new ways.
Yet we don’t have to live in fear. Sure, we feel fear. It’s wired into our psychological DNA to alert us to threats so we can safeguard ourselves (and those we love) from them. All highly constructive.
However left unchecked, fear can set up residence in our psyche and leave us suffering more from our fear than the source of it.
None would argue that this is a challenging time on all levels, on all measures. But it doesn’t have to be terrifying. It all comes down to how we’re choosing to relate to the circumstances we find ourselves in and where we choose to place our focus.
There’s been no irony lost on me that in the midst of this global ‘storm’ (to keep it PG), I’ve released a book about trusting ourselves more deeply, doubting ourselves less often. Needless to say, in the weeks following my Andrew’s hospitalization, in which my usually fit, strong husband was laid flat with a high fever, I tripled down on walking my own talk – embracing my vulnerability, practising radical self-care, and prioritizing everything that left me feeling stronger, body, mind and spirit.
To that end, here’s four ways you can do that too.
Focus on what strengthens you, not what scares you
Ships don’t sink because of the water around them, they sink because of teh water that gets in them.
Right now we are swimming in an ocean of fear, anxiety and negativity as dire images and headlines consume our airways. Yet stressing out about what scares you doesn’t strengthen your ability to deal with the challenges ahead (or ward off a viral infection), it weakens it.
There is a lot outside your control right now, which is all the more reason to focus on what lays within it. So when fear dials up, double down on whatever helps make you feel stronger – body, mind and spirit.
Exercise. Eat well. Get sleep. Practice gratitude dawn and dusk. Meditate. Journal. Spend time in nature. Listen to music. Read uplifting books. Listen to spirit lifting podcasts. Connect with ‘energy givers’… and avoid doomsdayers.
Do more of whatever activities recharge, reset your headspace and reconnect you to your strength. And just as importantly, do less of what doesn’t!
Speak calmly, don’t talk up your stress
Our words create our reality. If you start describing a situation with Armageddon like language that’s exactly who your body and mind will experience it. This isn’t about denying hard realities or downplaying legitimate dangers. It is about not talking them up, getting swept up into fear-casting worst-case scenarios and anxiously speculating on all that you don’t want and cannot control.
As I wrote in You’ve Got This! , “When you use language that reflect that you trust yourself to meet your challenges, it sends a message to your subconscious that just reinforces your ability to do so.”
Sure, this is a difficult time. Yet when you talk to people, use language that conveys how your own belief that you’ve got this, you’ll get through this and come out the other side of this stronger, wiser and better off than you went into it.
Telling everyone how stressed you are about getting sick or going broke or whatever else you can find to stress about (there’s always plenty if you’re looking for it… even in easier times) just puts you at more risk of the very things you’re afraid of.
Stand guard against ‘fear super-spreaders’
As we witnessed in recent weeks when panic buying wiped store shelves clear of toilet paper, fear is more contagious than any virus. It feeds on itself and spreads to those around us. So if you’re engaging in conversations with anxious people who are absorbed in fear-casting apocalyptic doomsday scenarios, exit them. Now. You don’t have to ‘unfriend’ the worry warts and catastrophizers in your midst, but you do need to set some strong boundaries lest their untamed fears become your own.
You are 100% responsible for the energy you let in and the energy you put out. This is a time for standing guard against anything and anyone who won’t uplift and energize you.
Look for the good and be a source of goodness for others
None of us wanted this disruption to our lives, but we mustn’t squander it. So if you’ve been spending hours scrolling newsfeeds, be all the more deliberate in using the time your derailed plans have landed in your schedule to look for what good you can make from it.
Use it to sharpen your strengths and hone your talents. Use it to learn a new skill or make that vision board you’ve never had time for. Use it to strengthen relationships, rekindle old hobbies or clear the physical clutter from your life.
I pulled out my guitar last week and had my son Ben help me tune it. I haven’t played it for at least ten years. John Denver is making a resurgence in our home.
Whatever you do today, trust in yourself that you have a greater capacity for whatever lays ahead than you’ve given yourself credit for.
Then be really intentional about the energy you let in and the energy you put out. Because just as fear is contagious, so too is courage.
The certainty you seek is within you. It requires only your trust.
So breath in faith, breath out fear.
Breath in faith again.
Ground yourself in the truth of who you are and the courage that resides within you – courage that is far greater than anything you may ever fear. From that place, you can show up for others as the person you most want to be and emerge the other side of this time with a newfound sense of just how brave you truly are.
You’ve got this. So have I.
Let’s use transform this time into a catalyst to discover how little reason we ever had to doubt otherwise.
Margie Warrell is the author of You’ve Got This! The Life-Changing Power of Trusting Yourself.