Emotional Fortitude

Surviving Covid-19: Emotional Fortitude During Anxious Times

Emotional Cluster*ck.

Emotionally disconnected.
Depressively unattached. 
Yet, somehow inspired. 
Odd how that works. 

I turn on the news.

The sensationalism is worse than Shaq’s jump shot, creating a general distrust of the media.

Maybe it’s the uncertainty of it all that is driving me up the wall. Us human beings suck with the unknown.

It’s probably a form of adaptive anxiety – survival instinct.

Heck, more accurately it’s likely leaving what we do know that’s so difficult. A clean break with the familiar.

That’s the pandemic motif, is it not? 

I’m not sure.

Social media is also a crock of shit with its sensationalized out the wazoo “counter” news – who knows what’s factual anymore. 

Let’s just play with the old TNT in granddad’s toolshed and hope it doesn’t explode. 

If only I could shoot a meme into my bloodstream I’d have a chance at a positive attitude. 

At any rate, the following 3 methods are what I’ve been using to maintain my emotional fortitude and survive this pandemic. 

My little daily injections of sanity:

  1. Purpose
  2. Breathing
  3. Gratitude

Purpose

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”
–Zora Neale Hurston

“To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.”
–Friedrich Nietzsche

An emotionally healthy individual can adapt and adjust to their conditions. Intuitively, I understand this.

Yet, this is a cakewalk when the conditions don’t change so drastically. 

Real adversity will challenge my emotional resilience, I understand this too. But how can I endure?

Hyper-targeting purpose.

This entails creatively altering my current aims and finding more nuanced approaches to contribution. 

For example, I have found online communities to get involved in.

Or, better yet, I’m typing this post. This is an emotional outlet for me and, hopefully, a contribution to your life. 

I’m an essential worker. Finding the time to tailor my life to full-time daddy/spouse/daycare/homeschool/student/clinician has not been an easy feat if even a possible one. 

Nevertheless, in the midst of this persistent-gut-wrenching-impending-doomism I must ask myself two questions to ensure my life remains meaningful and purposeful:

  1. What am I taking from the conditions around me?
  2. What am I contributing?

If I’m depressed because I’m not getting enough love, enough praise, enough encouragement, or enough appreciation, I counteract this by dishing out love, praise, encouragement, and appreciation. 

I’m a firm believer that we get by giving.

Rarely have I been satisfied by taking.

It’s likely that if I’m experiencing discontent its because I’m looking at what I want but am unwilling to do what it takes to get it.

No short cuts, no middle of the road.
Only grit and hard work. 
That’s the cost of meaningful contribution.

emotional fortitude by giving
“We can only keep what we have by giving it away”
— Alcoholics Anonymous

Breathing

“Breathing in, I am aware of my heart. Breathing out, I smile to my heart and know that my heart still functions normally. I feel grateful for my heart.”

“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”
–Thich Nhat Hanh

Why isn’t this on every kindergarten curriculum? 

Why did it take me 30 years to learn to breathe?

You’d think something so basic and necessary for survival would be mastered fairly quick; against all odds, this isn’t the case. 

Emotional health is intimately connected to the breath.

This is due to the breath being the primary engineer behind the nervous system, which is the bodies onboard fight, flight, and freeze or rest and digest function. 

I just call it the life force. It could be the death force if you don’t have a grip on it though.

This is how Navy Seals can go into highly volatile and dangerous situations and keep their heart rate under 80 beats a minute.

Mine is easily at 120 right now just thinking about it. 

They accomplish this nervous system mastery by maintaining complete control of the breath. 

They use an exercise called Box Breathing.

  • Breathe in for 4 seconds. 
  • Hold for 4 seconds. 
  • Breath out for 4 seconds. 
  • Hold for 4 seconds. 

Repeat. 

The Navy Seals practice this until they are up to 18 seconds on each side of the box. Some can do even more! Once more, my heart rate is 120 just thinking about that. 

In any event, this works. 

In order to have the capacity to carry out step one, I need this second step or I’m most certainly doomed.

emotional fortitude through breathing
“We now know from a number of really good studies that actively changing the breath rate can actually change autonomic function and mood state.”
— Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, PhD

Gratitude

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
— Robert Brault

“Enough’ is a feast.”
— Buddhist Proverb

Gratitude naturally follows what has so far been stated. 

In times of anxiety, it’s difficult to stay focused on the good. 

This doesn’t entail naively ignoring the bad but it does necessitate a balancing of the scales. 

The first month of the pandemic I was binge-watching the news. I no longer had a scale. 

I had a one-sided fear mixed with certain death thing going on. 

After a few panic attacks and existential crises, I decided another route was probably a good idea. 

I started counting my blessings.

Everything in fine detail.

I figured if I couldn’t identify what I had, I’d fail to appreciate it.

This is due I imagine to my sights remaining fixed on what I do not have. Obviously this is a recipe for chronic malcontent. 

To harken back to the first point, lack of gratitude is the position of the taker. I bears repeating: we get by giving. It follows then that gratitude is simply the awareness of what we have in the arsenal of giving. 

emotional fortitude through gratitude
“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.”
– Henry Ward Beecher.

Pandemic Particulars

Each person is different. 

No one size fits all approach has ever worked.

Fitted hats pointedly taught us this. 

Nevertheless, you can do far worse than finding your niche to contribute, practicing breathing, and counting your blessings.

Don’t let the persistent-gut-wrenching-impending-doomism have the final say. 

Live long, prosper, and all that jazz.    

Timmy G.

emotional fortitude

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