I decided to dedicate today’s blog post to providing actionable advice and tips about how to deal with the stress and anxiety the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade has brought on. After all, for many, myself included, this ruling has stirred a myriad of feelings and emotions. Whatever form your reaction takes, learning to manage stress about Roe v. Wade (or any other anxiety-inducing situation) is a necessary leadership skill. Unfortunately, it is one that seems we will need to hone more and more these days. Let’s review in more detail.
First, it’s important to validate the way you are feeling. It is completely understandable to have a mixed bag of emotions. To summarize what has happened, a right that has been granted for nearly 50 years has for all practical purposes been stripped away with a ripple effect that could impact other court decisions underpinned by this law. According to many experts this includes, limitations on contraceptive access and the criminalization of miscarriage, and even nullifying same-sex marriage. What is more, this decision will impact BIPOC and other historically excluded communities the most. With this uncertain future now on the horizon, it's only natural to feel anxious, worried, overwhelmed, or all of the above. While normalizing the way you feel is an important first step, there are additional things that need to be considered.
Next, when facing the feeling of being overwhelmed, the best thing that we can do is to ground ourselves. It is vital to be able to identify what feelings are bubbling up. This is what I call the, “Name it, tame it” technique. As I have said in previous posts, the whole point here is to name the feeling and more importantly identify why you are feeling the way you are feeling.
What is really happening here?
What feeling am I experiencing right now?
Could it be this feeling or perhaps there is more than one?
Why am I feeling or reacting in this manner?
On a personal note, I felt a profound sense of loss and deep sadness. But this was not clear to me at first. My first feeling was one of mental fogginess, lack of concentration on any task, sluggishness, and being snappy with my loved ones. Finally, when I went through these steps, things started to become clear. I decided to close my laptop and take a small walk, accompanied by a pen and a small notebook where I can reflect and answer these questions. After I was able to clearly identify my feelings, I was then able to choose what response I wanted to take- you can see it here.
3. Hold the space
Sometimes it does not matter how much self-inquiry you use, it’s hard to get your thoughts to stop (and thus your emotions). In this case, deploying mindfulness and self-compassion comes in handy. Two of my top exercises that I rely on are rhythmic counting and five senses grounding.
Rhythmic counting consists of focusing the mind on the exercise of breathing. In very simple terms you take a breath of air and…
Breath in and count to four
Hold for four
Release and count to six
Rinse and repeat a few times until you feel like you can think clearly again.
Five senses grounding refers to using one or all of your five senses to distract the mind from the flight or fight response (aka an Amygdala Hijack).
Here is how it works:
Let’s say you chose to use your sense of touch.
Grab a stone or crystal if you have one and focus all your attention on how it feels.
Notice in great detail how it feels in your hands. The surface, what it feels like to the touch.
Do this for at least one minute and notice how you feel.
If you don’t have an object, you can simply rub two fingers together. Notice fingerprints ridges. Do this for at least one minute to experience results. The key here is to direct your mind to look for details while you touch, taste, look, hear or smell for one minute straight. Your brain will get distracted from the “Amygdala Hijack”.
*Note to leaders: If you are a leader or perceived as one, holding space for others is a must. In this case, holding the space means providing psychological safety for others to express themselves. For example:
Hold office hours or listening sessions
Check-in with your employees in your next team meeting or 1:1
Offer to provide support- either in the form of a mental day or by means of an employee assistance program for those that feel they need a bit more help.
Read more here about psychological support and safety
It’s human to feel and it’s also very human (and necessary) to find a way to release your emotions and not hold them inside. There are so many ways to do this effectively, but essentially you need to find whatever works best for you.
Here are a few ideas:
Write a post on social media - If you look at LinkedIn and other platforms there are already tons of people doing this. My only caveat, if you do post, please do ensure you leave any unprofessional language out. You never know to whom or where this information is going.
Exercise your body - Studies have shown that whenever there are strong emotions present in our bodies, it is best to get your body moving to counteract some of these effects. A brisk walk, a short run or a quick workout all are excellent calming balms.
Write it out in your journal - If neither of these two strategies jive with you, writing things down either on a piece of paper or journal can also help as a release mechanism.
Find a listening partner - Sometimes all that is needed is a sounding board that we can rely on in times like these, either be a friend or a family member. Just make sure it’s someone that you can trust and will not be judgmental when letting your guard down. Let them know what you need from them so they are not taken aback or feel awkward. Here is one way to communicate: “Hey I’m feeling ___ because of this whole thing, would you mind being my listening partner? I do not need advice, I just need to vent.”
If you have access to a coach or a therapist that would be ideal as we are trained to work with these types of scenarios but it’s understandable that this might not be available to you right now.
5. Take action
Some time ago I heard that feelings are energy in motion. Feelings such as anger, fear, and frustration can be great catalysts for action.
Use that energy and channel it constructively.
I like to invite you to channel all those feelings into the course of action that feels aligned with your values.
What is the lesson here?
Where is the opportunity to have meaningful engagement?
What small step can I take that feels aligned with me?
How can I be part of the solution so this does not happen again?
Below is a list of things that you can do, but only you know what is best for you. I for one plan to contact my senators and donate to an organization that aligns with my values.
Donate to Planned Parenthood for a $1:$1 match until June 30th, 2022
Join the Center for Reproductive Rights by following their newsletter and/or donating
Stay informed on the access and policies in the states using this map
Sign up to get updates and how you can take action through Liberate Abortion
Use this hotline to get answers to legal questions, support, and more
To conclude, I like to reinforce the following: It’s easy to feel like we do not have a path forward, even when it seems like the world is falling apart before our eyes. We are extremely smart and reliant beings only when focused. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you are putting on your figurative oxygen mask to think clearly and act decisively. Follow these steps and you will be on your way out of being overwhelmed and if you need any help, reach out. I'm happy to be your sounding board and listening partner in all matters career and leadership. I’m here to always remind you that there is always a way forward.