You, Maslow + A Pandemic
So, how ya doing?
You might be fine, understanding with a clear, level head that this will pass. And that as humans, we’ll figure it out together. The new normal will be changed in ways we can’t imagine just yet, but trying to figure that out today is a fool’s errand. Instead, you’re living in the moment, washing your hands, attempting to enjoy the time at home (unless you have kids, and then you’re just trying to stay sane), practicing social distancing, and bringing loads of compassion and kindness to everyone you interact with (from a safe distance, of course).
Or that could sound like a pipe dream and you’re riding the pendulum of feelings from blissful ignorance to paralyzing fear, moments of unbridled joy to painful loneliness – sometimes experiencing all of these things before you’ve even had your first cup of coffee.
We’re all in this new, uncharted territory together, and it’s hard not to get swept up in the news, hot takes, theories about our future, and “see 10, do 10, give 10” challenges (I’ve done enough push-ups, THANK YOU INSTAGRAM).
It should come as no surprise we can’t control much of what’s going on outside in the world around us. I’ll admit, I’m a control enthusiast, and a global pandemic doesn’t bring out my best qualities. I’m honestly curious to know if it brings out anyone’s best qualities.
One thing we can (attempt) to control in this ever-changing world is what’s going on inside us: how we’re treating ourselves. It feels inauthentic to call it ‘self care’ – these are not panda-face-mask-and-glass-of-wine times. Think more of “are my basic, psychological needs being met” kind of care. Let’s instead call it self-compassion?
Remember Abraham Maslow, the American psychologist? He had a pretty great hierarchy of needs that we can focus on to get us invested in our new self-compassion routine.
Starting at the foundation, have you had a good meal? Are you hydrated? Go drink some water; this blog will be here when you get back. Are you warm/cool enough? And, likely harder to say “yes” to – are you rested? Are you taking time away from your screens, away from the news, understanding this is all new to all of us and you’re encouraged to take a break? We’re in a marathon that none of us have trained for, and that means we need to rest.
What can a break look like right now? Go for a walk, watch Too Cute on Hulu (a series dedicated to puppies and kittens that *will* make you “aw”), take a nap, or just close your eyes and focus on your breath.
If you’re crushing it on the physiological needs – amazing! A lot of folks are struggling to meet those right now, so as you go about whatever your new day-to-day looks like, approach coworkers, neighbors, family members, etc. with the grace and kindness you’d want if you were a little hangry (hungry + angry), dehydrated, hot-angry (another form of hangry we know all-too-well in the south), and haven’t slept in days.
Next, are you feeling safe and secure? Not just physically, but hopefully, you’re in a very safe and secure place emotionally, too.* The economy and constantly changing stock market (yes, those are different things) are giving many businesses a scare, which even with the best leadership is leading to widespread job insecurity.
This insecurity, lack of safety is the easiest place to just get stuck in fear. In an effort to have some self-compassion, there are a few things you can do to get past this inertia.
First, if you think it’d help, try a tele-therapy app, like TalkSpace. Sometimes just talking about your fears and feelings have a great way of getting you unstuck.
Also, if you feel comfortable, communicate with your boss, reach out to other verticals in your organization, see how you can be the best team player. Don’t start working 80 hour weeks (remember that whole “rest” part from above), but being helpful is a wonderful place to feel better, feel like you’re making a difference and moving past the fear.
Belongingness + Love Needs
What are you doing to feel connected? Even if you’re an introvert and you’ve been preparing for physical distancing your whole life, make sure you’re still feeling connected to the world around you, beyond just Slack and social media.
Grab time with a coworker to have coffee and chat. As we’ve transitioned to fully remote working, our offices have set up “How was your weekend?” meetings on Monday to take 30 minutes to connect with each other because it’s what we would normally do. Are they awkward at times? Yes. Are they needed? Also yes. We’ve also transitioned to virtual happy hours and are starting a series of MC Cribs, where we tour each other’s houses once a week on Google Hangouts. These little, itty bitty things can make such a big difference.
And for what it’s worth, consider that even if you’re around your roommate/partner/family all day doesn’t mean it’s quality, connected time. Make time for that. If you’re riding solo, make a point to set up Google Hangout dates, Facetime friends and family members. By all means, check in on your extrovert friends. They are hurting right now.
If you’re feeling a bit lost—like nothing matters and you can’t focus enough to get anything done—that’s ok right now. Take the time you need to make sure those bigger needs are getting met, and when you’re ready, start checking off some lists.
As a control enthusiast, it’s also no surprise I’m a big fan of lists. Make one for all the things you want to do in this new era of time at home, then refer back to this list when you find yourself 7 episodes into Real Housewives of New York as you mindlessly play sudoku on your phone and realize that’s not the healthiest way of coping.
- Take a professional development course – so many are free right now and can give you a sense of security about your job-related skills. Udemy has plenty of courses on sale, Yale has their The Science of Wellbeing course up for free currently (along with 450+ other Ivy League courses), and Skillshare is an affordable way to learn something new. You can also dive into dedicated to COVID-19 webinars with this Data Visualization Series by TechChange. Want to try your hand at coding? General Assembly has you covered. Or if you want to explore your entrepreneurial side, edX has “Enabling Entrepreneurs to Shape a Better World” for free. This might look like a lot, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
- Get in your kitchen – make sure you’re feeding yourself the good stuff, but also, stress baking is real and very therapeutic. You can even get wild and try something new like making a sourdough starter. I’ve been there, failed at that, trying a new one this weekend(updated, failed again). It’s just flour and water and magic witchcraft. But it gives me something to figure out.
- Exercise – many gyms are offering free online workouts. If you don’t have a full Crossfit set up in your garage, grab a backpack and load it up with bags of rice and canned goods and get to your squats, lunges and what not. It’s also good for your brain and can boost your serotonin (happy hormone) levels.
- Do something for someone else – donate to a cause you’re passionate about (even $5 will make you feel great), use some of that stress baking and drop some cookies off on a neighbors porch. As an organization, we want to help nonprofits by offering free (no strings attached, selfishly it makes us feel good to just help right now) office hours. Sign up here.
- Get creative about your business – you might not be in sales, but take a look at the skills and resources you have to help your organization do good stuff. Make yourself useful, get active on LinkedIn, share your org’s social posts.
Maslow had a lot of hopes and dreams for level five, self-actualization, but he didn’t create his hierarchy in the uncertain times of a global pandemic. Cut yourself some slack and don’t worry about that right now. You have enough on your self-compassion checklist to keep you hydrated, educated and tending to your very real, basic needs.
*If you are in an unsafe physical/emotional situation where you’re staying, visit www.thehotline.org to call or chat from a representative from the National Domestic Violence Hotline.