I’ll be honest with you. I’m getting tired of looking at my emails. Every other one is from some person or some organization or other telling me about what they’re doing in response to the global pandemic. And really, it’s what they should be doing. It should be a given. Stop telling me you’re doing it. Just do it.
I find myself glued to the news. Unfortunately, that is becoming more and more depressing as the situation seems to be getting worse by the minute. Yesterday morning, I woke to the very sad news that Italy is living through a compound disaster, with the Stromboli volcano having erupted and then caused an earthquake. Poor Italy! Was my reaction. And then I started imagining what the world would look like without an Italy in it. Suddenly Italy became the new Atlantis.
Woah! Stop it, Danielle!
I think staying in isolation is getting to me! I recently returned from a trip to Spain and the South of France and immediately put myself in quarantine, before that even became a thing. I find myself also monitoring my every mood and every physical symptom. Do I have the virus? When will the symptoms appear?
Stop! Just stop! I know better than that. I know that focusing on things on which I have no control is useless and will only make these things loom bigger.
Fear is a powerful emotion. The one emotion at the root of all other emotions. We generally try to avoid thinking about fear. We try to run away from it, which, if you think about it is an oxymoron. We need fear. Fear is what protected our ancestors from predatory animals. It is what created the biological response to either fight or flee. Let’s not run away from the fear itself. Instead, let’s acknowledge that it is there and take just 90 seconds to process our thoughts.
The 90 Second Rule
In 1996, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist, experienced an arterio-venous malformation – a rare type of stroke that bled into the left hemisphere of her brain. As a scientist, Jill was able to observe and gain insight into the working of the brain as her stroke progressed. One of her insights was the 90 second rule, which she describes in Chapter 17 (Own Your Power) of her book: My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey
“I define responsibility (response-ability) as the ability to choose how we respond to stimulation coming in through our sensory systems at any moment in time. Although there are certain limbic system (emotional) programs that can be triggered automatically, it takes less than 90 seconds for one of these programs to be triggered, surge through our body, and then be completely flushed out of our blood stream. My anger response, for example, is a programmed response that can be set off automatically. Once triggered, the chemical released by my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience. Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over. If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run. Moment by moment, I make the choice to either hook into my neurocircuitry or move back into the present moment, allowing that reaction to melt away as fleeting physiology.”
So, when you are feeling fear, or anger, give yourself 90 seconds to let your body do the work it needs to do. Then, you have the choice to continue to wallow in that emotion or to move beyond it.
To move beyond, think about what you can immediately control and what you can at least influence.
That got me thinking about what it is that I can immediately control in my situation of isolation? What can I influence that will help me through these difficult times?
Well, in short, me. I can control how I react. I can control what I do. I can reach out virtually, by phone, by email, by text or by video to all my friends and loved ones and to colleagues and clients. We can stay in touch, connect, commiserate, share and laugh! Oh, yes please, let’s laugh a little.
For some time now, I’ve been talking about how the world is changing. Well, here it is. It’s happening right under our noses. I see this as an opportunity to focus and bring out what is most important, our humanity.
We need to keep this conversation going and not isolate ourselves in our isolation. Try to remember that we are actually practicing physical distancing, not social distancing.
Please reach out if you just want to chat. I’m here for you.
Yours in Reinvention,