Anxiety and depression are siblings. Anxiety is the anticipation of loss and depression is the experience of loss. Each phase of the sequence causes remarkably different symptoms and, therefore, calls upon a much different set of coping skills. When we are anxious, our central nervous system zooms into fight-flight-freeze mode as the body activates all the primitive functions needed to fend off a threat. When we are depressed, everything is designed for healing. We shut down to enable a reboot. Ideally, a fresh start follows.
How does this affect your relationships, families, teams, organizations and communities? Both preparing for danger and healing from trauma are best done with the help of others. Coping alone usually leads down an unproductive rabbit hole. The absence of reality-checks, support, understanding and empathy permits emotions to spiral into free-fall. Teammates come to the rescue. Here’s how.
- They help to name the pain. Under stress, it is especially difficult to pinpoint why you feel overwhelmed. Identifying the source of the discomfort is the first step to selecting the best coping plan. This is more easily accomplished with the objectivity of a partner.
- They support you in embracing the emotion. Avoid the urge to make uncomfortable feelings disappear. Relief doesn’t come from symptom reduction. Relief comes from looking the emotion in the eye and understanding what it is trying to tell you. Whether fear or sadness, acknowledgement is an essential validation of the legitimacy of a crisis.
- Sharing the struggle allows the coping cycle to advance. Each phase of growth has a purpose. It’s normal to feel depleted after a loss. The depletion signals a chance to refuel. That leads to a reinvestment with new energy and fresh perspective. Even if you feel stuck, the cycle always has a next stage.
The circumstances of the past year have taken a toll on individuals and teams big and small. Everyone is doing the best they can in light of their circumstances. Stepping back and seeing the bigger picture provides hope when things look dismal. Whether pre-trauma or post-trauma, we anticipate, prepare, heal and recalibrate most effectively together.