Yesterday I went to the grocery store to pick up my usual items. I wasn’t concerned they would be out. People aren’t fighting over brussel sprouts and salmon… I went later in the day hoping I wouldn’t have to deal with long lines. They had organic chicken breast so I grabbed three packages. One for me. Two for a coworker that had mentioned she hadn’t been able to find chicken all week. There was a bit of a line, so I just went through self-checkout. In general customers were tense and not always polite while I was shopping. Apparently, my cart was in the way while I was checking out so someone just crashed it aside. Entire aisles had no product at all. I was having trouble scanning the chicken so I asked for help. Turns out we are only allowed to buy two packages of chicken. For me personally, that’s not a big deal. I decided then and there I would only eat fish until this crisis was over. I’d rather let someone else have the chicken. I also had some frozen chicken in my cart that I put back. When I got in my car I was overcome with sadness. It seemed like so many people, in their panic, were only thinking about themselves and their immediate family.
I know we are in the midst of a massive crisis. I know that everyone has been affected and our lives have dramatically changed overnight. People are afraid for their health and the health of their family members and friends. The nature of the crisis is creating social isolation. No one knows when or how this will end. So many unknowns. The perfect recipe for fear, and of course, the media is feeding the frenzy. Countless people are and/or will be going through a major financial crisis. People are losing their jobs. A large number of small business owners will lose not only income, but their entire business. No one understands that better than I do. I purchased a business and the property it’s on two years ago. No one is traveling, so no one needs to board their dogs. I’ve already laid off two employees. The rehab center is slow because many people are under self-quarantine. There is a good chance the state will close us down soon anyway. I have three full-time employees in that department. I feel incredibly responsible for all of my employees. I’m doing everything I can, but at times I’m terrified and sick over it. I have mortgages, equipment loans, insurance and a variety of business expenses. With no income. When I really think about it, and what it could all mean, I’m overwhelmed. Fear of the unkown will do that to us.
I do, however, have a choice. I can choose to focus on what frightens me, talk about it, think about it and run through all the worst cases scenarios, or I can make a different choice. When I feel myself panic I can stop, breathe in and breathe out. I can focus on what I can control. More importantly, I can remind myself that I am not alone. None of us are. We are all in this together. Instead of focusing inward, I focus out. What can I do to help? My manicurist had to close her shop. She doesn’t make a lot of money. She lives paycheck to paycheck. My first instinct was to give her a larger than usual tip. Then, for a split second, I panicked. I wanted to keep that money for myself. Why? Fear. Breathe in, breathe out. Everything will be fine. I didn’t keep the money. I shared it, because it is only by giving and sharing that we will break free of the fear. It is only by helping one another that we will feel compassion and empathy. Instead of focusing on the facts and circumstances that are frightening all of us, we should think about what we can do to help one another. There is enough food, water and toilet paper for everyone. If you are shopping and feel the urge to buy more than you need, maybe you can breathe in, breathe out and buy only what you need. Why?—because what you don’t take can go to someone else. Someone that really needs it. If you are fortunate enough to work from home, maybe you can support a local small business. Order takeout, grab a cup of coffee at the drive through, or tip the gas attendant. Take a few minutes and give someone you know a call. Sometimes people just need to vent. Sometimes they need to know they are not alone. Sometimes you can make each other laugh and, in that moment, feel relief. Know someone that is struggling with their small business? Do some research on how to get government assistance and pass that on. Call your neighbors, friends, people you know that are at high risk and see if they need anything. You can drop it off on their front porch. Post a motivational meme, book, podcast, etc. to FB. Actually, please post some jokes! We can all use a good laugh!! So much is now moving online. Know someone that is not tech savvy? Now is a great time to reach out and teach them.
As for me, I’m going to consciously focus on gratitude. I’m going to think outside the box and expand my horizons with online teaching. I plan on hiking with my dogs. I’m going to be diligent about self-care. Make sure I get enough exercise and sleep, eat healthy and drink lots of water. I’m definitely going to meditate. I haven’t been super motivated about training my dogs these past two weeks, but training is my passion and has always gotten me through tough times, so I will definitely be training my dogs. I will work online as much as I can. I will be proactive with finding solutions to keep my business afloat. I will remind myself again and again… everything always works out in the end. I’m definitely not big on talking on the phone, but I am going to call my friends and talk to them. I’m even going to spread my wings and try some videochats (I think that’s what they’re called??) We all need that social connection. I’m going to continue looking for opportunities to help others any way I can. Fear is a primitive response that makes us want to go into survival mode. It’s us against them. I’m going to fight that fear with all I have. Instead I’m going to focus building connections.
The next time fear grabs you by the throat, Breathe in, Breathe out. Make a conscious choice to look outward, to connect, to have gratitude, to help someone. Let’s be kind, compassionate and support one another. Let’s help one another through this difficult time. We are all in this together. Together we will get through this.