7 Ways to Spread Hope & Health (instead of fear or germs)
In times of crisis, you have a choice: contribute to the problem or contribute to the solution. Being part of the solution includes more than finding answers. It includes how you approach the crisis, how you manage your reactions, and how you deal with people.
As I write this, the world faces a pandemic. This new coronavirus spreads quickly, and so do the uncertainty and doubt that go with it. Most people don’t think or act well when under stress or feeling panicky. What about you? Are you contributing to stress and panic? Or are you spreading reassurance and encouragement? Your reactions affect everyone around you.
Positive emotions (such as awe, happiness, contentment, and gratitude) boost the immune system. Negative emotions and stress increase cortisol, which inhibits the immune system. So, you can literally make the world a healthier place when you manage your response and communicate hope and wellness instead of fear.
Here are 7 ways to do that:
1. Build your immunity to the negative.
Watch what goes on in your own head, first. When you find yourself ruminating on worries or frustrations, gently tell the voice in your head to stop and find something else to do with your brain. Be careful what you spend your time on and how you feed your mind. As James Clear says, “Your thoughts are a consequence of what you consume.” If social media or the news makes you feel angry or anxious, switch to a more uplifting input.
Don’t let other people’s emotions infect you. This one is tough for me. When someone you care about is having a strong emotional reaction, it can be hard to let it be theirs, especially if you are highly sensitive or empathetic. Don’t own the feelings of others. Let them feel their feelings fully without taking them on yourself.
2. Smile and laugh.
As one friend recently said, she is taking everything “with a grain of salt and a dash of humor.” Smiling boosts your mood and your health, as does laughter. They are often contagious. And they send the message, “We’re in this together.” We need that nowadays. In some situations, it’s not appropriate to smile or laugh. Most of the time, though, some lightheartedness helps everyone stay calm and take a breath.
3. Send positive messages.
Stress can lead to tunnel vision, where you only notice problems and mistakes. Remember to still encourage, praise, and thank others. Those small acts mean even more in times of trouble.
Sharing information and keeping others in the loop also sends a positive message. The information itself may be neutral, or even negative, but the act of keeping others informed lets them know that they are important and you’re not only thinking of yourself.
4. Stay in “touch.”
In the case of this specific virus, touching (even your own face) is discouraged. Social distancing is recommended; but I prefer the term “physical distancing.” Leave physical space between you and others, yet let’s NOT distance ourselves socially. Find other ways to connect. Wave, smile, talk on the phone, schedule a video conference.
Typically, communities come together when facing a disaster. In the current scenario, people are turning away from each other. While you may need to do so physically, do the opposite socially. As Brené Brown recently wrote, “We just can’t give up on people. We’re all we have. Stay awkward, brave, and kind. Love each other. Spread calm.”
And when it makes sense (when you’re safe at home with your healthy family, or once this outbreak has passed), a hug or a pat on the back communicates more than words ever can. I still remember back in the ‘80s when Princess Diana visited AIDS victims and actually held their hands, without gloves, shattering the rampant misconceptions about the disease. That touch conveyed compassion and hope to those she visited and sent a message to the whole world.
Even if you can’t do it physically, stay in touch.
5. Practice gratitude.
As David Steindl-Rast says in his TED talk on gratitude, we cannot be thankful FOR everything (a pandemic is a great example), but we can be grateful IN every moment—and, he says, it’s those people who face terrible obstacles with grace that we hold in highest esteem. There is always something you can be grateful for. Acknowledging those things brings you peace and assurance. And when you share what you’re thankful for with others, you pass on the benefits of gratitude to them.
6. Do good.
Whenever you’re worried or angry, DO something. (Besides venting about it on social media.) Complaining makes you feel worse. Taking action boosts your confidence, your mood, and even your health! It gives your nervous energy an outlet and improves the situation.
Right now, there are many opportunities to help out. Meals on Wheels People, food banks, and shelters are all expecting needs to dramatically increase. The American Red Cross still needs blood from healthy donors. Pick up groceries for a vulnerable neighbor. There are many ways to be a contribution.
And don’t forget to do good to yourself. Eat well, sleep well, and take care of yourself in times of stress. That makes it a lot easier to manage your reactions and spread reassurance.
7. Breathe deeply.
Deep breaths clear toxins from your body and release chemicals of calmness into your system. It creates an atmosphere of safety for those around you and sends the message that you are under control. Breathing patterns are contagious, too. So, breathe deeply in the midst of chaos; it can change the emotional temperature of an entire room, team, or organization.
It’s normal to go into fight-or-flight in times of stress. But rarely does reacting in anger (fight) or fear (flight) help the situation. The world needs you to be at your best. With these seven tips, you can improve your own emotional state and create positive change in the world.
Take care of yourself. Take care of others. Spread confidence, calmness, hope, health, and inspiration.