Keeping Calm in a Climate of Chaos

What the F&%K is going on?! Could the world get any crazier? We truly live in unprecedented times. If there ever was a time to manage overwhelm, this is IT!

So I’m here to offer some sanity-saving tips to help you keep calm, or at least less-anxious, within the chaos.

First, recognize that with all the UNCERTAINTY today, we CRAVE and need CERTAINTY. Our brains, wired by the drive to survive, see uncertainty as DEATH. Even if that uncertainty is when you’ll be able to find toilet paper. And we all deal with uncertainty differently. Some fight (get angry with the poor kid stocking the shelves), some flee (get agitated and hyperactive even if it doesn’t serve), some freeze (stacking everything and not knowing what to do), and some look for the possibility in what others see as adversity (my neighbor was out throwing the ball with his son in the middle of the day. That has NEVER happened before). Notice what YOUR pattern is: how you feel, what you do or don’t do, and how you make decisions. This is a great time to get curious, since it’s hard to be scared AND curious at the same time.

If I could offer only one piece of advice during this time it’s to be mindful of what you say to yourself and others. Questions drive focus, and what you’re focusing on right now is the difference between panic and calm. I’ll put this language topic into a couple of categories:

  • The words you use: If you’re repeating over and over what a “catastrophe” life is right now, of course you’re going to feel incredibly stressed. If you call it “challenging” or “confusing,” you’ll experience a different reaction to your own words. Words create your experience, so choose wisely.
  • The questions you ask: A business owner shared that his employees keep asking, “Will we lose our jobs?” That question just made all of them anxious. It’s an understandable question, but it doesn’t lead to a calm state or good decision making. It’s very easy to ask “doubt-inducing questions” at times like this. Yes or no questions, focused on what we fear, can’t be answered, so the mind goes around in circles trying to figure it out before we die! So here are some alternative types of questions:
    • Focus on adding value, such as: “What can we do right now to reassure our customers that we’re taking care of them?” Another option is, “What can I do to be more valuable to my employer or add value to my team?” 
    • We always feel better when we’re using our strengths, so another question is: “What strengths, skills or capabilities do I have that can help me not just survive, but actually THRIVE at a time like this? We tend to forget what we’re good at when we feel powerless.
    • It’s also important to focus on what we DO want to feel and believe, instead of what we don’t want. So think about how you would LIKE to show up to family, friends, colleagues, and yourself in times of chaos. Then ask yourself, “How could I feel or display more _____ right now?” So an example is: “How could I feel more calm right now?” What would I have to focus on to feel calm? What would I need to believe to feel calm? Who would I help by feeling/being calm around them? How much better is my decision making when I’m calm, instead of anxious?” 
  • Similarly, add new positive words to your vocabulary. Here’s a website with the top 20 positive emotions. See if you can put some “serenity,” “awe,” or “cheerfulness” into your life, not because the outside world is giving it to you, but because you CHOOSE it. And speaking of choose, that’s another power word that’s helpful during times like this. Don’t be at the effect of the world, but choose how you’ll show up.

Obviously a lot of people are suffering right now: physically, financially, emotionally. I recognize that it will take time and the efforts and good will (and good spirits) of all of us to reach the other side. It’s so important to find love, support, and encouragement wherever you can. I hope my words have helped in some small way today.


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