That sinking, dizzy spiraling sensation is real. News of the continuing economic slide, crashing equities markets, mass layoffs, accelerating foreclosures and the greed and political paralysis ever present in the background have left you with a pit in your gut. Today, we’re reminded that our natural world is oblivious to our man-made messes as we labor to restore power to a million people in ice covered north eastern states and await the inevitable eruption of a massive volcano in Alaska. Uncertainty, confusion, fear … it’s enough to drive you mad.
It must be that on some primal level we feed on the dramatics of tumult. What other reason could there be for the mass consumption of terrible news and dire predictions of future disaster? Sure, there’s a bit of spoon-feeding going on here, but can we honestly say we don’t crave what we’re being fed? People all around me are animated by the latest whammy and none of us seem able to resist the temptation to armchair quarterback in the hallways or on the train. As the dental hygienist scraped away at my teeth the other day, I could overhear another patient railing against the embarrassingly large bonuses paid out by a certain Wall Street icon while accepting welfare from the public. He had a right to be confused and angry. But the banter coming from the other room wasn’t completely bereft of play. He was really getting into it and I wanted to smile (and would have had those fingers and sharp picks not been working away in my mouth).
Folks, it’s time to step away from your information sources, close your eyes and take deep, diaphragm-expanding breaths. OK, now stretch. Now, go splash some water on your face and wake up. Ask yourselves: how much of what I’m worried about can I control? Once you’ve honestly answered that question (I suspect your answer will be something like “none of it”), ask yourself what you need to do right now to move forward without the distractions of the moment. What follows is my short list:
1. Focus on the business I have, not the business I don’t.
2. Listen to my body and feed and exercise it as I know I should.
3. Spend time with the people who bring out the best in me and avoid those who perpetuate the gloom.
4. Catch up on all the things I always say I’d do if I had the time – we all have the time.
No matter what happens today, tomorrow or in a year from now, we can be sure of one thing: this will all pass. So cheer up, keep breathing and focus on what you can control. You’ll be in a better position to join in the fun when this storm passes.