Many of us are struggling. We have been under a constant barrage of stress worrying about COVID-19. We’ve collectively endured 18 long months of anguish. When will it end?
Just when we thought things had returned to normal earlier this summer, we were hit with a painful reminder that we are still not safe, as variants emerged and new cases surged. This turn of events has been jarring for everyone. It makes it impossible to find a feeling of safety when the rules always seem to be changing.
Same Rules, New Results?
I just shared a post on Facebook about the concept of “surge capacity.” The take-away is that we have been in survival mode for far too long. Additionally, in behavioral psychology, there is a phenomenon known as intermittent reinforcement. This is when we are rewarded for our behaviors sometimes, but not always. In the case of the pandemic, we are being told ways to prevent infection that don’t always hold true (i.e. people who have been vaccinated are still getting sick.) Such variable outcomes cause deep-seated fears to take root, as our brains are bombarded with ever-changing information. Under these circumstances, it can feel impossible to know what is true.
I know this feeling all too well. For years, I worked in a job where I was constantly told that our budget was at risk. I kept thinking if I just worked harder and performed better then I wouldn’t have to worry. Yet, regardless of my efforts, or even the positive outcomes of my work, my job never felt secure. Some months I was told that we had too much money and I had to figure out how to spend more. Then, I’d get word of a miscalculation or potential changes in our funding. Suddenly there was not enough money and my job was at risk again. Over and over this pattern cycled. Just when I felt safe, bam – a new potential pitfall emerged setting me on edge again. When the pandemic hit, the lack of security was just too much.
Reclaiming Our Joy
Some of my dear friends and family members are at this same point of burnout. We can only worry and wonder for so long before we have to take active steps to combat the fears. It is at times like this that we have to seek joy in whatever ways we can.
That is why I am committing to posting 9 weeks of blogs focused on helping us all add more joy to our lives. I will cover some of the simple activities that have helped me cope in the midst of difficult times. The blogs will culminate with a printable guide, “33 Ways to Add More Joy to Your Life,” which will be available after 11/11. If you sign up for the Happy Healthy Her community here you will get a Natural Healing E-book now, and I will send the guide to you when it is ready. They are all my free gifts to you!
In the meantime, here are 3 helpful principles for navigating the challenging times we are all experiencing:
#1 – Surrender to the Fear
I know a lot of people declare that they won’t let fear win, or that we can’t be victims of our circumstances. While I respect this somewhat “in your face” approach to fighting fear, I am more of a lover than a fighter. 🙂
As an empath, I have learned that I can’t fight fear. It washes over me, often unexpectedly. Most of the time the fear doesn’t even belong to me, as I am responding to the collective energies that are especially heavy right now. Empaths and those who are highly sensitive to the emotions of others don’t have the luxury of preventing fear from taking hold. Fighting or even preventing it is a losing battle.
The only way to win is to surrender to defeat. I honor that I have a lot of fears and anxieties. I refuse to be criticized or shamed for them. I recognize and welcome these emotions. I even make time for feeling my fears every day as I journal about what is coming up for me. Typically, as I write about my frustrations and worries it takes away their power. I can see in black and white that what I am fearing is out of my control and a waste of energy.
This is something we all need to learn for ourselves. What doesn’t work is others telling us to, “just stop worrying.” That only makes us feel worse. Worry if you must. But, please try to give yourself an outlet for letting it all go. In addition to journaling, tapping on the emotions can help. In tomorrow’s blog, we will talk about how powerful music can be in getting us out of our heads where fear is often taking hold.
#2 – Call on a Higher Power
A vital part of surrender for me has been recognizing that there is a higher order to life. So many things happen that defy logical explanation. Accepting that there is a higher power that I refer to as “the Universe” helps me relinquish control and gain a sense of calm and peace.
When the pandemic was raging and I knew I was burning out, I found myself crying out in the middle of the night. “What do you want me to do?” I was ultimately led to the answer, “Leap and the net will appear.”
That “net” turned out to be the much-needed time that allowed me to process years of manipulation and hurt that I hadn’t fully accepted because I had been too busy just surviving. I ultimately channeled those healing lessons into my book, “Online Dating for Sensitive Women.”
Seeking guidance from outside of myself has taken the pressure off of my overthinking mind. It was one of the most powerful remedies when I was really struggling with anxiety over a decade ago, as I wrote about in “Give it to God.”
Please don’t get hung up by labels. You can call it whatever you want. The key is being able to give up a sense of control to something outside of yourself. It is the most powerful form of freedom I have found. We will discuss ways to harness this powerful force in future blogs.
#3 – Focus Your Attention on Love
Love is the true antidote for fear. In my experience, when you are able to fill your heart with love it seems to crowd out fear. There are multiple ways to raise the love in your life through active meditations, affirmations, and more. Again, we will cover these topics more in-depth in the weeks to come.
For now, simply focus on filling your life with as much love as possible. Start by making a list of all of the things you love, big and small. Are you into nature? Do you love watching comedies? Are you obsessed with cold brew coffee like I am? Even in such difficult times, there are so many things to fall in love with.
Naturally, the people in your life are a great place to start. Put your hand over your heart, breathe deeply into that space, and start to think of all of the people who you love, and who have given you love in your lifetime. Dig deep – think of your kindergarten teacher who always had a warm smile on her face or your childhood best friend who made you giggle. Work your way up to the dearest people (or animals) in your life. As you practice this exercise, I can guarantee you will raise your vibration and crowd out fear’s ability to take hold.
You Are Not Alone
I hope that this has helped you feel just a little bit better. If nothing else I hope you recognize that you are not alone. Those feelings of fear, exhaustion, frustration, anger, and grief are all totally normal. Please stay tuned as we work through this incredibly difficult time to find the glimmers of hope and joy that are always present.
Michelle Gibeault Traub is a health writer, compassionate coach, and the author of Online Dating for Sensitive Women. Her mission is to help women be their best in body, mind & spirit.
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2 thoughts on “Finding Joy in Challenging Times”
I enjoyed your book and this blog seems like a follow up Thank you
Thanks so much for your support Chris! I am thrilled that you liked the book. I want people to know that they are not alone, and that there is always the potential to change life for the better. I hope to be more consistent in posting blogs and even videos (if I can overcome my fear about that). Thanks again for reading and being part of my community.