Choose the Narrative that Serves You
Happy Sunday Educators and Happy Passover and Easter to those who celebrate! I hope that you and yours are staying well and had a meaningful weekend. Last week we honed in on physical wellness during this time and its contribution to our overall health. Were you able to add a step into your routine? If so, how did it go? If not, feel free to read last week’s post and choose one area of focus on and incorporate into your day. I’m confident that you’ll notice a difference.
Today…let’s focus a bit on our mental wellness as we know that what we are experiencing and the depth of uncertainty can cause grave challenges within our minds. For everyone, our current reality has pushed us to manage a high degree of change and with that comes a necessary adaption with no end and no real parameters in sight. This sets up the perfect storm for our minds to begin to fill in the blanks and/or perseverate over the few details we’re able to accumulate. Mentally, this pandemic can set us back significantly. We can become drained, exhausted, and unavailable as we push against the current to try to get to a space that doesn’t quite exist right now…some form of normalcy. So, what can we do?
I recently read an article entitled “What Happens When Compassion Hurts?” by Jeremy Adam Smith in which he recounts a story about going out for his usual early morning walk and in a split moment, found himself a victim of a violent assault where he was robbed and left bleeding on the side of the road. There were three guys involved in the assault. One driving the car, another who hit him on the head with lead pipe, and the final who robbed him at gunpoint. Clearly this was a traumatic and life-changing experience, as it would be for any of us. What was amazing about his story was that he spoke of the compassion he encountered from all of the individuals who helped him that day, after the incident, to the time that he returned home. From the neighbor who called the paramedics, to the random strangers who reached out stating that they found his personal belongings in 3 different parts of town, and everyone in between. Over twenty individuals sprang to support to ensure his wellbeing. I couldn’t help but think that had he spiraled down the narrative of solely the assault and the associated pain and trauma, it was likely that I would not have been reading his article at that moment. Although he had been victimized, he found his source of strength in his ability to shift the portion of the incident he chose to focus on.
We are in a challenging time. There is no way to sugar coat this reality. Much of this situation is out of our control but where we have power is in our interpretation of this situation and the narrative we allow to play in our heads about the “facts” in this situation. Let’s try this out. Here are some facts…schools are closed; students are engaging in remote learning; our children are home; teaching has to happen through a new platform; educators are concerned about family members; there is no definite end date for shelter in place; people have much more time at home than usual; etc.
Now, let’s add a mentally draining narrative to the facts and pay attention to how you feel as you read these statements. “It doesn’t look like schools will ever open again and there is no way students can really learn in a remote setting; I can’t figure out this new platform that I’m expected to use; nobody’s ever looking out for the educator…I’m exhausted and overwhelmed too; I don’t know what to do with my family with all this time; I can’t be home with all of them and do work and take care of my family; it’s only a matter of time before someone I know catches this virus like _________; what if I get sick?; I can’t deal with all of this…I just can’t!” How did it feel as you were reading those statements?
Okay, let’s try it again with a different narrative and stance and once again, pay attention to the feelings these statements evoke. “I’ve been saying that I needed a break and I didn’t expect it to come this way but this is a break from the norm; learning this new platform can provide me with another tool in my skillset; I can figure it out if I stick with it; I’ve figured out way more challenging stuff than this; right now I can stay focused on keeping my health as strong as possible; everyday I’m home is another opportunity to work on something that I didn’t have time for before; I can make the most of this time…while it’s here; I’ve dealt with other challenges before and I’ll deal with this one as well.” What are the feelings associated with this one?
You can probably see where this is headed. Most of us may never have to deal with COVID-19 within our own bodies but we are all dealing with the negative narrative that can invade the mind and cripple our will and focus. The mind is powerful and can allow us to create a frame of wellbeing even when the world is shifting negative. It does, however, require that we do the things that keep us mentally strong and ask the questions that remind us of the power we still have. Questions like…
What is another way to look at this situation?
On the other side of this pandemic, what would I want to be true for me and what can I do today…right now, to move in that direction?
What opportunity is this situation creating for me?
Take some time to answer these questions and identify what the next best logical step can be for you and...take action. We are in the driver’s seat. We always have been. Let the epidemiologists, experts, government officials, etc. do what they are tasked to do. Let's send them love and positivity so they can get it right, sooner rather than later, but we have a job of our own and it is just as vital to ensure that we remain mentally strong and viable. We can do this. Stay strong and stay well.
In Solidarity and Love,