by Katherine French-Ewing, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor in Colorado
The other day, I was in the grocery store people-watching (a favorite pastime). I noticed a disturbing trend – heads down, eyes averted, super-weary body language, people silently walking around as if under a spell. My heart wept to see the disconnection. The ripple effects of this pandemic are real.
With your mask on, are you still connecting with others, making eye contact and smiling with your eyes? Or are you, like most of us, going into an auto-pilot, “find what I need and get out” mentality? To offer levity and joy, I try to go out of my way to verbally connect with people while shopping or running errands. It’s funny how diverse the responses are – surprise, delight, relief… always positive, though. I want the ripple effects of how I show up to be life-giving.
Pandemic Ripple Effects
Have you found yourself sleepwalking through life lately? Phrases I hear frequently from new clients are “I am just trying to survive” and “I feel numb, like I don’t have time to feel anything” or “I feel ______(fill in the blank) all the time and it gets worse if I am in public.” A core part of our humanity is to yearn to be seen, heard, and to know that our existence matters. The challenge is affirming these pieces in others even when you feel less-than-affirmed yourself.
Am I Seen?
This is our cry for uniqueness. Ever noticed how some people are making or buying blinged-out masks so they can wear something that stands out? Perhaps it is because they want to be recognized as someone who brings something unique to the table. With everyone in masks, we are slowly being desensitized to the non-verbal signals around us, sometimes resulting in a deep sense of disconnect and division. Intentional connection with those around you can overcome this phenomenon; compliment them or offer a smile so they know you see them.
Am I Heard?
With so many voices being silenced in social media today and so much content being censored, those who had been struggling pre-pandemic to believe the truth — that their voice matters — easily fall into despondent, defeatist mindsets. Find your tribe and offer your voice there in that safe space. If you feel fired up about something, consider what steps you can take to share your opinion where it will be taken seriously and respected. Your story and your perspective matter.
Do I Matter?
Your life is significant in ways you are not even aware of. Do what lights you up, and do it with all your heart. We are drawn to those who are walking in step with their values and passions. Perhaps what you are bringing into the light inspires someone else to step out courageously. When you are stuck fixating on your life circumstances, widen your scope and seek out those in need. Meet that need the best way you can and watch what happens within your heart and community. Serving others brings purpose to your life in a deeply meaningful way. The gifts, passions, and skills you can offer are unique and greatly needed.
Choose Your Ripple Effects
Think of the image of a beautifully still lake. If we throw a heavy object into that water, what happens? Think of those ripples as your decisions and thoughts every day. Are they having a positive, neutral, or negative effect on others? Today, I challenge you to gently consider what your ripple effects are in this season. Maybe even journal about it or chat with a trusted friend or family member for feedback. If your effects aren’t aligned with your values and the core of who you are, then maybe it is worth re-evaluating how you are showing up in this world. If you had a positive ripple effect on others consistently, how would your life feel and look? Connecting with a professional who is for your growth, who offers a compassionate, objective perspective, can be a game-changing experience. Your life matters. Your impact on others matters.
Working with a therapist to deal with the ripple effects of the pandemic on your life could be the best way for you to grow. Many therapists, like Katherine, offer free initial consultations so you can ensure a good fit. Search therapists in your area and find the right-fit therapist for you!
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