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United by vulnerability
April 19th, 2020

The power of collective vulnerability. 

If we have learned one thing we have in common in this time of a pandemic, it is that we all do not know. Not knowing makes us all vulnerable. Our leaders do not know, parents, friends, siblings, peers do not know. We cannot answer definitively when this will be over or how many lives will be affected, and we cannot predict how our economy or social, health and education programs will function under new emergent conditions.

This crisis has stripped even the most experienced scientists, analysts, economists and health experts of their ability to confidently predict.

We are all in the same ignorance boat. We paddle madly at times when we think we see shore: solid ground in the form of a possible vaccine! Then we dip into disappointment and even grief when we learn it was a mirage. We paddle madly again when a new perceived horizon emerges, new hope of tests and cures; then we dip into another low when we get to the touted ‘cure’ spot but there is no shore, no ability to land and relax in sight.

A little exhausted, many of us settle into a slower paddle or even a holding pattern, and a resignation that we are on an uncharted course. Many find rhythm, productivity and flow despite not knowing.

We have gone through many transitions and changes and there will be more ahead as new rules and new ways of being ‘together’ get redefined.

We need support one day and the next we can be a cheerleader. We need understanding the following day and to be left alone the day after that. Our reactions and responses can be as volatile as the crisis we find ourselves coping with. We feel vulnerable when we perceive a loss of control, we seek out control through information, we need to feel assured.

In this reality, the best we can strive for is some measure of predictability in our own worlds. Creating a new rhythm that suits us, that keeps us on an even keel, can help us to create a less volatile “inner thought world” too. Recreating some measure of predictability for our work, nutrition, activity level, exercise and relationships can give us back some of the normalcy and order our brains crave. Rhythm (repeating the same types of activities over a day or week not necessarily in the same timeframes) or routine (setting up a  schedule and creating more predictable patterns for your days) can reduce anxiety and help to re-establish meaning, predictability and continuity.

With a wee bit of a sense of control and predictability back in our lives, albeit on a smaller scale, our mood shifts may become less dramatic; we will be a little calmer in the boat and better able to stay the course. We will not need to access overburdened health facilities, and — above all — our ability to support others will increase.

Looking after both your physical and mental health in a time of crisis has a ripple effect on others. Your energy will be grounding and calming, and you’ll be strong enough to extend your oar out to someone who needs an anchor. Vulnerability is uniting us in ways we never imagined. Know that every little bit you do to help yourself in a crisis goes a long way.