Losing your shit is most inconvenient. Especially when people are depending on you. The panic and fear become amplified—when you’re well aware that you’re supposed to be the person who knows what’s going on—and you don’t know what’s going on.
I’m writing to you as a (life/progress) coach, who is in the midst of such a storm ‘o shit.
And it’s super uncomfortable. Initially, I debated the merit of even sharing about this right now. Usually I wait until the storm has cleared before sharing such truthy truth.
And yet. I’m writing to you anyway, because I think it’s important to remind myself and all of you that we are a human people. We typically loathe uncertainty and reach for anything that feels comfortable. We want to appear like our shit is together on Facebook and disappear into our distractions so we don’t have to face what we’re feeling.
What I’m feeling is afraid. Panicky. Anxious in a way I haven’t felt in years.
You guys: This is really inconvenient when you’re a leader.
I can only imagine that it’s really inconvenient when you’re a parent. Or a teacher. Or a law enforcement professional. Really—any person who is the designated leader/expert/person in charge.
What the hell does one do when overwhelmed by anxiety? When you’re supposed to be reassuring your people that it’s all going to be OK?
What are the emergency operating instructions for adulting when you feel like a scared kid?
While I don’t think there’s one right answer, I’m happy to share how I get through.
P/S I like to borrow from nautical metaphors, despite having no knowledge of sailing whatsoever. If it’s factually inaccurate, please forgive me. I already have.
1 // Summon your Captain
How I define your Captain: I believe that all of us have an inner Captain—an aspect of ourselves that operates from love. It’s the part of us that stays calm no matter how stormy shit gets, who knows what to do in an emergency, and who is brave, tough, and kind. Our inner Captain is someone we want to have around. We feel safer in their presence.
How I summon it: So as I’m in the midst of this storm of anxiety and upset, I call upon my Captain. I use my imagination to connect to that part of my self that knows it’s all going to be OK. My Captain has weathered many storms, survived them all, and come through wiser for it. Its presence feels like a deep knowing. And it reassures me.
What it’s like: Indulge me with the phrasing here, but if you were to imagine an internal communication from your Captain, it might be something like:
“Sweetheart, this is your Captain speaking. I know you’re feeling tossed about. I know you’re overwhelmed by what’s going on in the world. I know you’re scared. I’m here to help navigate. We’re going to find the best way to ride this out.”
Just acknowledging and naming the truth of what we’re experiencing feels like relief. Which brings us to the next step.
2 // Find a safe haven
How I define a safe haven: In this context, a safe haven is any environment that provides a bit of healthy respite. It could be a coffee shop or a bathroom or your couch. It could be in a church or on a bike or at a beach. It’s any place you can choose to be, where you can take a break from the storms of uncertainty and upset. Find multiple safe havens—for when you’re at work, at home, or any other place you find yourself.
How I find them: I keep an awareness for safe havens as I go about my day. It can be a specific place (like a bathroom) or a spacious place (like going for a walk). Don’t worry about doing it right. It doesn’t need to be fancy or pretty. I’ve found safe haven by wandering the aisles at a grocery store.
Just use your intuition to move to a space that feels better.
What it’s like: You know you’ve found a safe haven when it feels like relief.
It feels like you can breathe easier. Like you’ve set down something heavy.
For you have. Anxiety, panic, and confusion can weigh a lot. Choosing to move yourself to a safe haven is excellent self-care. When you’re able to breathe, self-soothe, and have some room to think, you’ll be able to anchor yourself.
With practice, this becomes much easier—it’s a skill like anything else. Your Captain is there to help you navigate.
3 // Drop anchor
How I define your anchor: When you’re in the midst of shit-losing, it’s really important to ground yourself—or as I like to say, drop anchor. It’s a practice where you consciously reconnect to what you know is true. It’s a way of being with yourself and communicating with yourself so that you can find your footing again. I suppose it’s also a way of having self-command as you ride this shit-storm out.
How I drop anchor: Once I’ve summoned my Captain and found safe haven, I drop my anchor by taking a deep breathe. I get as physically comfortable as I can and sit still. Sometimes I write in a journal, sometimes I tap, sometimes I speak out loud to myself, and sometimes I just affirm the truth in my own head.
What it’s like: It’s like choosing to become the person that you most need in the moment. It’s tapping into a self-soothing and comforting that no one else can give you. For me, it goes something like:
“Even though I feel panicked right now and I don’t know how I’m going to do this, I’ve been able to find my way before. Even though I’m afraid of what’s going to happen, I’m willing for this to go better than I’m expecting. Even though I feel alone, I know there are a lot of people who love me and believe in me. Even though I hate how this feels, I know that it’s OK for me to feel it. In this moment, I’m safe.”
I can actually feel more grounded and anchored in my body. I imagine it has something to do with the body’s parasympathetic response, but I often feel tired once I’ve anchored in. I give myself permission to surrender to storm, for I’ve made a safe space for myself to ride it out.
It took me years to learn how to do this. It took surviving multiple major depressive episodes, a whole of of therapy, recovery and reading. And it was painful.
The blessing of surviving such storms and feeling such pain is that life has taught me there’s something brighter on the other side. Even though I’m still riding out the current storm, it doesn’t mean something’s wrong. It doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be happening. It doesn’t mean that I’ve fucked things up.
It simply means that I’m a human person, experiencing the tides of life.
As inconvenient and uncomfortable as it is to navigate storms—especially when you’re a leader and have people depending on you—I do think they serve us.
It’s within these storms that we grow and learn and develop the necessary strength for whatever lies ahead.
I’m looking forward to that. It’s way more fun.
And yet, I am safely anchored in this one I’m weathering right now. I’m taking life one next right step at a time, one day at a time.
I don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. And I don’t have to know.
I am not in charge of the weather.
It’s such a relief.
P/S Did a short Facebook Live video on why I think it feels so uncomfortable and upsetting to lose our shit.
P/P/S See other Facebook Live chats (this was only a mini one) on the pragmatically titled Facebook Live page; you can also sign up to be alerted for future chats. My Dears: Look at US! We're so current and in the know. #BOOM