Collective anxiety

Living in the Times of Collective Anxiety

“Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.”

~Lynn Ungar

Times of Collective Anxiety

So much is going on in our fragile world.  For the past few days, collective anxiety keeps increasing. But along that line, something else happened.  What changed is how people started to engage together. Not only online but in the local communities. 

Their outlook altered, and their mission shifted to a whole new level. From looking for ideas to help and to assist each other. To provide some additional support services for small businesses. Museums and libraries gave free access to virtual tours or free eBooks.

Authors and artists shared their time online reading books for kids, engaging them in drawing, or singing. Musicians are performing and live-streaming concerts in their homes. Restaurants offer free food delivery to the elders. The list is long, and if you pay attention to these acts, they will bring incredible warmth to your heart.

Someone said that we are closer to God (higher power or Creator) in times of the unknown and the collective fear we are experiencing might serve as an opportunity. Opportunity to look deeply within and befriend our primal nature.

I know, it’s easier said than done, especially since we are flooded with scarcity from all possible angles. But death and illness are part of our life, and they both serve as great reminders that despite where we find ourselves, we are part of a bigger picture and that there is something within us that can truly guide us in the most challenging times.

As much as fear is leading the world situation, it feels we are invited to take a step back and reexamine our values, our priorities and perhaps engage creative aspects of ourselves. When considering that road, we might recognize that the biggest fear might become our greatest gift. We might become witnesses to simple acts of kindness and compassion.

Yes, some are driven by selfishness and greed or feel scared and lonely. Those who are stuck in abusive homes with no food or care. Some of those fears are justified.  But precisely for the sake of those people, we should keep the hope alive, to keep the goodness and kindness circulating. To share the care and loving empathy and to not engage in the collective panic.

Uncertainty is the main reason for experiencing anxieties

Times of uncertainty are the main reason for experiencing anxieties. These, in turn, can block our reasoning, compassion and creativity. But on the other hand, we do have the capability to at least keep our anxieties under control. One of the exciting tools was developed by Professor John Kabat-Zin in his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program.

Anxieties can be compared to a wave of strong fearful emotions, that are inundating you all at the same time. When that happens, the idea is to stop for a moment what you are engaged in. Just stop, like you would be pushing a stop button on the video. Take a few deep breaths and bring your awareness to the present moment and notice the feelings that you are experiencing. By bringing your attention here and now, you will be able to slow down your inner flow allowing you to become calmer.

Another interesting approach is introduced by Pema Chodron, the noted Buddhist teacher. She explained that the way to overcome fear and anxieties is to feel them and to be with them.

Pema says that “when you learn to smile at your fear, to be with your fear, you become an authentic friend to yourself, and thereby develop confidence.” This confidence will not mean that you conquer the virus that is spreading around, but that if necessary, you will be there for yourself and others, no matter what comes your way. You can only share what you overcame in yourself.

So, let’s keep our common sense and our hearts open and let Mother Nature take a deep breath. Our families and friends need us more than before, show them your support in not allowing anxieties and fear to enter your heart. Perhaps this is the time of renewal. Time of restoration of our hearts and an invitation to approach life and death with compassion and awareness.

Warm wishes