Overwhelmed right now and not sure how you’ll make it through?

Maybe this story will help just a little.

A few years back, I was flying from Hong Kong to San Francisco.

Four hours into that nine-hour flight, the captain came on the PA system, and told us we were in for some bumps. He then ordered the flight crew to go to their seats for the remainder of the flight.

Queue my heart racing and sweaty palms!

We were then in the middle of the Pacific, on what was usually a routine flight.

All of a sudden, the plane began violently bashing about in turbulence. You could hear babies crying – and some adults crying out too. Bags bounced around the overhead bins. Every so often the plane dropped altitude as it bounced around. This went on for almost two hours.

After we landed, we heard from the flight crew that this was a “9 out of 10” and that some veteran flight staff have never experienced anything like this before.

In this sort of situation, none of us (even the pilots) have complete control of the situation. Our own mortality and fragility then become painfully evident. We can either get caught up in panic and stuck in fight/flight, or do something else to respond. Either way, we will be in the turbulence.

While I was certainly panicked, I did my best to focus on breathing slowly and saying a little mantra. This was between white knuckle grabs of my seat. Looking back, grabbing a seat at 38,000 feet for assurance is actually fairly funny.  Somehow, I thought my seat would keep me safe. Of course, it was bouncing around too.

So why bring this up? This flight mirrors a lot of what we are going through in the world with coronavirus. None of us are in control and our frailty is exposed. We are all in this turbulent time together. We have to shelter at home (stay in our seats).

We can also take steps to avoid panic and stay calm.

While this pandemic will sadly take too many lives, the majority of us will make it through this  (and other trials in our life).

Here are three suggestions to help you cope through this tough time:

  1. Remember a time you made it through something particularly difficult. Use whatever is true to you – pick something in school, work or your personal life that you made it through. It may have not been ideal, but you made it through. You are probably stronger than you give yourself credit for.
  2. Translate what worked in that time to today. This could be as simple as remembering you made it through that, and you’ll make it through this. Or, it could be more detailed with the specific coping mechanisms and supports you used in the last adversity you overcame.
  3. Remember life is often about how we respond. We will all face adversities in our lives. We cannot often control these, even with our best efforts. However, we can control our response, including interrupting patterns that lead to fight or flight.

While this current pandemic may seem like the largest thing civilization had ever faced – we have come through larger ones. To name a few – the Bubonic Plague had a 75+ million death toll, the 1889 Flu took over 1 million lives, and HIV/AIDS resulted in 36 million lives lost at its peak.

That said, will be turbulent for sure. Many will feel fear. Many will get sick, and some will sadly lose their lives. And, all of us have to take action to shape how we respond and react.

After you have found your calm – brainstorm how you can help your loved ones and others. Now is a time to give.