“Is what you are carrying worth catching?” – Craig Groeschel
The Hotspots of Emptiness
To say that the past 2-3 months have been tough is an understatement. Regardless of who you are, this crisis has touched your life in some way or form. What we never thought we would see has become the reality that we are living each day. I especially recall seeing images of an empty Times Square in New York City, which revealed the gravity of the crisis. Normally a hot spot for pedestrians and motorists, the inviting lights and screens of Times Square were greeted with the grave silence that accompanies emptiness.
Daily Hot spots
If you google hot spot, the top results that come up are largely associated with mobile connectivity. But as COVID-19 spread, many countries, including cities like New York, became hot spots (areas of significant activity or danger) triggering the lock down orders that we have been under for some time now. Additionally, there are other types of hot spots that have popped up because of this. Going to the grocery store was an activity that could be planned for an hour. Now, with having to stand in line because of the reduced capacity of people required in the store at one time, and the long check out lines, grocery stores are a hot spot where patience can be lost or learned. And as more is being done from our homes, there is a possibility that the places where we once sought solace and refuge from our day have become daily hot spots for frustration, discouragement, restlessness, despair, loneliness, worry, and anxiety.
Creating Positive Hot spots
With no definitive timeline to the end of the crisis, we must lean toward seeing opportunities for the positive rather than the negative. There is less resistance for our hearts and minds to become hot spots for anxiety, fear, and hopelessness. But these will not help us get through the current circumstance we are in. Rather, by becoming and finding hot spots for growth, hope, connection, encouragement, and support, we can create the stepping stones that can make us better and even thrive in a crisis. Let me show you how.
As you use your phone to call, text, scroll, or surf, battery power is depleted. To avoid a total loss of phone functionality, charging is required. The more you use your device, the quicker power drains. Have you stopped to consider how much mental power you utilize daily? Most of us probably don’t because it is difficult to quantify what we cannot see. Your mind just like your device needs a recharge.
Many of us are experiencing sleepless nights because our minds have become hot spots for fear and worry. Instead of waking up mentally refreshed, we are mentally fried. There has been no chance to charge up mentally, leading to foggy thinking. And when we are low on mental energy, we become emotionally distraught. Concurrently, our hearts are racing abnormally fast because we fear what may or may not happen. Subsequently, what we need to be our best is deprived of much-needed recharging, and our life suffers.
Besides getting enough rest, I have been charging up my mind during this crisis by plugging myself into reading content that strengthens my mind and listening to music that uplifts my soul. In this manner, I am also able to identify and challenge any negative tendencies that try to habituate in my life.
What am I doing that will lead to my undoing? I heard this soul searching question from Pastor Andy Stanley in a recent sermon titled, Better For It. In it, he teaches how to come out of a crisis better than when you went in, which is often easier to hear than to do. How we behave in a crisis has a lot to do with our tendencies. A tendency is an inclination or a default setting that dictates a certain behavior.
When life is not going as you expected, do you tend to overeat, overspend, over watch, or perhaps overheat with anger? Is your tendency to throw caution and discipline to the wind and follow the path of least resistance? Are your tendencies causing you to engage in behavior that feels good for now but will cause regret? Pay attention to these destructive tendencies and nip them in the bud by asking, “How can I be better through what I am facing?” This question will give you the urge to push through when you feel like giving up.
Let’s agree, this is hard. Most if not all of us were not prepared for this to last this long or have such an adverse effect. Like a bamboo tree that has great resiliency, research shows that “our brain’s innate neurological plasticity enables us to develop our unique barrier of ‘Psychological Teflon’ to handle life’s hurdles and hardships allowing us to bounce back better from setbacks, adapt better to change, and manage stress more effectively.”
Pushing through hard stuff does not mean suppressing how we feel but rather having the courage to sort through the difficult emotions that we would prefer to sweep under the rug. Author Brene Brown uses the illustration of an iceberg to relay the difficulty in identifying and naming our emotions.
Here is what she says in her book, Dare to Lead:
Think about an iceberg for a moment. There’s the part that you can see above the water, and then it potentially goes on for miles beneath the surface. Many of the emotions that we experience show up as pissed off or shut down on the surface…. Shame and grief are two examples of emotions that are hard to fully express, so we turn to anger or silence.
While most of us may know the state of our financial bank account, we are not as conversant with our emotional bank account. Losing a loved one, a job, or a business is hard. Yet, the emotional state these losses put us in can cripple us or sink us as the iceberg did to the Titanic.
This is why I believe that we cannot push through the hard stuff like this crisis on our own. We can choose anger or silence, which are both toxic, or we can call out for help and reach out to those around us to help us build our emotional stamina.
Have you ever had the “it’s just me” mindset about a particular situation you are going through? I have been there. But I have discovered that this outlook is devastating to our personal growth as well as our relationships with others. C.S. Lewis said, “friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one!” Denouncing the fallacy that accompanies the “it’s only me” view allows us to call out for help in our times of difficulty and struggle.
Is it risky? Yes, but if you have ever taken this risk, you know the rewards are worth it. Relationships die when emotions are suppressed or denied the space to be authentically expressed. I encourage you to keep in contact with those closest to you and never miss an opportunity to express what’s going on internally. Our relationships have never been as vital as they are right now.
Final thought: There has never been a more ideal time to become and seek hot spots for hope and encouragement. The streets may be empty, but using the approach above, we can stave off the emptiness attempting to creep inside of us. Additionally, we can become conduits so that others around us can test positive for hope, courage, strength, and confidence.
Keep on keeping on!