Episode 38: A Call for Well-Being (When the Bottom Drops Out)
The world has changed dramatically. Everything is uncertain. We have choices. Our choices will influence the outcome, not only of this global pandemic but of the world we will live in in the future.
Welcome to the Freedom from Empty Podcast: Building Strong, Effective, Resilient Leaders and Humans. My name is Booth Andrews, and I am your host. Thank you so much for joining me for this episode.
Well, things got weird. Really fast. Or maybe not so fast after all. It feels like the bottom has dropped out of life as we know it. And I have been reflecting a little bit on my own personal reaction to our current situation.
Now, please understand that I am not impenetrable to this global crisis. Over the last few days, I found my anxiety ramping up, and I can attribute that to a few things:
While I LOVE being at home with my little people, I also recover in silence. After a few days of constant noise/interruptions I get a little twitchy. And not just during a global pandemic.
My intake of social media ramped up. During a normal day, I may get on various media channels once per day. But now everyone is there all of the time and many of us are communicating good things (well, at least in my feed): resources, access to online services, announcements, commitments of help and positive stories. And still . . . I find the distraction, the always picking up my phone, and the taking in of information from everywhere, leaves me feeling untethered and energetically ricocheting around like a ball in a pinball machine.
I am susceptible to other people’s energy. Particularly people I love and care about deeply. I have to be careful about how much of their energy I absorb while I give them space to be where they are.
A few days ago, I made myself get up at my “normal” wake up time. The wake up time I use when I am going about a regular day of school and work and exercise. And so, as I wrote this podcast I was sitting with my coffee and my kitty cat, still dark outside, in silence except for the birds outside my window, a dripping noise from the gutter, and the sound of the keys on my keyboard clicking away. I left my cell phone downstairs.
But back to my overarching response so far to the uncertainty that has placed itself on our doorsteps.
I have walked this path before. And some of you have too.
We know what is like to wake up and to know on some level or every level that life will never be the same. That everything we thought we had control of is completely out of control.
I remember one day when I told my therapist that I was waiting for the other shoe to drop because it always seemed that THERE WAS ANOTHER SHOE just waiting to clobber me over the head.
She looked at me and said “Booth, the other shoe has dropped.”
And this is what I know based on that experience that I would like to share with you right now.
Has the bottom actually dropped out? Maybe.
Will things ever be the same again? Probably not.
Will it be this way forever? No.
Will we survive this existential threat (as opposed to the physical threat of COVID-19)? Yes.
Are we in control of this thing? Absolutely not. p.s. We weren’t in control of this thing called life before, but we might have been comfortable.
Will there be a future? Yes.
Do we have choices? Yes.
Will those choices influence the outcome? Yes.
There is nothing about my life that is the life I imagined for myself. There have been FEW and I mean FEW invariable constants over the last 5 years. I have moved 3 times, driven 3 different vehicles, been broke and worried about buying food and gas more times than I can count, lost friendships and gained new ones, lost my way and found it again, worked 9 different “jobs” and so on.
When I left my CEO role, it didn’t take me long to figure out that the only thing that couldn’t be changed (perhaps even “undone”) in the organization I had helped build with my whole heart was the impact I had on the people who worked with me and the impact they had on others. (And hopefully, for the most part, there was positive net balance from that effort.) But, that was it. The ONLY thing. And the truth is, that is the only thing we can “take with us” so to speak is the impact that we have on other people.
We know that the brain is wired to prefer the status quo.
We know that the brain is wired to fight for survival (going even to the extent of shutting down other parts of the brain and body in order to channel resources).
We know that the brain is wired to stay connected to the rest of the tribe. Because without the rest of the tribe, we die.
We are under extraordinary stress . . . on top of the stress we were already under before there was a global pandemic.
And toxic stress makes us sick. As individuals. As communities. As cities. As the world.
Ironically, all of the advances in society, all of the “independence” we might believe we have from others, have not been able to re-wire the part of our brain that depends on others. And for good reason.
Perhaps never in human history has it been more clear how integrally connected and interdependent we all are. While we want to believe that we exist in our own microcosm of humanity and community, that what we do and don’t do doesn’t really matter because it can neither save nor harm someone across the globe, I beg to differ.
And yet, I am not suggesting that anyone get on a plane right now to go save anyone.
What I AM suggesting is this: we can influence the outcome by the choices we make today and every day in support of our well-being and the well-being of our communities.
Each time we engage in an action (or rest) in support of our own well-being, we are immediately influencing the well-being of others--their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. And when we are well, we can help others stay well.
But if we all spin down the collective drain of fear and paranoia (and all of the other beliefs and emotions that keep us separate from each other) at the same time, we will devolve and die.
Will the world ever be the same? I think it is unlikely.
Will this last forever? No, this particular threat will not last forever.
Can we influence the outcome? Absolutely.
Can we influence future threats? YES.
It didn’t take months or years for this pandemic to expose the potential weakness(es) in our societ(ies)--and by the way, that is what pandemics do . . . they exploit weaknesses in the collective. Even as it took a few months for this threat to work its way around the globe. It took days, maybe minutes even for us to be able to imagine (and not in a far-fetched way) or even clearly see playing out before us the potential impact on our most vulnerable populations.
We can take an intentional step toward individual and collective well-being. Or we can take another step toward collective individualism, isolation and illness.
So much of my work is centered around a simple process . . .
Notice our default response to individuals and situations.
Challenge whether this response continues to serve us, no matter how hard-wired it may be.
Choose to practice new skills, habits and beliefs which are in support of our individual and collective well-being.
And you may already KNOW what types of practices and behaviors support your well-being.
While it is tempting to just curl up in a ball and drown our fear in food and alcohol (or whatever coping skills we typically use), I challenge you to integrate ONE well-being practice into each day. If you have the capacity for more, great, do more as your body and mind desire or require. If one feels like a stretch, then just pick ONE.
Do it for yourself. If you have children, take them through the practice as well. If you are leading a team, take them through the practices.
Do it for your family.
Do it for your loved ones.
Do it for your community.
Do it for the collective.
And if you aren’t sure where to begin, shoot me an email over at [email protected] and I will be happy to provide some guidance.
Sending love and light to all of you in this uncertain time.
Thank you for listening. And, if you haven’t already, please hit subscribe and remember to rate this podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. When you subscribe and rate, you make it easier for other people to find this content. If you write a review of the podcast, I would love to share it on air in a future episode.
I look forward to being back with you next time!