Angels Among Us

Oh I believe there are angels among us. Sent down to us from somewhere up above. They come to you and me in our darkest hours. To show us how to live, to teach us how to give. lyrics by Becky Hobbs, sung by the group Alabama. In August of 2004, I was invited to conduct a workshop in Shenzhen, China. The morning of the workshop, while breakfasting in the restaurant of my hotel, my purse was stolen. In it was my money, cell phone, credit cards, driver’s license and most important, my passport and visa. While the staff of the five-star hotel searched the hotel and restaurant premises, I stood in the restaurant, in shock, desperately trying to wake up from a traveler’s worst nightmare. My mind immediately began to create the list of what would have to be done to be able to leave two days later on my flight.It seemed almost impossible–particularly as I spoke exactly three words of Mandarin Chinese. Stories of Chinese bureaucracy and stereotypes of Asian indifference, along with a fear of disappointing my important clients curled through my brain. My stomach clinched, my anxiety escalated and I kept forgetting to breathe. It was in the midst of my panic that the first of many angels, Western and Chinese, appeared. Almost immediately the concierge—a wonderful young man named Paul–was assigned to accompany me through the logistical and legalistic labyrinth that leaving the country would require. Next, one of my clients opened his wallet and handed me the equivalent of $200 so that I had spending money on me. As I returned to my...

Six Ways to Find Firm Ground in a Crisis

You’ve just been gob-smacked and your world is spinning. You can’t think clearly, want to throw up, are looking for a place to hide or trying to wake up the nightmare that your world has just become. Most people, when faced with a life changing event like a cancer diagnosis, death of a loved one, sudden loss of an important relationship or job, feel it in their bodies. It becomes hard to breathe, our stomachs roil, we become light headed and nothing seems real. My memory of those first days after my sixteen year old son was diagnosed with precursor B cell lymphoma is hazy, I was disoriented, terrified, and numb—sometimes all at the same time. So, what is going on, inside this skin that may feel like it no longer belongs to us? Our bodies, relying on the primitive (and successful) evolutionary design of the limbic system responds quickly and completely to stress or distress that we perceive to be severe. Our neurochemistry kicks into action, flooding the brain and the body with massive amounts of neurochemicals and hormones (adrenaline, norepinephrine, cortisol, and epinephrine) to read y us to fight or flee. Physiologically, our blood pressure goes up, our pupils dilate, and our senses become hyper-vigilant to any changes around us. Given all this and more that is happening inside of our bodies, it’s not surprising that we have trouble thinking straight. If we are going to move from shock to effective action, the first and most important action we can take is to move back into our bodies. In addition to the obvious techniques of eating well...

Five Ways to Cope When A Crisis First Happens

When you’ve been dumped unceremoniously into a crisis, it’s much like being thrown unexpectedly into an ocean. You sink for at least a few minutes into those dark, briny waters, disoriented and confused. Then, some instinct comes rushing in that causes you to fight your way back to the surface. You panic and thrash around before you remember again how to keep your head above the waves, and to breathe. How can you cope, or help someone else do so, those first few days after a tragedy or crisis has occurred? Find someone to hold on to: Call a friend, a loved one, a trusted advisor, or family member. Make sure that it is someone who you can count on for solid advice and assistance. You will want to build a team of helpers later(How To Build a Community of Support that Rocks) but right now, reach out to someone who will help you navigate those first scary hours or days. Process what you can when you can: When you receive a shock to your emotional, mental, or physical system, the brain and body go into survival mode—focusing the body on the three options our primitive brains had: fight, flight, or flee. You may find trying to understand complex or lengthy information almost impossibly hard until you regain some sense of equilibrium. Don’t be afraid to ask people to repeat the information or give you more time to digest it. Make only the decisions you have to: Particularly with serious medical diagnoses and other life-altering crises, there can be a multitude of determinations that you may be asked to...

Building a Community of Support that Rocks!

Support systems, necessary to our survival in normal situations, become essential during times of crisis. Most simply, when our world falls apart because of a job loss, divorce, life-threatening illness or other seismic events, we need 1) help getting things done, 2) particular kinds of knowledge or expertise that we do not have but is crucial to resolving the crisis, 3) emotional and 4) spiritual support. Yet finding and keeping the help we need to get through the crisis can be difficult. Here are some guidelines that can assist you in doing so: Gather your support thoughtfully and intentionally. Take a few moments to think about what support you really need. Make a to do list of what has to be done, without thinking about the “who” part of the equation. What is on there that you dread taking on? Where do you feel clueless? What are the problems that need to be solved or the decisions that need to be made? What kinds of expertise or knowledge will be critical in understanding the options–costs, benefits, and potential consequences? Is it expertise you don’t have, information you can’t get access to, a listening ear, or someone to remind you of who you are beneath the emotions and details you have to handle? Now determine who can provide what you need. Don’t try to find one person to fit all the needs; rather, make a list of people who have a portion of those qualities. Be responsible for shaping the support you get. One of the most valuable things you can do when pulling together a support team is to...

5 Traits You Will Want In the People Around You In  A Crisis

For some people, the automatic reaction to a bone-jarring shock or fearsome event is to retreat or hunker down alone.  While that is a very normal initial response, research supports that isolation during a crisis, is associated with significantly worse outcomes than those who chose to  to others. Resist the urge to handle the crisis by yourself.  Pull people into your life who will support you. You probably will not be operating optimally during the initial shock. Having other people around who will can be vital. As the crisis continues, having friends, family and others who can help you navigate the many obstacles, hold onto your hope, remind you of who you really are, despite how you may currently feel, give wise advice, or help you think through important decisions is invaluable. Based on personal and professional experience, there are five characteristics that seem to be most helpful to have around you, when finding your way through a serious life upset. Pick the ones that resonate with you  and then start making a list of those people who naturally exude that trait. Don’t expect to find all five in one person but if you do, you’re lucky!   Supportive in the ways you need: Most of the people who show up to help in a crisis will want to be helpful to you. Unfortuntely, their idea of how to help may not match your own. Do you need someone to get stuff done around the house, take care of logistics? Then having someone who wants to just hug you and talk about how awful it may not be what...
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