I still viscerally remember how scared I was when the financial crisis started in 2008. The phones literally stopped ringing and I feared losing my company. When this crisis arrived, I focused on managing my mind and not letting my fear hijack me. As I reflect on the past pandemic year, I realize that this was critical to not just surviving, but thriving.
I managed my mind by asking it to help me be of service instead of defaulting to its problem-finding ways. I began by asking myself, “What do others need in these uncertain times, and how can I help?” I then dove into creating Well-Being trainings for law firm professionals and writing a career book for college students. Directing my brain to solve pressing problems, instead of obsessing about all the uncertainty that I and everyone else was experiencing, kept it productively occupied.
In the years since the financial crisis, I learned that another way to manage my mind was to observe the story it crafted about what was happening. You see, uncertainty triggers our fear and then our minds find every shred of evidence to convince us that we are in danger. Our “fear-mind” excels at pointing out everything that could go wrong and saying it in a way that leaves us feeling like it’s a protective friend just looking out for us!
Having been a victim of my fear-mind before, this time I was prepared. Instead of allowing the voice in my head to spew on about how bad lockdown was or how much loss I was likely to experience, I chose which story would be on repeat in my head each day: How lucky I was to have two extra hours each day to do all the things I never had time for. Shifting my mind’s focus to problem solving instead of problem creation, combined with choosing the story in my head, helped me to be of service instead of stuck in fear. I definitely had some bad days where my fear was running the show, but most days I could shut that bully off and actually feel more in control amidst all the uncertainty.
A silver lining from the pandemic is that I now know that to feel truly in control of our lives, we must master our fear-generating minds and vigilantly monitor the story in our heads, no matter what is happening in our external lives.