Like a pendulum, when something is out of balance, it’s natural to go from one pole to the next.
In the first weeks of the lockdown fears of shortage flooded the collective. We regularly hear about the shortage of masks and medical equipment. Now we are flooded with online offerings and quarantine dates are extended giving even more time at home, so there’s excess. Fear goes hand in hand with shortage and anxiety comes from feeling overwhelmed with excess.
Hospitals and medical staff face the two polarities daily - excess patients while working with a shortage of supplies. They are those on the “front lines” like the soldiers were back during World War II, but those of us at home face a different, yet similar dynamic. We too are facing feelings of shortage and excess, fear and anxiety.
If the battle is not physical, it is going to be mental.
While I can understand an article I just read, “Don’t make Yourself a Project: Why the Pandemic isn’t the time for Self-Improvement,” I disagree. For some people this is an opportunity to step into the world of self-improvement and to realize they need it just as much as they need to see a regular doctor. Mental health is part of health and perhaps this global trauma will show us the importance of it even more. Perhaps the stigma can fade away as the virus eventually will. The article from Elephant Journal calls for us to not get distracted from our real feelings and get swept away with calls for positivity, and that I can understand.
The key while we are at home is self-regulation.
If we were already a self-development junkie, then feeding that could be a form of escaping our feelings at this time. If it was already something we had in “excess,” then what we might need now is to slow down and listen. If we were someone who didn’t know what meditating was about and spent most of our time behind a screen, then now more than ever is a chance to take advantage of the free online offerings, to step in from your own living room, and learn without shame.
There is no shame in needing support. We all need it. In fact, I feel shame is an echo of the stigma that has existed for far too long. Self-regulating comes in many forms. It is learning and acting on what we need to feel good and stable. Monitoring our media intake is critical these days as well as getting some movement, be it yoga at home or a walk around the block. As I wrote in my last post, (we must) “center ourselves and grab hold of a reality that stabilizes us during this difficult time.” A big part of this is following our natural ways of being too, but staying open to what isn't natural and doing what we realize we need now instead of what we are naturally programmed to do. Most people are a blend of extrovert and introvert, but you could have one that is more prominent than the other. In extreme times like this, natural tendencies are magnified. For example, an extrovert gets its energy from the outside. It’s not just that they are social and enjoy people, they rely on external stimulus to survive and “regulate,” so online chats and getting outdoors when necessary is super important now for them. An introvert on the other hand needs to go within to recharge, by being alone and being in silence. I’ve heard many introverts say things these days like, “I was born for this time.” Going within is part of their journey to self-regulate.
If we learn what we need and act on it, we are better prepared to face storms that come, and better able to keep calm when bad news arrives, because no one is going to escape that. This is a global trauma, only comparable to a world war, and we are all going to have losses and a mix of emotions. When we can self-regulate, we are in balance, which means we are calm and conscious. When you are there, then you are able to consciously feel and know what is going on within you.
Staying positive is important but not as an escape. Instead, let it be a conscious act. Stay positive without losing site of what is happening in our world. Stay positive while facing your own grief at the same time, and be honest in your feelings, for growth comes when we are able to hold both extremes, both polarities, at the same time. It seems like a paradox, holding onto hope and facing grief at the same time, and it is. That is how the pendulum will stop sliding from one side to the other. Fear, connected to shortage, is facing an immediate threat in the present, and anxiety, related to excess, is thinking ahead to what will come. These are two poles, but there is a mid-point. The pendulum stops with self-awareness and self-regulation, being able to consciously "hold" what seems like opposing feelings at the same time. That is when breakdown can become your breakthrough.