Adrienne Bankert NYC Photo3

FLASHBACKS: This Pandemic felt familiar.

by Adrienne Bankert

Even though things have been an emotional roller coaster, for many of us, we are starting to get our bearings again, after more than 4 months of not knowing what was happening. News headlines and health protocols are ever changing; new information is continuous. I especially feel for those who already opened, only to have to place new restrictions on life in public all over again. Between the wait for answers, and the emotional toll, it is easy to feel absolutely out of control.  Many times I’ve told myself to snap out of it! After all, I am healthy, my apartment is safe and the fridge stocked and I am grateful for all of that. But one day I realized part of my struggle was that this whole situation felt agonizingly familiar.

The pandemic for me, brought an emotional flashback to when I was miserably unemployed.

It was the first time I had been out of work in my entire career.  A deal I was close to signing fell through and I went from six figures to zero. With no plan B, I hustled to get interviews for jobs in other cities until another opportunity opened up. I cried or felt numb daily. Eventually after a few months of deflated confidence and rising debt, I got a job as a hostess at a restaurant making minimum wage. In the midst of all this, with no extra cash and no friends in a new city, I spent a lot of time at home.  While we have never been here as a country, there are a lot of us who know isolation, loneliness, financial stress and fear all at that same time…all too well. We tend to default to survival mode based on what we did to make it through in even remotely similar situations. As foreign as this crisis response has been, on the inside, we return to how we coped the last time we felt trapped or overwhelmed.

Like so many families who have an emergency response plan, I needed some kind of escape route from the gloomy place I was naturally drawn to  during times of personal and now, global crisis. Being kind became my life preserver that buoyed me at a time when hope was slim. Before the pandemic, even while feeling completely out of touch, I forced myself to do what I would do under “normal” circumstances: thinking of others, mentoring, volunteering with charities, even when I felt like I was on the verge of breaking down. I started coming up with ways to show kindness from the comfort of my sofa. I began to be inspired by the good people were doing for each other, rather than the current political climate or my own experiences with discomfort or trauma.

When life is not going the way we expected, we can have a rage build inside of us. When you are so disappointed that your plans are interrupted, it can cause tempers to flare. In close quarters, that emotional storm can turn roommates or family into the enemy. Being kind at home can be particularly challenging, but as we are kind to strangers and neighbors we will have better muscle memory for acting on kind reflexes at home. Kind acts to others keep our mind from going to that negative place that for many is far too automatic. If we keep ourselves occupied with generosity, we are less inclined to be selfish or worse, think of doing harm to ourselves or others.

This particular crisis has quietly attacked our consistency. Days that seem to all blend together upend the routine we have come to rely on. When everything in life becomes random, we need more than random acts of kindness. Look for something kind to do for others on a regular basis. Create a daily or weekly schedule of intentional kindness. Answer these three questions:

1) what is your biggest concern?
2) what problem do you want to solve?
3) who do you want to help?

Turn your biggest worry into your platform. If your biggest issue is not knowing what to do, start giving advice using your expertise in areas you do feel confident in. It could be couponing skills or DIY tech support for families who are using their computers and phones a lot more often. Look for what and who you are passionate about, like supporting moms who have their hands full with homeschooling. The answer can be as simple as delivering groceries to the elderly or starting a support group for entrepreneurs. Kindness keeps your head in the game, in spite of circumstances, feelings or stress so that you can be 100% present and more useful. Demonstrating kindness, even in chaos, takes the focus off of problems and makes you a living, breathing solution.

You may not feel very courageous, but one of the bravest things you can do right now in the face of fear is be kind. Rather than be crippled by what feels painfully familiar, you will be able to confront anxiety and help others see that even when the world stops, they are still needed, appreciated and thought of; being kind shows others that they still have something to bring to the table.

Adrienne Bankert is an ABC News correspondent and author of “Your hidden Superpower: The Kindness Book that makes You Unbeatable at Work and Connects You with Anyone.”

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