Coping with Overwhelm: An Open Letter for March 2022

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Breaking BarriersCrisis SupportDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion

March is barely underway, but it has most definitely entered like a lion – any actual weather forecasts notwithstanding. As I’ve found myself doing so many times over the past few years, I’m once again checking in with you. How are you? 

Beyond Russia invading Ukraine, seeing Black and Brown people being turned away at borders as they flee war zones along with their white counterparts, the continuing impact of the pandemic (it’s not over yet, folx), and ongoing violence against Asian women in the US (and this list merely scratches the surface), there is A LOT going on in the world. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking to yourself how wild it is that in the middle of what seems like end times, we are expected to not only keep working and living as if none of this were going on, but also be productive. 

I want to tell you this: it is okay to not be okay. 

It is okay to be frightened, to be angry, to be frustrated, to feel hopeless, to feel overwhelmed, to be stressed. You might be trying to figure out how to hold it all together; you might be managing people who are currently living under threat of violence or death; you might be working with people who are still processing active trauma and grief that seems to keep getting piled on; you might even be feeling guilt or relief for feeling fine. No matter how you are showing up at this moment, remember that none of this is normal. 

The way I typically respond to crisis situations is to try and problem-solve. What can I do on a personal level to fix the issue? When it comes to massive, global-scale problems like the ones we are experiencing right now, there may not be a lot that you or I can do to make a dramatic difference. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things we can do today to help, even if it’s moving the needle ever so slightly. 

As my co-CEO Rachel and I shared nearly two years ago, if there is no justice there can be no peace. I still believe in those words today, and focus my work and energy towards this goal. Here are some tips to support yourself and your team right now.

Tips for Support

For leaders:

If you manage a team and/or hold a leadership position, right now the best thing you can do is to acknowledge that we can’t expect work to be ‘business as usual’. Let your team know this! If you haven’t said anything yet because you’re not sure what to say, better late than never – and this is an occasion where I believe that showing vulnerability can be very powerful. We are humans after all, not robots.

If it’s appropriate and you have a previously established relationship, consider checking in privately to see if anyone needs to process or could use extra support from you. This may vary by person, but could include: giving people flexibility when it comes to deadlines, holding a town hall or space to share, pushing out projects, or even making business decisions such as leveraging your resources and power to locate/relocate team members who are directly impacted by the current war. If you’re not sure what to say, it can be as simple as the following: “I want to acknowledge that there is a lot happening in the world right now. Whether or not you are directly impacted by anything that is going on, please know that I/we fully support you in whatever way I/we can. If you need some time off, just say the word. My (virtual) door is also open if you would like to talk or share in any way.” 

For individual contributors:

As someone who may be impacted in a variety of ways by all sorts of things that are happening in the world right now, it can be even harder to think about how to address everything within your workplace context. Depending on your personal circumstances, privileges, and even your positionality at work, you may feel more or less able or inclined to do something. Remember that we always have power over our innermost self. Acknowledge that you, and/or your colleagues, may not be doing well right now. If you feel compelled to act in some way, consider donating – but make sure you do some due diligence and research the organizations first (if you’re not sure where to start, we have a list of resources at the end of this note)!

Support your colleagues by also gently checking in with them, and reinforce the fact that it’s not business as usual right now. If you need support, let others know how they can best support you. This could look like saying, “I’m mentally not all here today; can we push back our meeting?” or “I am taking today off to support my mental health, I’ll be back online later this week.” 

No matter how you’re showing up at this moment or what your job title is, remember that above all else, we need to lift up and support those without power, those who are marginalized, and those who aren’t able to hold agency right now. We are all experiencing collective trauma; take care of yourself, friend. I’m grateful to be in community with you right now, and holding you all in the light. 


This is not an exhaustive list – if you have more resources to share, please let us know and we’ll add them!