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“Shouting ‘self-care’ at people who actually need ‘community care’ is how we fail people.” – Nakita Nvalerio
As a modern-day society, “self-care” has become the resounding cliché we offer to those who are struggling to keep their head above water. And yet, when it comes to implementing your own Crisis Protocol …
As human beings, communal support is essential to our sense of safety and security. Especially in seasons of grief, loss, and trauma, it can be easy to slip into withdrawal, hopelessness, and “permanence” (i.e. the belief that the aftershocks of a crisis will last forever).
All this being said, the community care we need may be hard to come by due to distance, health concerns, financial pressure, outside obligations, etc. Which makes this connection and vital human need all the more important.
The problem is, as a society we don’t know HOW to process or respond to grief. This is CRAZY, considering that grief is something that touches every single human life in some way.
Whether you’re on the receiving end of grief (as a crisis happens to you) or on the supporting end of grief (as a crisis happens to someone you know), we are ALL impacted by loss, and we ALL need to learn how to grieve.
And yet, in seasons of crisis, we often don’t know how to ask for help or how to offer it. This is why we worry about saying or doing the wrong thing, or overstepping, or overasking. It’s also why, on both ends of the grief equation, there is so much unnecessary hurt, silence, misunderstanding, loneliness, embarrassment, resentment, and fear. You may have already felt many of these confusing feelings when confronting loss.
During my own journey through grief, I didn’t understand WHY I was responding the way I was or HOW to support others in the midst of their own grief until I read Option B by Sheryl Sandberg.
As Sandberg explains, the fears and feelings we all feel surrounding grief are most likely amplified by the fact that …
“All over the world, there is cultural pressure to conceal negative emotions. In China and Japan, the ideal emotional state is calm and composed. In the United States, we like excitement (OMG!) and enthusiasm (LOL!). As psychologist David Caruso observes, ‘American culture demands that the answer to the question “How are you?” is not just “Good.” … We need to be “Awesome.”’ Caruso adds, ‘There’s this relentless drive to mask the expression of our true underlying feelings.’ Admitting that you’re having a rough time is ‘almost inappropriate.’”
On a GOOD day, this stigma around sharing our real emotions often leads to isolation—as we keep ourselves hidden from being fully seen and fully known.
But in order for us to experience the communal support we truly need, this cycle has to be broken. Not in a future crisis. Not when our grief deepens more than anyone else’s. But here and now.
Can we still take breaks from social media? → 100%.
Can we still value our alone time? → Absolutely.
But for us to be able to experience true community and support, we need to break this cycle … within OURSELVES.
So where can you start?
- Identify your feelings so you understand where you need support.
You must acknowledge the range of emotions you feel right now—however messy, negative, or “inappropriate” they may be. You may already know what is going on emotionally, or you may be struggling to define your feelings in the midst of this crisis. Wherever you are, it’s never too late to expand this skillset.
Identifying your feelings (as they change from day to day) is an essential part of stabilizing yourself throughout a crisis. Because once you can identify WHAT you are feeling, then you can ask for the support you truly need.
These “four feeling families”—as explained to me by my trauma therapist—are a really good place to start since they give you the power of specificity. Whenever we can identify specific emotions without using general or overarching terms (such as “sad, “mad” or “afraid”), we can uncover the ROOT of our true fear.
Two relevant examples:
- Overarching Feeling: “I am mad at my friends right now”
- Specific Feeling: “I am disappointed and hurt that my friends aren’t taking COVID-19 as seriously as I am.”
- Root Fear: “I love my friends and my fear is that they will come to harm or unknowingly harm someone else around them.”
- Overarching Feeling: “I am afraid we’re overspending.”
- Specific Feeling: “I am anxious and panicky because we are making less than we used to and I don’t know if there’s going to be enough money this month.”
- Root Fear: “My fear is that we won’t be able to pay rent unless we go into debt OR that we’ll hurt our credit and delay our long-term goals of home ownership.”
All this to say, once we understand our own feelings and our root fear, it makes it easier for others to understand what we’re really going through AND how they can help.
Which brings us to the last (and most important) part …
- Start asking for the support you need
It’s absolutely essential that you seek out support in crisis, and it’s absolutely possible that you will find it. When given the opportunity, people will show up. They will help. They will do what they can to support you.
Our cultural programming tells us that asking for help means we are “too much” or “too needy” or “too much of a burden,” but this is NOT true. Once we break this cycle of guilt and shame within our own lives by opening up and asking for help, we can show others how to break this cycle within their lives too.
So in the midst of this crisis (or any other cycle of trauma, grief, and loss), whether you are needing support OR giving support, you can exemplify WHAT a crisis support system should really look like.
In this way, “community care” may start with you … but it won’t end with you.
- Read this if you need more support identifying your feelings.
- Share what you’ve learned about grief and trauma with your safe person(s) and ask them if they’d be willing to check-in on you over the next few weeks/months. We recommend a simple daily text message with the question, “How are you feeling today?” or “How are you feeling right now?” This question is neutral (i.e. it’s not influencing what you should or shouldn’t feel) and it’s time-specific (i.e. it makes it easier for those in crisis to answer because the overarching question, “How are you?” is too broad and impossible to answer as grief is constantly shifting and changing from day to day and hour to hour).
- You can ask someone to check-in on you via text, phone, or video call. A few examples:
- “Could you send me a little check-in text over the next few days? I’m really struggling with my mental health and feeling [insert specific feeling] because [insert specific crisis].”
- “I’ve been really missing you! Can we hop on a Zoom or FaceTime call today or tomorrow? I haven’t shared this with anyone else, but I’m really struggling with [insert specific crisis].”
- Based on what you’re struggling with right now and what you need, ask for help from the safe people in your life. If you don’t ask, they don’t know.So please, please, please make the ask.
- As your capacity increases, start using these same grief techniques to support, love, and help others in return. Sending check-in text messages (as outlined above), making time for Facetime/Zoom dates, getting coffee/food sent to their house, dropping off something you know they need, helping to alleviate financial pressure, etc., will go a LONG ways.
- For additional ideas, the Option B team has put together lots of new resources, including:
You’ve now completed Phase 1 of the Crisis Protocol!
Now that you’ve successfully stabilized your nervous system, cared for your physiological needs, created a plan for financial, physical, and mental safety, and asked for the support you need …
It’s time (and you’re ready) to transition into Phase 2: Stabilizing your business.
Disclaimer: None of the information provided in this guide constitutes financial, legal, or medical advice. For complete disclaimer, please review our terms and conditions.