Day one of at least four weeks of “at home”/self-isolation, and I am aware of a variety of feelings. I feel anxious for my loved ones who are, because of age and/or health vulnerability, facing high risk should they be exposed to the COVID-19 virus. My father, in England, has been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, and my coping strategy is to pragmatically recognise he won’t be around much longer, nor will I be going to his funeral. Whether it is COVID-19 or something else, there will be death in my family. Under that matter-of-fact exterior, my fabrication to avoid the true nature and significance of his diagnosis, and the risk to others in my family, is an anxious, vigilant system. My gut is tense, in a knot. My chest is tight, a physical indicator of some degree of panic. When I allow myself to soften into my body and acknowledge anxiety and panic, I am aware of a general sense of discombobulation, and a deep sadness. I had a video encounter with a friend and realised I was angry and judgmental of someone else. In noting and acknowledging that reactive behaviour, tension in me dissolved and I was able to reclaim my power and drop the unproductive behaviour.
I am also deeply grateful. I live in New Zealand where the government has enacted a very clear isolation policy. No mealy-mouthed politicking here. No pandering to lobbyists that may want relief that serves their self-interests. The simple message: unless you are an essential service provider, STAY HOME! The job of all is to save lives. With COVID-19 infection numbers rising, community spread becoming more apparent, our job is “STAY HOME to SAVE LIVES”. I am grateful to live in a country where all parties have seemingly united in a single, unified approach, and that life matters more than fiscal or economic factors. We certainly have rescue packages for people and business, but saving lives is a humane desire, and provides us with valuable work and purpose. New Zealand is focused on doing what it takes to save lives. For most of us, that is STAY HOME! What a fabulously simple, clear, purpose-filled message. As I drove home from food shopping yesterday, an electronic motorway sign flashed “Keep Calm, Be Kind”, and I felt grateful to be in a country where those simple words did not feel out of place as a road sign. Pretty cool really. There are people in charge of nations on this planet that seem to lack any sense of kindness, empathy or concern for others, not leaders in any true sense of the word, but in charge, nevertheless. I do live in a land with leadership. It is wonderful to see consistent, unifying, purposeful messaging everywhere. I feel grateful to be queuing at a supermarket, waiting 2 metres from those either side, with diversity of age, ethnicity and culture so apparent, with so much generosity and kindness, patience and consideration, visible. I am aware of other places where impatience, anxiety and panic create different outcomes. I am grateful that has not been my experience.
It does bring me to the point of this piece. As much as I may be a jumble of emotions, shaken and stirred by events around me, and by future negative impacts on those I love, I remain responsible for my actions. We each remain responsible for our actions. Survival reactions (FIGHT, FLIGHT, FREEZE and FABRICATE) are so easy to fall into because there is plenty to encourage such behaviour. The Thrive responses (ASSERT, ATTEND, ACT and AUTHENTICATE) are available to us by maintaining awareness of ourselves and making conscious choices of how we will be with ourselves and others. Thrive responses are a manifestation of our personal power. If ever there was a time to truly stay in our personal power and create positive outcomes for ourselves and others, now is surely such a time.
Today I noticed my emotions bubbling up and trying to get the better of me, and I chose to intervene on myself, and offer myself space to self-sooth. What strategies will you use to own and tame your inner world and be emotionally intelligent in how you function? What purpose gives you energy and supports you make choices based on thriving rather than surviving? Even if you are not blessed to be in a country like mine, not perfect, but working hard to be humane in this challenging time, what good are you going to create for yourself? For your family? For your community? I wish the best for all of you, knowing full well that it cannot be the best outcome for all. I wish it all the same.