Justin Pere was recently interviewed by John Colucci with KOMO News in an online Q&A, taking questions submitted by KOMO News followers. In this interview, we discussed ways to cope with anxiety, depression, stress, and how this "new normal" we're all trying to forge in this unknown future is impacting our minds, our bodies, our marriages, and our families.
Please reach out to Clarity Counseling Seattle to schedule a Teletherapy appointment to help with these difficult times.
A brief description of the answer given can be found below the video clip.
The Importance of Resilience and Growth
I asked John if I could record one last video clip to add onto the interview we did this past week around mental health and the Coronavirus, saying just a bit about the importance of resilience and growth in regards to mental health, and how we can shift our perspective from merely getting through this event to actually changing for the better and shoring up our mental health.
I want to validate, first, that we’re in unknown times, and our biology and neurobiology is hardwired to go into anxiety, panic, worry, fear, and distress. We’re in the unknown, and when we’re in the unknown, our many thousands of years of mammalian training tell us to go into a state of high alert, which can challenge our mental health.
So give yourself the time and space to feel that when it arises, which is natural, normal, and somewhat unavoidable, but then, to the degree that you can, try to unplug from those conditioned mammalian responses to find your footing and your grounding. Try to practice standing squarely in a place of surrender, acceptance, wholeness, creativity, and even healthy vigilance. It makes me think of an athletic stance: you know, you’re crouched down a little bit and on the balls of your feet, like “Okay. What’s coming?” Not in a defended way, not crouched in anxious fear, but just in a “We don’t know what’s coming but we're poised and ready for whatever that is when it gets here” kind of way. Because what will get us to the other side of this – not just to the other side but what will allow us to harvest the opportunities for transformation and growth through this, is if we get in that athletic stance. If instead we go to our old conditioned patterns of fear and contracting, that isn't going to be helpful.
Some of the ways we’ve been dealing with change and the unknown and our own fear responses are breaking down right now, and it doesn’t make sense for us to pick up those old tools and try to use them to quote-unquote “get through this”. What if the talk was less about “getting through” and more about “How do I want to be changed by this when it's over?”, because it WILL end, and we WILL get through what’s happening, but we will be changed. Let us be changed. It may be worth asking ourselves, “How can I be changed in a way that will grow me into a higher version of myself?”.
What you, and really all 7 billion of our brethren, are facing right now is that some of the practices we'd had for dealing with fear and uncertainty that aren't the most functional...they're now screaming in our faces, especially if we're prone to experiencing periods of anxiety and depression. They're now in the forefront. So this is an opportunity to reconcile who we're going to be through this. With our worry and mental gymnastics we're trying to create a sense of consistency and known, but, like, you don't know, we don't know what the future holds. But what we CAN know is that we can all do our best to guide the ship of our families, our marriages, perhaps our businesses, and certainly ourselves from a place of kindness, understanding, and compassion. So whatever those words mean to you, how can you cultivate and employ those tools? How can you spend the free time that you have, which may have increased if you're currently unable to work, but even if your available time has decreased, to live from a place that's more grounded, solid, and rooted in the present moment, and possibly in ways that help to bring more meaning, value, and purpose into your life right now, even in the midst of what's going on, perhaps especially in the midst of what's going on? That's the practice. That's our work.
What if worry and panic are your training ground? And it may be coming up these days in a big way, and for good reason, but it's your sparring partner. So to the degree that you can get really nimble with it, and keep anchoring yourself in the present and what's truly happening around you, which may be very different than the depressive or anxious thoughts and images that come up for you about an imagined future, the better we can take that athletic stance that allows us to be more ready for whatever comes, from a place of groundedness and nimbleness rather than fear.
Here are some questions to consider regarding resilience and adaptability, which are such crucial elements of mental health: How do I wanna position myself as I grow through this? As I'm being stretched by these unprecedented events, how can I keep my eye on the big picture? How can this be an opportunity for me to really refine my way of being with my partner so that our relationship isn't brittle or fragile or defended when storms like this come? What new rituals, and rituals of connection, do my marriage and my family need as we adapt to spending more and different time together for the next many weeks? Who am I as a person being called to become through this event? What am I being initiated into? What is my growth right now to be of service to the people I lead and serve, which may be employees or clients or family members? What's happening now is really showing up where it is that we've not been attending to places in our relationship with ourselves, or our partner, or our family, or our community, and now those edges may be frayed when we really need those edges to be grounded...so how does that inform me about what in my internal life and my external life needs attention right now?
In the face of what can seem like a truly overwhelming situation, there is a place of peace and stillness that exists, that is untouched by external circumstances, regardless of whether or not we're prone to mental health challenges. Our practices, both internal and external, and our rituals of connection are needed now more than ever. Many of us don't even remember the thing that was worrisome just three months ago that ruined our sleep and caused us distress. Everything that rises eventually passes and is often the greatest catalyst for change and growth. So I encourage you to spend much more time in those activities that are uplifting and nourishing than you do reading the news. Carve out some time to be quiet, inside and out, as a source of renewal and strength and resilience.
And finally...we will get through this. But more so, we will be changed by this for the better, if we let ourselves. We're being given a very powerful opportunity - are we going to just GET through it or are we gonna TRANSFORM through it? Perhaps this is a quiet call-to-action that we can step up to, whatever that stepping up looks like in your own life.
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