These Times...More Responding, Less Reacting

A photo of an exhibit with lights where "Fear" is spelled out.
Image Source: Dryhead
Estimated Reading Time: 5.5 minutes

These are...strange times

These are...scary times

These are...times that may show some of the worst of humanity.

These are...times that try people's souls

These are...times that show the best of humanity.

My mind races in these times.

I'm not the only one.

So many questions that send me off in another direction.

Maybe you are familiar with one or more of these, so I thought I would share.

What do we do with something we've never experienced before?

How long is this going to go on?

What happens after this?

What do we do about the true suffering we know this is inevitably going to cause a great deal of people, directly and indirectly?

How do we decide what is over-reacting and a reasonable yet measured response to the risk(s) involved?

To what degree do we accept this "new-not-so-normal" and carry on?

To what degree do we (try) not (to) think about returning to normal because that seems like something far removed?

How do we stop extrapolating to the extremes as we have been trained to do with so many post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories?

How do we make sure people get what they actually need?

How do I make sure I help those that I can?

Where is the line between helping others and over-extending myself?

How much reasonable risk do I take on in helping others when and where I can?

How do I understand being "safe" in these times?

So I'm sure there are many other questions that we're all asking, but these are the ones that came to me this morning and I figured just listing endless questions might not be helpful either.

None of us have answers and we are making this up as we go along.  That's ok. In truth, that's mostly how we go through life. Sure, we have other models to look towards but our own contexts mean we're each just wandering freely in our own personal experiment we call life.

What I share here is not new and may not be useful. But maybe it can be reassuring or helpful in some ways.

It's hard not to get our minds from everything that's going on and how this has changed much in a short period of time.  I find I can easily give in to the extreme with my thinking right now, which is not healthy.  My current coping skills playlist include:

1 minute stop:  Stop everything I'm doing and just focus on the breath.  Sometimes in silence but just as often in with music. At the end of that minute, I acknowledge that I am OK in this moment and in truth, there's not much more I can ask than that.

Exercise: I've been making sure to run or bike this week. I need to get my body moving and feel it. It also helps deflate the low-level adrenaline spike that I've been on since this started last week.  

Floor exercises: I've also been doing a lot more floor exercises and stretches. Using pockets of time to reconnect with my body, stretch limbs, and using breathing in positions to not just further stretch but to breathe out the anxiety.  

Being useful:  I remind myself that in the work that I do, I am able to be useful. Because I work in a sector (higher education) and in an area (instructional design) that is significantly needed right now, I am able to help lots of people. I'm grateful for that. There are so many challenging things going on for people but I am able to actually help in some small part to make things less chaotic or stressful.  

Reaching out: In pockets of time, here or there, I reach out to colleagues, friends, family and the like to see how they are doing. I know many people who want or need this kind of check in, so I slowly make my way around with conversations via text, chat, email, phone, or video-chat as best I can.  I also have created an informal drop-in weekly event for other folks who work in the same space as I do in higher education to give them some space to talk and process all that we're doing.  

Sharing out: I try to share out a few things each day via my social media platforms to help others such as resources on things to do with downtime, ways of managing stress, or materials that might be useful for folks in higher education.  

Acknowledging the fear but not giving into it:  This post was in part, a practice of acknowledging but not giving into the fear. I always tend to think it's important and powerful to speak to the fears we have.  By speaking to it, we in many ways exorcise the fear from our minds and give it form and shape. It's no longer running amok in our heads but has a definitive form.  It doesn't go away but you see, you name it, and you can better contain it.  I acknowledge in conversations about the fear all of this stirs up in me.  

Reminding myself of my privilege: We all knew I was gonna mention this right?  In this case, I take time to recognize that my privilege has afforded me the opportunity to both be able to do all the things above and also to avoid some of the drastic measures some folks will be needing to take this week and next. To be clear, I'm not basking in it, but it's worth spending time acknowledging it and thinking about how this could all be deeply different for me.  This helps me immensely in working with folks and helping them too to understand that if we have the bandwidth to gripe on Facebook about how crazy this is, then we're probably pretty privileged as well.  More so, it's helped me to level with and aid faculty in understanding their students' context as many are pushed out of campus housing or are not bringing in paychecks that keep the roofs over their heads.  It drives me to help others in being less reactive to things that they might not be giving space to understand and realize. 

Ok, that's all I got for now.  I would love to hear from you about what are some of the ways your finding balance in these unbalanced times!  Feel free to share in the comments or reach out.  

Take care, be kind, and breathe.  

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