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Coping with Overwhelm: An Open Letter for March 2022

Working Through Crisis

Working Through Crisis

It seems counterintuitive to be sitting in front of a screen (computer, phone, TV) while people are fighting for their existence, living on the streets with no support system, and struggling through so much uncertainty. 

My brilliant business partner has talked about how to support yourself and others’ mental health during our continuing crisis. I wrote a piece on setting boundaries. These are all great ways to think about crisis at work. I’ve got one more approach–  I’d like to talk about what it means to work through a crisis when you can’t step away. 

The reality is that for many of us, we don’t have the privilege of shutting off,  taking a nap, a break, or a spa day. We may report to an unsympathetic boss who doesn’t understand why you should ‘get to’ take a break when no one else is. We may need to be ‘on’ for our customers, our clients, or our employees. We may desperately want to quit our jobs, but we can’t because we live paycheck to paycheck and are worried about finding something else (if there’s even something else better?). It’s unfair and the toll it’s taking on our collective mental health is palpable. 

It’s easy to spiral shame and talk yourself into a state of ‘why even bother’ when there’s so much suffering in the world. And while it seems particularly acute now, the reality is that humans have always been in crisis. The world feels worse because we see and know more (thanks Internet) and maybe because in some important ways it is worse. That said, we as humans are incredibly resilient. We find light in the darkest of moments, hope in times of deepest despair, and bravery in the scariest of times. We also can find meaning in the work we do, the connections we make with others, and the small moments when we sit in silence.

So this is for those of you that don’t have the opportunity to step away or lay down. I’m reminded by the brilliant Ali Wong who says, “I don’t want to lean in, I want to lay down.” (Can I get an Amen?)

Here are some tips to get you through this current moment:

  1. Breathe with intention. It’s SO easy to forget this powerful act we literally do all the time. If there are others around you, look down for a few seconds and take a few deep breaths to recompose. Here are several great breathing techniques, some to be done alone, others can be done in the presence of others without feeling self conscious.
  2. Phone a friend. Seriously. Or text. If you have support, someone you can quickly reach out to, do so. It’s a moment in time that you will be thankful for. A quick check in to just say ‘hey, I’m feeling overwhelmed, got a sec?’ If you think you’re being a burden to someone else, note that in many cases (though not always), people love to help!
  3. If you’re a social media kind of person and are into Instagram or TikTok, find some time to collect some gems of joy. Seeing bunnies and rainbows, beautiful landscapes, whatever gets you feeling okay about the world, can be incredibly healing in a pinch.
  4. If you have the resources, plan a little vacation. This can be a staycation with purpose (there’s a lot of great free meditation and yoga on the Internet you can download ahead of time, amazing books at the library, and also sometimes just binge watching tv with no obligations for the next few days can be great), a road trip, or a bigger trip. Planning (for some of us, anyway) can be a great way to think about and support future us.

What do you do to get through a moment? We’d love to learn from you and share it.