Societal and Mental Wellbeing: Remaining Nimble and Flexible in a Changing Environment

Author: Shamis Pitts

I was wondering when I would be compelled to sit down and write about the importance of societal wellbeing, i.e., the ability to actively participate in a thriving community, culture and environment. Well, there is no time like the present. The past three weeks have been playing out like scenes from a movie. COVID-19, aka the novel coronavirus, has sucked the air (no pun intended) out of our collective consciousness. Initially, I was pretty calm about it, listening to the facts. I was determined not to cancel my upcoming vacation and was still moving out and about in New York City.

I am an entrepreneur, so when I am not working from home, I am at medium to large events and one-on-one meetups so that I can learn from and connect with others. This has been an important part of my social wellbeing practice. (Don’t isolate myself!) I live a healthy lifestyle so I figured that as long as I stayed committed to my healthy mind-body practices, I would be good to go. I continued to meet with my personal trainer (sanitizing equipment and being mindful of touching my face, of course) and meeting in-person with my septuagenarian therapist because he said he would make the call if he didn’t think it was safe to do so. To give myself more space to process my feelings about everything that is happening, I have continued with my journaling and meditation.

What is Happening to Me? Our Society?

As more information came out in the media, I limited the number of emails I sent last week to allow folks the space to navigate whatever was in front of them, i.e., business continuity planning, addressing school closures and changing child care needs. Apparently, other folks were doing the same thing because the majority of emails I received last week had “COVID-19” in the subject.

Why Did I Start to Go Into Panic Mode Last Friday?

Well, having CNN on in the background all day every day did not help. I am a self-proclaimed “high information person”; however, there is a point of diminishing returns and I reached my peak. The anxiousness started creeping into my gut. I knew that it was time to unplug. My family seemed annoyed that I had not yet cancelled my vacation plans due to my past health issues. My husband and I finally put the kibosh on that. I started receiving insider information on the state of COVID-19 in NYC and ordered my husband to go to Costco with the words, “And do not come back empty handed!” He waited 45 minutes in line and witnessed people fighting over carts. What is happening to me? Our society?

How Did I Reconnect with Peace?

Since I am a leadership coach, I believe that it is important for me to stay uber connected to my health and wellbeing so I can be in a position to support others in a powerful way. So, after I decided that it was time for me to mentally shift, I wondered, “How can I support others right now?” I reached out to my clients, past and present, to ask them if they needed support. I received a request from a coaching company to offer my coaching services pro bono and I accepted the invitation. I reached out to a close friend who is a dean and key influencer at a local public high school to connect. I recognize that the current landscape has created significant challenges for working parents, so I am sharing resources with them. (I am particularly sensitive to this issue since I do not have children in my home.)

As long as we have a vision of the future state, we can
decide how gaps can be closed and take appropriate action.

I then turned my anxiousness into action. I realized that it would be easier for me to make decisions about how to operate in the world if I assume that I have already been exposed, so I am now practicing social distancing. (No more amazing Shamis hugs. Sorry folks!) I connected with my coaching school community to gain additional insight and resources regarding how to support clients. I focused on completing projects that have been lingering. (I built my general ledger as a gift to myself to celebrate the one year anniversary of my company and am almost complete with my taxes. Yay!) I started coming up with coronavirus jokes. (How many children will be born in the next 12 months will be named Covid or Corona? Hmmm. Too soon?) I still have some fluttering in my gut from time to time. When I feel that, I pause, take a few deep breaths and shift my mood by taking a break or playing some relaxing music.

What Does it Mean to Actively Participate in a Thriving Community in These Times?

The answer to this question, as with everything else, will vary for each of us. Today, on some level, the answer may appear to be, “Disconnect so we all can thrive!”. However, that is looking at the solution in a very binary way. There are SO many people out there supporting us because their jobs call on them to do so – public servants, healthcare and service industry professionals, etc. (And for that, I know that I am grateful! I know you are too.) There are also many people who are now facing a precarious financial situation in the days and weeks ahead. It is important for each of us to reflect on how we can contribute to our communities, environment and society in the midst of coronavirus…in a way that is authentic to each of us, of course.
I am encouraged and inspired when I hear stories reported in the news of love, compassion, kindness, sharing, giving and commitment to the wellbeing of others. We do not hear about them often but they are happening. And I believe that we can all create our own stories of how we have extended a hand to someone else – friend or foe, known or unknown. In times of challenge, gaps are exposed and we have identified many. In our government systems and processes. In our coping mechanisms. As long as we have a vision of the future state, we can decide how gaps can be closed and take appropriate action.

What Can We Learn From This Experience?

This is my perennial question. At the end of this experience, where and how do I want to be? I want to continue learning how to be nimble and flexible in this ever changing environment. Before COVID-19 went viral (again, no pun intended), I had been running on empty, overcommitting and exhausting myself. I realized that I had to slow down and reconfigure how I spent my time. Well, I got my wish! I am in the midst of reprioritizing my work and staying connected with people via technology. I am reflecting on the opportunities in front of me today and being open to how they may look tomorrow.

My question to you is “Where and how do YOU want to be?”

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