“I am fine. Everything is fine.”
Have you uttered that phrase this year while trying to convince yourself that everything really is fine? I know I have! I have spoken it while trying to decipher the best way to navigate all that 2020 has thrown at us including a pandemic, civil unrest, and multiple natural disasters. We say everything is fine in an attempt to keep the status quo but in doing so we set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others.
The way we interact with the world and each other is fundamentally different right now. We are working, learning, and living at home in a way many of us never imagined or predicted. When we leave our homes everything looks different--the plastic barriers, masks, 6-feet of separation, and that underlying collective anxiety that seeps into the air.
We tell our Upstanders that a key component of self-care is to identify and name emotions. A study completed at UCLA by psychology professor Matthew Leiberman indicates that by naming emotions like fear, anger, or confusion we can make the pain feel less intense. Emotions like anger and fear trigger a biological reaction in the brain's amygdala that induces the fight or flight response.
The practice of naming emotions allows us to move past this initial response and we begin to process our emotions. According to Dr. Ornish, "When you take time for your feelings, you become less stressed and you can think more clearly and creatively, making it easier to find constructive solutions."
Humans are hardwired to feel 8 primary emotions: anger, sadness, fear, joy, interest, surprise, disgust, and shame. These emotions are a part of our shared experience and humanity. They exist on different levels and can be experienced individually or collectively.
Did you notice that ‘fine’ is not included?
I am challenging myself to name and share my emotions this week. It wasn’t ‘fine’ that we hosted a Zoom memorial service for my grandma, I was sad and angry. I wasn’t ‘fine’ when I saw the destruction of wildfires in the West, I was fearful.
Take the time to identify, share, and sit with your emotions this week! Support those around you, especially the students in your life, in naming their current experience. It will support our continued resilience and ability to remain Upstanders during these unprecedented times when everything is clearly not fine.