Greetings, Second Story community!
The last time I wrote, we were at the very beginning of what has become a strange and difficult season. I know I speak for all of us here when I say it has been an honor to walk with many of you through these challenging weeks and months. And even through all of the darkness and struggle, you have displayed such resiliency, which gives my heart hope!
In these unpredictable times, I wanted to share with you a tool I’ve been using to better understand and manage my own anxiety, one that I often offer to clients as well. In the book Emotional Equations, Chip Conley offers an equation, or “recipe” for anxiety that looks like this:
Anxiety = Uncertainty x Powerlessness.
In a few more words, anxiety is the combined effect of uncertainty (not knowing) and powerlessness (not having control). COVID-19 has been a perfect storm of these two elements — so much uncertainty regarding things that used to be secure (school, travel, social norms, etc.); and so much powerlessness as we attempt to fight off an unseen enemy that continues to resurface. Anxiety is an incredibly common and valid experience right now.
The good news is that since we can understand the nature of our anxiety and where it might stem from, we have the insight and the tools to change our experience. If focusing on what we don't know and what we can't control leads to anxiety, it stands to reason that shifting our attention towards what we do know and what we can control will lessen that anxiety. No, we don’t know what will happen with the virus, with our jobs, or our school, or our health, but we do know that there are things we can do to care for ourselves and our families. We know that we can protect ourselves in a variety of ways, and we know that we can find new ways to experience joy and meaning even as life changes. No, we can’t control what happens with a vaccine, or how our leaders choose to act in this crisis, but we can control how we act. We can control how we choose to spend our time and our energy, and there are things each of us can do to contribute to more kindness and safety in the world. Your list may be different than mine, but no matter what, spending time dwelling in the things we know and the things we can do is a powerful, transformative way to redirect thoughts and energy.
Audrey Aukeman | MA, LPC