Collected Under Pressure

“Well, at least we have enough toilet paper!”

A classic line from a client this week as we considered how to muster the energy to cope with another hard chapter in pandemic life.

We were actually talking about “Emotional Range” within her Adaptability Quotient assessment at the time. Emotional Range is defined as the extent to which people experience emotions because of situations in their environment. At one end of that range are people who are “reactive” – they have stronger stress responses in the face of the unexpected and are easily overwhelmed by uncertainty.  Folks at the “collected” end of the range tend to be calm under pressure and in control of their reactions. They can also be [perceived to be] less sensitive when others are struggling.

I imagine a paramedic or pilot or safari guide who panics when a situation gets tense, rather than remaining focused and composed. Not very helpful. In their contexts, freaking out would leak energy that they’ll need in order to adapt to the challenge at hand.

As I explained this metaphor to my client, she said, “To remember this one, I’ll think about the toilet paper hoarders.” Whatever works!

Our energy is a precious commodity these days. I want to channel mine toward productive, joy-filled pursuits rather than squandering it fretting over things I can’t control.

And because our ability to adapt is not only an individual choice but also shaped by our context and community, we will be more successful when others around us choose to do the same.

Easier said than done.

One of our neighbours recently put a toilet (there’s a theme today!) out on the sidewalk in front of their house, hoping someone would need it and take it away. Instead, someone put a garland and ornaments on it, and there it sat. (I was hoping to insert a photo of it here but it’s gone. I hope the ornaments match the colour scheme in its new home.)

As we wrap up a challenging year and look ahead to another uncertain one, may we be people who find ways to “add a garland.” Rather than being surprised and frustrated by the lack of predictability (and most of us are both, aren’t we?!), I hope we can find some sustainable energy in responding nimbly to it.

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