I recently had a bit of a health emergency that had me experiencing severe abdominal pain. I’m fine now, but the pain was severe enough and lasted long enough that I ended up in an emergency room in southern California along with gun shot and stabbing victims, hit-upside-the-head-with-a-bat victims, and drunk/belligerent passed-out-on-the-street-and-hit-my-head victims. Then there was me. And the poor man next to me who'd had a heart attack. Oh and the girl who severely sprained her ankle on her way to use the bathroom. But I digress.
When the pain first began I implemented some coping mechanisms that I've developed over the years. Sip water slowly, gently walk around the room, take deep breaths, will the pain away.
I'm sure that I'm not alone in this: when I am in pain I just want it to stop. I want it to stop fast. And when it doesn't stop fast and I wonder if it will ever stop, another emotion starts to creep in.
Not panic like running around screaming and pulling my hair out, but the first stage of panic which is negative self-talk. "Why do I have this pain? Is it going to get worse? Can I get help? Will it never go away? What is happening? Oh it just got worse, why can't it just stop? Am I going to die? Why, why, why?" These thoughts started to hurtle through my mind like a runaway train; I started breathing too quickly, my mind was racing and every medical horror story that I'd ever heard about was recalling itself to my brain in a most unhelpful way.
So I employed another coping mechanism that I learned through two natural childbirths and life experience: Slow everything down. Think about my breathing - slow that down. Get a grip on my racing thoughts - slow those down. Think about all of the muscles in my body - they are tense; make them relax. Once I’d slowed down my body processes and gotten my muscles a bit more relaxed, I took control of my thoughts. I made mental notes of the pain, when it started, how it progressed, if anything helped it, how much worse has it gotten. I controlled my breathing, inhaling and exhaling slowly. I reined in my thoughts and made sure that they were not negative. I made a plan: will seek medical attention if the symptoms don't lessen or go away completely in X amount of minutes.
Panic and negative thoughts creep in as pain escalates.
Re-employ coping mechanism to keep control over my mind and body, and help myself.
Once my situation abated, I debriefed myself on what happened, how I reacted to it, how I could improve, what was helpful, what wasn't, etc. What I realized is that the skills that I'd employed to deal with my pain are exactly what is necessary right now in the marketplace for both job seekers and employers. It is a scary time but we have to take care not to panic or overreact. Consider your options, deliberately plan a course, and constantly monitor the self-talk that you engage in.
Negative thoughts and negative feelings are normal when you are scared, but giving in to those thoughts is not helpful. You may do well for a while and then slip back into the negativity; catch yourself and start over again. Realistic, thoughtful planning and doing what needs to be done to get through this time is what is called for. And let’s help each other get through this bumpy year.