TED is doing a “TED Connects” series of conversations with some key leaders offering wisdom for navigating through the coronavirus.
TED CEO, Chris Anderson, opened the series pointing out that we are not only battling the pandemic externally, but we are all, in a way, battling it internally.
With that in mind the first guest was Psychologist Susan David talking about Emotional Agility and Courage, which is the ability to be with our emotions in healthy ways. The insights she shared are particularly important for what we are facing now, but are equally true for life in “normal times”. In fact, as she said, this time is giving us the opportunity to really practice ways to build and sustain emotional courage and to move into a place of wisdom within us.
So, with that in mind, here is my summary of her 5 Key Take-a-ways
1. Don’t move away from the hard emotions you are feeling. Life’s beauty is not separated from life’s fragility. For example, we cannot experience deep enduring love without also experiencing grief and loss when that love as we know it ends either by death or circumstance. We have a social narrative around “Don’t worry, be happy”. The messages we always get are around seeking happiness as the prized emotion rather than accepting the whole of life, which includes pain, grief, fear, anxiety, anger etc. Learn to accept the full spectrum of emotions, which more accurately represents the experience of life.
2. Watch your language! Emotions are data, they aren’t who we are. We might say something like, “I am scared”, that implies that 100% of us is scared. But we are not the emotion of fear instead we are experiencing the feeling of fear. It doesn’t define who we are, rather, something we are going through. The shift in language to “I notice that I’m feeling scared” allows us to label the emotion which is the essential first step. Now we have created a space to begin to problem solve: What is that emotion telling me about what is important to me? How can I get the help I may need? What can I do to help myself and move forward and through this?
3. We own our emotions; they do not own us. It is important to not let the negative emotions take control of our lives. Instead, approach emotions with curiosity: “What is my frustration telling me about what is important to me? With the answer to that question you can move to problem solving: What can I do to address that core issue? How can I, in the midst of fear, anger or anxiety or whatever the emotion is, develop a way to find courage? We typically either bottle negative emotions up or get stuck in them. Either strategy will cause more pain, so approach with compassion and curiosity because this leads us to the next step of problem solving. Getting this frontal cortex of the brain working gets us out of of the fight or flight syndrome.
4. Decide if you are going to own your narrative or if you are going to give your power up and let the media own it. Often when people are anxious or fearful, they keep consuming information. STOP! Pick the data sources that give you what you need and manage the frequency and time you spend taking information in. If it is making you more anxious and more fearful, cut back or stop altogether for a while.
5. Find focus with the things you can control. Remember the amazing wisdom of Viktor Frankl, who survived the Holocaust: There is a space between stimulus and response. That is the space in which we have the chance to choose how we want to respond. We always have control over how we respond. We control how much information we take in. We control if we turn the phone or computer off for media breaks. We control filling ourselves with what we love; gardening, nature, music, comedy. Whatever you can control, do it.
I hope you find these points helpful. I know I did. I send them to you with love and blessings to all and with the vision of us all being connected, heart to heart, in courage, kindness and determination. Be well!
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