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  • Writer's pictureMichael Stern

Choosing a Mindful and Heartfelt Response to Crisis

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

Photo from The New York Times. This article was originally published on CredibleMind


As I write this, the COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented disruption across the globe. My heart goes out to everyone who is affected, especially the most vulnerable among us, and everyone who is working tirelessly to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus and the loss of lives.

The massive uncertainty will inevitably bring up fear and trigger our “fight or flight” response. This is normal, and may even be beneficial in certain situations. But remaining in this activated state for too long is neither healthy nor helpful. We can choose to practice our self-regulation skills and find ways to use the crisis as an opportunity to connect more deeply with ourselves and others.

Here are three keys that can help you access this tragic situation’s potential for healing and growth.

Key #1: Reflection

Take this opportunity to step back and consider essential questions that may get overlooked when things are going well. Some of the questions I’ve been asking myself include:

  • What is most important to me? How much does my life truly reflect my core values?

  • Where and how are my “systems of living” (health, financial, social, etc) vulnerable to the fluctuations of external circumstances?

  • What is actually within my circle of control or influence?

  • When I look back on this moment at the end of my life, how do I want to remember the way that I showed up?

  • How does this situation affect my sense of meaning and purpose in my life?

Key #2: Connection

Panic and overwhelm are not conducive to responding effectively to challenges or supporting others. In addition to individual coping skills such as mindful breathing or time in nature, one of the best ways to regulate our emotions is by sharing our experience with others.

The necessary practice of social distancing means we are at higher risk of feeling isolated. But remember that physical interaction and meaningful social connection are not the same thing. Reach out to the people you care about, and who care about you, and let them know you are thinking of them. Offer your support where you can, and ask for support when you need it. Have the courage to be vulnerable, and respond to others with compassion.

Key #3: Correction

“Unprecedented disruption” is "the new normal." Our nervous systems, immune systems, and social systems are being overwhelmed by our current reality.

Just as these systems have an innate tendency to self-correct, we must take meaningful action to course-correct. In the context of COVID -19 that means finding ways to “flatten the curve.” But many global issues require urgent action, most notably climate change, and will lead to massive disruption if left unaddressed.

We are being forced to evolve as a new world is quickly emerging. We must use the tools of mindfulness and emotional intelligence to stay emotionally balanced, cultivate resilience, and maintain positive thinking. These skills lead to wise choices and enable us to adapt and thrive in the face of adversity.

Appreciating the Silver Lining

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused incredible suffering already, and it looks like it may get worse before it gets better. Yet, it is amazing to realize that we have never before seen the world demonstrate its capacity to act with such clear alignment to address a global threat.

The upside of a crisis is that people can rediscover their shared humanity, and what is essential in life becomes clear. Those moments of clarity and connection allow new possibilities to emerge, and enable us to come through the ordeal with more strength and wisdom than we had before.

Over the past week, I have experienced deeper levels of connection with family and friends. I have been inspired by acts of generosity. I have been moved by videos from around the world of people making music together form their balconies in the midst of a lockdown.

I recognize that my experience and perspective reflects my social privilege, and I am grateful for all of the incredible support in my life. Yet I believe we all have the power to approach this terrible situation with courage and compassion, and make the best of it that we can.

I hope the ideas and practices in this article can help you to transform this time of disruption and uncertainty and create new possibilities for healing and growth for yourself and the people around you. We are all in this together.

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