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  • Dr. Lisa Martin

How to Not Sink


So much has happened in the last 15 months since I last wrote a blog post. Like so many others during this pandemic and period of social unrest, I’ve been working and trying to keep my family physically and emotionally safe.


My work has kept me deeply connected to the emotional arc of individuals, families, and institutions during this time. There has been a constant hum of anxiety and stress over these months but there has also been incredible hope and a reorienting of priorities. Hope for a vaccine, the new administration, the return to normal, and real social justice and change kept us going in our time of isolation. So many of us realized that working from home allowed us more time with our families and ourselves and allowed us to live closer to a more balanced life. Missing our friends and loved ones only made us realize how truly essential they are.


Now as the summer comes to a close with rising rates of the Delta variant and the horrors of Afghanistan on constant loop, many are feeling overwhelmed, angry, hopeless, and afraid. It is like we saw the finish line and now we are learning we have 12 more miles to go.


How do we not sink into despair and tap into our endurance and resilience? Here are a few pieces of advice I’ve gathered from my work on how to navigate this challenging time.


1. Accept this moment

So much of our suffering in life comes from fighting and avoiding truth. Right now, much

is uncertain and outside of our control. We are not done with COVID and there is much

injustice and pain in this world. Sitting with and acknowledging this truth helps us have

more energy to direct to being in the moment and identifying what we can control.


2. Identify your locus of control

There are somethings that we can control. We can send our kids to school with masks,

we can prioritize our family’s health in other ways, and we can work to make change in

our communities. Identify some goals you can work towards and make sure to plan

things to look forward to.


3. Don’t put social justice on pause

There was such a rush of energy after George Floyd’s death, people new to the fight

were out on the streets demanding change. Unfortunately, what I have seen in the past

few months as an anti-racism facilitator is that energy is dwindling. So much of what we

are seeing with COVID has roots in racism, whiteness, toxic masculinity, and wealth and

education inequity. We must continue to fight for liberty and justice.


4. Prioritize your health

Getting physical activity, being connected to your emotions instead of numbing, having

a release for sexual energy, and being connected to any spiritual practice you may have

whether that is about prayer or deep breathing can keep you grounded and relieves

stress. Its hard to begin new practices so start small, accept that your motivation will rise

and fall, and aim to make healthier practices as fun as joyful as possible.


5. Make space for joy and rest

This means putting down the phone for a bit and trying something different. Tap into0

what you loved to do as a kid whether its bike riding, jewelry making, or writing stories

and find ways to engage in that or similar activities now. As a parent I know how hard it

is to find times for rest but teaching kids how to have quiet, mindful, restful moments is

a gift to help them be more regulated and grounded.


6. Get support.

Stay connected to your loved ones. Sometimes in times of stress or sadness we move

away from community instead of toward when it is the one thing that can help us feel

whole again. Also, if you have the means, getting outside support like a therapist or

coach can help you work towards your goals and carve out a space just for you and your

personal growth and healing. Especially if you have lost a loved one during this time,

therapy can help you process and find your path forward. The same goes for

institutions, this is a great time to bring in consultants and trainers. Professional

development opportunities increase morale and help staff feel connected and

committed to the institution. Outside consultants can help you asses your strengths and

challenge areas and finetune strategies for improvement.


The goal here is to keep living and growing. Stay safe, wear a mask, and, barring any medication exclusions, please get vaccinated.

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