Owners and Executives: How to Keep From Losing Your Mind In A Pandemic [Contains Offensive Language]


Reading Time: 8 minutes

Everyone has their COVID-19 coronavirus post, here’s mine…

***

You should be warned, this is not a rah-rah post. What I will be doing is sharing honestly, with the hope of giving voice to concerns you’re probably having as well. 

 

The truth about this situation is we are all sitting at home without all of the routines that let us know we are OK. While we may bemoan having to stay at home, I would argue it is not only that that tempts us to get nutty. 

 

We might start considering those deep philosophical questions we easily drown out with more work — faster, harder, more complicated work, such as

 

-Do I even enjoy doing this?

-Does this even matter?

-Have I been wasting my time?

-What is my life about?

 

Deep questions, that I can’t even answer for myself. 

 

It has become cliche to ask questions like, “What is your passion?” 

 

For me, this navel-gazing has limited impact. I’ve switched careers so many times and asked questions like this so often, I start to doubt  if any will ever be helpful to me again.

 

There is 1 question though, that I believe can be helpful during this time. I heard it from meditation teacher Tara Brach (her new book “Radical Acceptance” is out) while she was doing Facebook Live with 5K of us. She advised us to ask ourselves, 

 

“Who do I want to be at the end of this?”

 

Let’s face it (and show a little honesty while we’re holed up at home), we haven’t all been our best during this thing. I certainly have not. At least 3 times, I stood outside myself watching, wondering,

 

“What are you doing?”

 

It’s because I’m scared sometimes and I’m human and my biggest fear is my life will not matter in the scheme of things.

 

So, I push myself to be better, wake up earlier, create something world-changing –damnit–so people will know me as the guy who created the thing.

 

But we don’t  have to lose our minds and stock up on guns and toilet paper to make sense of life at this time.

 

Here are some recommendations that are keeping me sane and I hope will help you:

 

Recognize Hoarder Shit

It is that panic that arises inside of you and says, “Let’s grab this just in case”–hoarder shit.

 

The downside of being a hoarder is acting like an ass while making others vulnerable.

 

You want to talk about those “at risk?” What about the family whose meal will be incomplete because you needed a 10th can of beans to calm your nerves(did it though?).

 

My favorite true story on this stars a German guy named Lars, who is your typical family man going out to the local grocery store to pick up some OJ.

 

Meanwhile,  next to Lars, there’s this frenzied-looking dude who has stacked his entire shopping cart full of toilet paper.

 

So, Lars asks,

 

“Do you have a family?”

 

“No,” answers the guy a little peeved.

 

“Well, how many shits do you take?”

 

The guy was furious.

 

Chill With The News

Now what was this guy fearful about?  He was fearful over loss of life and limb and somehow toilet paper was going to prevent him from facing that. It’s not logical because it’s all about fear.

 

Fear says, “It’s mine!”

 

Remember when we were all little and innocent (please) and there was that lame kid who wanted to play with the toy we were using? And we were like “What the fuck? No!”

 

“It’s mine!”

 

And the 24 hour news cycle media machine knows that. It “informs” all of us at a ridiculous rate and when it doesn’t have anything real to report, will share opinions with us that elicit more fear, which drives further reading, watching, and panic-buying of their sponsors’ goods and services (and the stock-piling of guns and toilet paper).

 

That’s why you should stay away, rather limit, your exposure to the news during this time. I know we like to think we’re above it, but we’re still people running on mental software from thousands of years ago.

 

We have evolved to see everything as a threat. So adding gas to that fire can and often does put us in a bad way. 

 

We can’t help the vulnerable people around us if our focus remains on our internal neurotic roller coasters.

 

Remember You’re Not Losing Your Mind

 

During my past life as a medical professional and student, there are 2 main things I learned about grieving and loss,

 

  1. It can take longer than you want it to
  2. The 5 stages of grief from Elizabeth Kübler-Ross 

 

These 5 stages do not have to happen in order. They can occur in any sequence, with people often bouncing all over the place internally for some time.

 

This is you and me now.

 

While we hopefully have not lost a loved one during this pandemic, we have said, see you later (or perhaps) goodbye to our old habit and routines.

 

They made us feel safe.

 

Some of them we created. Some were created for us.

 

They helped us stay healthy.

 

They helped us stay sane.

 

They helped us connect deeply.

 

And they’re gone (perhaps temporarily, perhaps not).

 

It’s a loss we’re grieving whether we realize it or not. That means at any given moment we might feel

 

Avoidance

Confusion

Elation

Shock 

Fear

Frustration 

Irritation

Anxiety

We are struggling to find meaning

Desperate to reach others ( made a little more difficult during this time)

The desire to tell our stories

Overwhelmed 

Helpless

Hostile

The need to flee

 

It’s all a normal part of the process that leads us to acceptance, where we can explore new options and plans and move on.

 

Not to say that’s easy.

 

Revisit Acceptance

As of late, the grocery store has become my least favorite place on the planet.

 

I thought it was because of the grasping, hoarding, and desperation–but to get uncomfortably honest–it shows the parts of myself I’d rather ignore.

 

Speaking of guns and toilet paper, in the past several days I have seriously considered stockpiling both.

 

So when I see people cleaning out aisles with $500 worth of grocery hoarding, can I really be surprised. They are just doing what they believe will relieve their pain.(Because, make no mistake, our brains find it hard to differentiate between emotional and physical pain).

 

But like the urge to eat more when you’re feeling unwell, the action of panic-buying doesn’t make anyone feel better. It only further entrenches us in a perception of a world of scarcity.

 

And we can only live in a world we believe in.

 

You know people who live in a world that’s “dog eat dog,” they would just as sooner schuck us than help us–while others seem to walk around with their own personal sunshine.

 

What stories create their worlds?

 

What stories create our world?

 

Realize There Are No More Excuses: Empower Yourself

I believe millionaires will be made during this time.

 

I believe a great novel is being written.

 

The other day, I spoke with a doctor relative who was facing 90% patient cancellations. 

 

Per usual, we got to the topic of book recommendations. 

 

This is the part where I usually recommended a book and he would tell me he didn’t have the time.

 

But this time he paused. We both realized he now had the time he had always wanted.

 

The universe has given us all a lot more time than we could have imagined to do something other than the usual routine.

 

Wouldn’t now be a good time to grasp that skill you always swore you’d tackle?

 

Like I asked my friend the other day, 

 

“How are you choosing to empower yourself?”

 

There are no more excuses.

 

I believe this time will become whatever we make it. That means it can become a time of reflection, a time of empowerment, a time for hopeful change.

 

But that’s just me.