Being compassionate in a time of crisis
If I had to pick one word to describe what we need during this time, that word would be compassion. Compassion for self and compassion for others.
Why compassion? When we are under duress or experiencing stress we are more likely to make mistakes, communicate less effectively and present with emotions and behaviors that vary from our norm.
For many, the changes and the challenges that we are currently facing trigger unresolved grief or trauma. We feel rocked to our core. Trauma lives in cellular memory, not just the brain. When we experience a traumatic event such as what we’re living today, we may re-experience a wide range of emotions related to our past. These feelings can be very uncomfortable since we, as a society, traditionally avoid feeling or observing emotions.
Moving through powerful emotions
A few years back, a truck rear-ended my small car at a stoplight. It was a terrifying time as a small business owner. For several weeks, I had to use my GPS to navigate to familiar places and had trouble remembering words. Memories reemerged, and I experienced a flood of emotions such as fear, sadness, shame and anger.
I was very uncomfortable with both the range and intensity of my feelings. When I finally met with a neurologist for a recommended brain study, I burst into tears and told him I was having trouble controlling my emotions. He explained that my reaction was normal and wouldn’t last forever. Just knowing that it was temporary gave me peace of mind and removed some of the intensity and fear. By the time I received the results, my emotions were back in check, and my brain had healed.
That brings us back to compassion. I hope it is helpful for you to know that as we are processing change, for some, this may bring uncomfortable emotions. Compassion includes kindness, caring, a willingness to help others, as well as patience and forgiveness. As we navigate through this time, compassion for self and others is a beautiful and much-needed gift.
We can’t separate ourselves from our emotions
We must allow ourselves to feel our emotions. When we sit with our feelings, we can listen to them without judgment. By paying attention to our emotions, we can learn from them. We are always experiencing emotions, and they are energy in our bodies that move us to take action.
When we take the time to notice our emotions, we can consciously make better choices and decisions. Often, rather than allow ourselves to feel, we engage in activities that keep us busy and do everything possible to avoid feeling. When we sit with our emotions, they lose their power over us, and we realize that we can shift to an emotion that better serves us.
Emotions guide our decisions
As rational and logical as we try to be, we cannot separate our emotions from our choices. Have you ever tried to sway someone’s thinking using just reason, logic or facts? We often think that if our negotiation is rational, the other party can’t disagree, but this line of thinking doesn’t take into account that emotions guide our choices.
The power of awareness of our emotions
Our brains like repetition. We typically respond to situations in a way that is an established habit. Neuroscientist, Joe Dispenza, teaches that if we continue to experience an emotion for hours or days, it will become a mood. Over time, if we stay in that mood, it will become a temperament and eventually a personality trait.
Remember the well-known Cherokee story told by a grandfather to his grandson about having two wolves inside of him? He said to the young boy that one was very angry and filled with other depleting emotions. The other wolf was joyful and had other renewing emotions. The child asked the elder, “Which wolf will win?” He responded, “The one that is fed.”
The good news is that our brains have neuroplasticity; we can rewire our brains and create new responses. We can develop new neuropathways by taking different actions. Draining emotions and renewing emotions move us to make very different actions. Once we accept and acknowledge our emotions, we can use them for our benefit. We can regulate our emotions and reduce stress. We can build resilience and manage our energy.
Lastly, I am offering a complimentary 30-minute Zoom session to anyone experiencing high stress.
About the Author
Stacey Bevill is the founder of Ask and Receive Coaching (now a division of Ask and Receive, Inc), which offers coaching, consulting, custom workshops and presentations that help companies increase their bottom lines by creating an environment that promotes innovation, cooperation, communication, and quality by motivating and inspiring employees. Stacey received her certification from the internationally acclaimed Newfield Network Coaching Institute. She is a board-certified coach (BCC) and is credentialed by the International Coach Federation (ICF), the International Association of Trauma Professionals (CTP), and is a Certified HeartMath® Certified Trainer and Coach. Stacey holds many credentials including a master’s level certification in Marketing Strategy from Cornell, a master’s level certification in Entrepreneurship from the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia, and a bachelor’s degree from Lander University in Greenwood, SC. She and her husband, Bobby, reside in Spartanburg.