Share the Calm, Dampen the Panic
In order to combat the Fear Virus and negativity that can be so prevalent, I’ve been making it a practice to think about positive aspects of our current situation. Not to downplay the very real struggles that people are having, but in order to put myself in a space where I can bring my best to those around me.
One of the things that I’ve been thinking about is how we’re now using tools like technology in new ways. I just read this article in Wired magazine about this very thing. The global challenges we’re all facing have forced us out of “life as ordinary” and made us find new ways of being, including new ways of communing.
And that’s exactly what the founders of the Internet had envisioned: The idealism that we could use this extraordinary tool for positive social connection, for support, for enhancing each other’s lives. Isn’t that so much better than just using it to have political flame wars on Twitter? (Don’t get me started on Twitter…!) More and more of us are now using these tools to build something positive, something helpful, something uplifting.
This time has also helped me personally evaluate the role I want technology to play in my life. I can’t just say, “I’m not going to go online.” It’s an essential part of our lives, especially right now. While we can’t spend all day online — that’s just not healthy! — we can be very intentional about what we choose to allow into our environment. For instance, I have no tolerance now for negativity. None. My goal is to create a collective community where everyone feels safe and supported, and that is positive and meaningful.
That doesn’t mean we don’t make space for people who are hurting and are scared. You are so welcome here. I’m sending you a huge virtual hug. I want you to know that you are not alone.
And even in the midst of heartbreak and fear, there are things you can do to recalibrate yourself in a way that you can refocus and choose a new thought, a new intention for the day, something to set your thoughts on for the next 24 hours. That’s all you have to do — 24 hours at a time.
Another thing you can do is surround yourself with people who are focused on positivity, rather than immersing yourself in the news or in social media that’s filled with scary stories and terrifying statistics. Seth Godin wrote in a blog post the other day about the importance of being what he called a “dampening agent” when everyone else is freaking out. You can choose to stay calm, to stay positive, to not allow the Fear Virus to spread.
Now, it’s true this does take work. It’s so much easier to spread panic! Imagine a bunch of people in the water at the beach and one person screams “Shark!” Soon, everyone’s screaming “Shark!” and rushing out of the water and trampling each other but they didn’t even see the shark. They just heard someone else yell and joined in. That’s group panic.
And that’s basically most of our news media and a lot of social media. Panic sells. Panic gets viewers, clicks, ad revenue. So if you’re hanging out on line, you’re going to notice that anger and fear are advertised and promoted way more than peace and calm and solutions.
That’s one reason calm is harder to spread. And that’s why it’s so much more important. We have to work to stay grounded. We have to work to have faith. We have to work to share our hope, and our experience, and our strength, and our kind words, and our compassion.
The tricky thing is, we can’t just tell ourselves to “calm down.” In fact, the surest way to make me want to scream is to tell me to calm down! And it doesn’t work with ourselves, either. We can’t just DO it. We have to MAKE calm.
We can cultivate calm and peace by choosing what to allow into our environment. We can decide if we’re going to watch 4 hours of TV news, or if we’re going to meditate, or come to one of my 11:11 Facebook lives, or call a friend and check in, or pet the dogs.
This is our work, to do what it takes to stay connected to our Higher Power so we can be an instrument of peace and love.
When we set our minds on that goal, we can look beyond our current circumstances. It’s a paradox, for sure. We see the challenges that people are facing, and it hurts. We hurt for them and grieve for them and maybe grieve for ourselves. At the same time, though, we can look beyond and have deep faith that something beautiful will come of this. And something beautiful is already happening.
I see beauty and love when I read stories of the helpers on the front lines, or when I see photos of new babies born in the midst of this, or when I feel the energy of our community. It’s there now, we just have to look for it.
In this in-between time, we can celebrate what is and strive to be the best we can be. We can show up for each other, share our experience and strength, and help each other. And even when we’re not sure how to help, we can be present. We can listen. We can stay connected. And we can share our toilet paper if we have extra!
I have incredible hope for humanity. I believe the best in us. I believe that we’re going to use this time to make adjustments and radical changes that will make it possible for us — all of us — to have better lives. And right now, we can slow down and contemplate that. We have a window of opportunity to make different choices, to change the way we live, and to really ask ourselves what’s important.
Coronavirus has shown us what it means to be human, and to see the humanity in each other. At the end of the day, our humanity and our responsibility for each other are what matter. Our humanity and our relationship to the earth and to each other is what we share. That’s what’s important, and that’s where we can choose to put our energy and focus. How do we build a new world? I think it’s time to leave the old one behind.