Stress Reset + C.U.S.P. for Uncertain Times
The coronavirus pandemic is lasting longer than expected and we no longer have the stability that we are accustomed to. For many of us, the disruption and uncertainty causes great anxiety, as we have been forced out of our comfort zone and into the unknown. It’s important right now that we allow ourselves to process our emotions and grieve our old normality.
In times of crisis, our brains try to process change and it can make us behave in different ways. We might throw ourselves into activity or we may feel overwhelmed, indecisive, agitated or unable to sleep. But the one thing we all have in common is that we’re not alone in feeling this way. Fortunately, there are tools available to us that can help us feel more resilient, less overwhelmed and more able to tackle these challenges. And the best part is – they’re all free!
Join us this week to learn how these tools can help you to create some ease and peace in your daily life. We’ll show you why you have control over what you think and feel, and give you tips on how to cultivate a sense of safety in your own being. This is just one scene in the movie of your life, and taking care of yourself will enable you to cope more effectively through this period.
If you enjoyed the show, please share the podcast with your family and friends, or post a five-star review on iTunes. Rating and reviewing the show helps spread the word, which means less friction and suffering for everyone, and who doesn’t want that?
Why it’s okay to experience a variety of emotions right now and why it’s imperative that you allow yourself to work through them.
How times of crisis may be bringing longstanding stressors to the surface.
Why having structure during times of disruption is important.
The difference between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and how to manage them both.
What C.U.S.P. is and how you can use it to manage through times of crisis.
How to feel comfortable in yourself and the way you are dealing with the crisis.
The Beauty of Conflict for Couples by CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke
CrisMarie: Welcome to The Beauty of Conflict, a podcast about how to deal with conflict at work, at home and everywhere else in your life. Hi, I'm CrisMarie.
Susan: And I'm Susan. We run a company called Thrive, and we specialize in conflict resolution, communication and building strong, thriving teams and relationships. Conflict shows up in our lives in so many ways. Most people, unfortunately, are not very good at handling conflict. Most people have never been taught the right tools for dealing with conflict, and then it leads to unnecessary friction, arguments, passive aggressive emails, tears, hurtful comments, stuck-ness, all kinds of things we don't want. We're on a mission to change all of that.
CrisMarie: We've spent the last 20 years teaching our clients how to handle conflict in a whole new way. We're here to show you that conflict doesn't have to be scary and overwhelming. With the right tools, you can turn a moment of conflict into a moment of reinvention. Conflict can pave the way into a beautiful new system at work, a new way of leading your team, a new way of parenting, a new chapter of your marriage where you feel more connected than ever before. Conflict can lead to beautiful things.
CrisMarie: Hi, I'm CrisMarie and today's episode is really to help you support yourself in this time of uncertainty, change during this quarantine, which we, you know, we thought would be over by now and we'd be talking to you about something else. But instead we've actually been pulled forward and compelled to support people during this time because, you know, we wrote the beauty of conflict, the beauty of conflict for couples. And conflict is a situation where you're bumping into uncertainty and it's very threatening for many of us. Well, crisis, conflict and change all have that same sort of uncertainty, we want it to go away. And right now, it's not going away. This is our new normal what we're facing now.
Susan: And I know I hear a lot of people talking about when can I go back to work? When are things going to get back to the way they were before? I'm uncomfortable. And the reality of it is we don't know when those things are going to happen. And we are a culture that has been pretty used to not having this level of disruption occur.
We usually have felt pretty entitled to be able to have a job, to be able to have a choice about whether we go outside or not. And right now, we're being asked to do things very differently. And that does send I think each of us in different ways into a state of uncertainty, discomfort, the world has indeed cracked just a bit. The foundation is cracked.
CrisMarie: But we can cultivate. You can cultivate. We each can cultivate a sense of safety inside of our own skins, and so often we're looking for our circumstances that I have a job, that I have money to create my level of safety. But today, we're going to talk about one, the context of what's going on; why what you're feeling makes perfect sense and how you can actually cultivate a sense of safety in your own being, even while so much is uncertain around you.
Susan: And we have been doing so much work with organizations, teams, presentations around these specific topics. And we just thought, well, we're going to come back and do another podcast in this because we think that there's some really valuable information to continue to get out there.
CrisMarie: It actually is a gift because so much of my personal coaching work that I've done, I've gotten coached on and I coach people on, is now actually the subject of all the coaching that I'm doing, whether it's with executives or individual people, because we're all trying to manage this situation inside of ourselves.
Susan: So what we want to start off by talking about is simply the change cycle in general. Now, a lot of this work comes from the work of Virginia Satir, but the idea that we were prior to all of this in some form of a status quo. And each of us that may have looked different, but then some foreign elements came into play, the virus, the quarantine, physical distancing, working from home, economic challenges. Those are all unique foreign elements that have come in.
CrisMarie: And when a foreign element comes into our system the first thing I know I did and maybe you'll all recognize is deny it. So I kept thinking, you know, that's over in China. It's really not going to happen or that's in New York or Seattle. It's not going to come to Montana where we are. And so there's this first stage of denial. It's not really that important. It's not going to affect me - until it does. So there's this kind of bargaining and resistance until I cannot make sense of it anymore. And I'm plunged into this next phase, which is chaos.
Susan: And the reality of it is we've been going through that multiple times. Like I know right now people are in resistance around whether we should start going back to doing the same things we used to do. They agreed to their two weeks, the bargaining, and now we found out it's probably going to go on possibly till May, possibly to June. No one knows. There's not solid evidence of what we actually should be doing right now. And so there's all sorts of resistance and people fighting about what should happen and what shouldn't.
CrisMarie: And in this stage of chaos. One thing you need to know is when you get plunged into that, there's a lot of discombobulation because you're not in the old-world, you're not the new world and your productivity goes down. So if you're expecting to, you know, write the next best novel or, you know, organize everything, maybe you can in some ways, but really, you're not getting things done as well as you think you are. You know, we will hit a stage of integration and come to a new status quo, but we probably are not going to go back to the way it was. And that creates grief in us. So processing that is important.
Susan: So what happens when you're in a 24/7 quarantine? You know, there you are. The truth is, often what people think are the stressors you're experiencing are new. Usually that's not the case. Those stressors have been underneath the surface for a long time. And with all this disruption, things that maybe you didn't pay attention to or sort of busied yourself over before are starting to surface. It's kind of like when the ocean gets rough and the stuff down in the deep, dark depths come up to the surface.
CrisMarie: So if you were worried about money before, you're probably really worried about money now. If you're worried about or you had trouble with your relationship, your relationship is probably more strained right now. Those things that were kind of annoyances seem really loud at this place. And in a crisis, we tend to do two things either over function and get really busy or under function.
So some people that I've been coaching said, oh, you know, I get really motivated. And then, oh, my gosh, I just want to lay in bed and collapse because in a crisis we do weird things. We might feel restless, talk faster, have trouble sleeping, taking frantic action. You might be arguing more, picking fights or even scatterbrain. One client...
Susan: Well, actually, it wasn't a client. I will say at this time, I actually one time just took the toothpaste and put it on as lotion. Not a good idea. And it wasn't until I was like, why this is so sticky? And then I came and looked and there I realized I had put toothpaste on my legs to deal with the dry rash, dumb things that people do.
CrisMarie: So another of this was a client got into the shower with their glasses on. Another woman put formula in her coffee. You know, you wind up doing things, you might misspell things or say things that don't make much sense because our brains are actually struggling right now in this whole thing. Other things people struggle with is making decisions. Or we might feel teary and overwhelmed or desperate for information or just wanting to stay in bed.
Susan: You may also think you are being really productive because you're kind of going 24/7 and you've got 50 million projects done. But the people around you may be noticing that a lot of times your jittering your hands or, you know, you may not be as productive as you actually think you are.
CrisMarie: And the good news is, if you're having any of these reactions, it makes you - you're not alone and it makes you a hundred percent normal, functioning, emotional human being as we are. So you're not crazy. Just the science behind this is we all have this part of our brain called the amygdala. And it's an ancient part that helped us survive when saber-toothed tigers were attacking us.
And it's kind of got just two settings on or off and on is oh my gosh, there's a bear or saber-toothed tiger. And we go into a sympathetic response, which is fight, flight, freeze or faint. And in this, our body is flooded with cortisol, adrenalin and our breathing gets shallow, our blood drains from our brain and goes into our arms and limbs to help us survive. But those chemicals pumping through our system are responsible for all those reactions we were talking about. It makes us less productive. We think we're being productive, but actually our focus is more narrowed, we're focused on survival and we're not looking at the big picture or really even thinking about other people in many cases.
Susan: Now, I think we've probably addressed this before, but we'll say it again. You know, anxiety is more contagious well one it's more contagious than this virus. It's actually more contagious than almost anything. So your body on some level is reacting to the level of anxiety that is up in the world around you, even if your situation may not be warranting that much has changed.
CrisMarie: And when your body is reacting, your brain is compromised and you're not as productive, you're missing things and you're really coming from a place of fear. You know, you're in this compromised position if you're really black and white thinking like always or never or right/wrong and you're trying to get control. You might be in frantic action or collapsing. Those are sure signs that your brain is compromised.
Susan: I mean, how this shows up for me is that I mean, I see things like we have this wonderful neighborhood email chain that, you know, we're all talking to each other, but someone on the email chain thinks we should go back to work now. And in my mind, I'm like, what? You are not paying attention. And I get right into my right/wrong about it. And I actually noticed that I was not the only one, because there were a whole series of things on both sides of that fence shooting back and forth in our neighborhood kindness project that did not seem particularly kind. And what I realized as I saw it was we were all kind of caught in a right/wrong whichever side of that fence, whether we should go back to work yet or whether we shouldn't. We were right in the midst of it, which was a sign that I was in my reaction.
CrisMarie: Because when your sympathetic nervous system is on, you're in that fight, flight, freeze or faint and your reference, you don't have as much blood in your brain. And your reference is really what does this mean to me? And you're focused on the past and it's not very effective. And we want you to actually turn off that system and activate your parasympathetic, which is the rest, and digest. And when that happens, your brain is flushed with blood, which brings it back online, you can tell mine's not back online right now. And you can see the bigger picture and you're more intuitive, you're actually considerate of others, you're present and you're also thinking about the future. So it's a much bigger frame of reference.
Susan: And the real thing to know is that you're going to toggle back and forth. Yeah. And that in this situation of the pandemic, things are going to go because so much is uncertain. And if you think about our broader context, we had stability before. We do not have it now. It is in constant flux. And so that level uncertainty is not within your control at this moment.
CrisMarie: And because so many things are out of your control. William Bridges was a grandfather of change and transition, which is very applicable right now. And he talked about when something changes, which we've had, many things change. There's a three-stage process, a psychological reorientation to the new way. It's called the transition. And there's an ending phase, which is usually about what do you need to let go of and grieve. Then there's this in-between phase. And you're not in the old world, you're not in the new world. And that's really where we are and kind of the anchor to help all of us, you, through this stage is focusing on this acronym called The Cusp. What can you control? What do you need to understand? What support do you need and what's your purpose right now? What's your short-term purpose? Because your long-term purpose has been upended. So how can you create a purpose that anchors you right now?
Susan: So one of the easiest things and I know that this is probably, hopefully you're already doing this where you can't get to control if you're working from home is you can create some structure. And these are things like make your bed. All Navy SEALs do this, apparently.
CrisMarie: It gives them a win for the day. You've already known you've accomplished something when you've made your bed.
Susan: Shower and dress. I mean, it's easy now to be talking about how I don't have to do any of that. But it's actually helpful if I do. Create a schedule and don't just do that solo if you have other people in the house, look at the schedule together, plan meals, sit down and eat them and limit your actual social media. Do the things that bring you connection and joy not just tracking everything.
CrisMarie: Yeah, don't focus on too many news outlets because that will activate that primitive brain of yours that says “bear, bear, bear, bear.” So it really stimulates that part of your system, but you can actually intervene at your physiology and settle your nervous system, settle that part of your brain. And if you think about your system, your physical system, emotional, mental, spiritual system, it's kind of like this box with all our experiences in them. And it can feel really tight, especially when we have emotions that come up or thoughts that come up that scare us. And so because it's so tight, we tend to react. And that can be, you know, all those symptoms we were talking about. We want to give you tools that help you expand your container, which will make you more resilient to these changes that are coming up and feel less overwhelmed by them or crazy in that process.
Susan: And the first piece of this is a free resource we've always had. We may not have always used as well as we could, which is breathing. And that's really taken that time for deep breaths, long exhales and doing that on a regular basis. And, you know, if you've been following us, you know that it really takes two minutes of this to shift your system from being in that high charge state to being in a more parasympathetic system.
CrisMarie: And I have to say, I use this one because I have the trouble sleeping experience. And when I woke up, I did deep inhales and a long exhale, like I was blowing out candles. And I did it for two, three minutes. And it did shift me from that fight or flight energy down so that I could go back to sleep. So it really does work and it's so easy and accessible. The next piece is another free resource. It's just actually shifting your focus. Our brains tend to be focused on what can I control, what am I doing out there? At least my brain does. And it's very different when I actually bring my attention just down to my feet. You can do this right now, put both feet flat on the floor and bring your awareness down to them. Maybe wiggle your toes or swipe your feet so you can feel the bottoms of them.
Susan: And if you're out for a run, you can just do that even in your running shoes. I tend to listen to podcasts when I'm running. But I love it when I get to something like this because I am reminded because I can just run without even feeling my feet. So it is really helpful when I'm reminded to breathe deeper and feel my feet landing on the ground.
CrisMarie: And if you're sitting, you can feel your feet and your seat and feel the support underneath you and just see if you can sink into your body more because we tend to be so much in our brains and our minds, we forget we have this resource that can be helpful to us if we connect to it in the right way.
Susan: Another thing you can do is listen to music and move. I mean, that one's pretty basic. I don't know that we need to say more about it.
CrisMarie: Well dance breaks. I mean, we did it right before we got on this podcast. We've done it when we did three presentations yesterday before each one. You know, it immediately shifts my energy and I'm often resistant, like, no, I don't want to do a dance break. But when I start to listen to the music and move my body, my energy changes.
Susan: I will say on that note, it does help to have your favorite tunes for different types of emotions. Like I have, I won't say what the name of it is, it would be an explicit podcast and I'm not going to. But I do. I like to have my angry music, which is just like... and it could just be drums. But I like some way you really get some language in it too. And sometimes I actually feel better now. I don't play that when there are kids in the room or any of that. But it actually helps me move that energy.
CrisMarie: The other piece is this thing about your senses. Your senses help you connect to your physical body. So having diffusing oils or putting on a scented candle if you have flowers in the house, that's another thing that you can look at that's quite pretty. And also physical contact. We are human beings in the way we soothe ourselves is with physical contact holding somebody's hand. Having somebody give you a hug. Now, if you're alone, you might have an animal. So picking up a dog or a cat. Easy. Quick way to help you soothe your system. If you don't if you are all alone, taking a bath a warm bath is another way to get that same tactile sense of feeling safe in your system.
Susan: So, again, this is, you know, exercise daily. I don't know how many people I've talked to are telling me they haven't gotten up from their desk and they've only taken five steps and they haven't gone outside. And, you know, exercise is important. And so it is a good time to practice exercising. The one thing I will say is someone who can get into addictive pattern around my exercise. This is, you know, because right now you might be doing your yoga with young children right there with you who are disrupting your yoga. And what I can say is that this does not have to be like a hardcore I'm going to save the day workout. This can be like I'm actually going to really pay attention and enjoy this exercise and movement.
CrisMarie: And if you kind of implement some of these physical things to shift your physiology and your nervous system, you're going to feel better. And it's better to do these things like five minutes a day, ten minutes a day, rather than only doing them once a week for an hour. So cultivating that ongoing sense of safety as you're going through your day is really powerful. Now, some other things is you do have control over what you think and what you feel. And so it's so easy to get into obsessive worry, especially if you're, you know, applying to the payroll protection plan, and then you read on the news, well, they ran out of money, all the people got it or my business is slowing down or I don't know how to actually do sales in this environment.
All those things and one thing about our brains is they have helped us survive. But the way they've done that is they've pumped 80 percent negative thoughts to help us scan for danger. And we have no actual neural pathways that are bringing in the goods. So we have to actually cultivate a sense of being OK, because our circumstances, even though they may not seem neutral, circumstances are neutral. How we respond to them is where we either create suffering or we create ease or peace.
Susan: Here or like, oh, this just is what it is. I think Victor Frankl had that quote. I don't know what it is, though. It's not on my mind. So I'm not going to force my mind to go through it, but I may come back to me. We did not choose our circumstances, but we can choose how to respond to them.
CrisMarie: Yes. And that's what happens. Our circumstances often unconsciously create our thoughts, which create our feelings. And that drives our actions and our results. That's how we process information. So the circumstance is, the coronavirus, my thought could be I'm going to lose everything. How is that going to make me feel? Pretty darn terrified. And for me, I tend to be an over functioner so I'm going to go into massive action, probably not very inspired or effective action, but I'm going to be thinking I'm doing a lot of different things that are helping me.
And really the result is going to be not very useful. So one tool you can use when you are aware of feeling really anxious is actually put your brain on paper, meaning just stop, take a piece of paper and a pencil and write down the beliefs that you are believing at this time because our brain is spitting out things and we attach to them and we think they're true and they're not necessarily true.
So write them down, just brain dump them down and pick the one that's creating the most like, oh my gosh, this is really true. I am suffering over it. Like I'm going to lose everything. Oh my gosh, that seems really scary. And then settle in and do some of that grounding and breathing and ask yourself, is it true and wait for a response. Don't let your quick brain answer it, but respond from a deeper place and then ask yourself, can I absolutely know that this is true? And just wait and see what happens, because a lot of times you might get information from not that fear brain, but a larger part of you that has some more information.
And then what I'm going to invite you to do is pick a more neutral, equally true thought and write that down and put it in front of you. So if I think I'm going to lose everything is it the thought that is scaring you. Maybe it's like I can be of service right now. That is true, my circumstances haven't changed, but I can be of service right now. That makes me feel open and expanded. And the actions that I take is well, like what we're doing, we're doing daily Facebook lives and LinkedIn videos and presentations to help people through this. That keeps me engaged and it's connecting me to more people.
So same circumstances, different thoughts and completely different results. When you do take charge of what your thinking is you will be more response-able and less in your suffering.
Susan: So you can also deal with your emotions in a similar way. And the first thing one, just be aware. Let yourself feel no need to worry about why you're feeling it. We're giving you lots of reasons why you might be feeling grief right now, where you might be feeling a range of emotional things. So you don't need to ask yourself questions when you start to cry.
One thing you can do is say, why does this make perfect sense? Because there's a pandemic. It's all out there, you know, letting yourself grieve. Letting yourself be angry. Letting yourself be creative and vent. And it's important when you're doing that to make sure that you have clear boundaries that, you know, you can have someone witness you, they could even be witnessing you over zoom. They don't have to be right there with you.
CrisMarie: It's funny. Susan used to run an ADH group with these kids who had lots of energy. And because a lot of people don't understand what venting is - but she would create, they'd all have