“We get what we repeat”: On lifting ourselves out of emotional distress in the Covid-19 pandemic

Many of us Canadians started social distancing on (or before) Monday March 16th in our efforts to try, responsibly, to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus in our communities.

In his March 21st blog, Marketing guru, Seth Godin, reminds us of the peril of some of what has followed. There have been many opportunities, as we work from home, to glut our appetites on a too-steady diet of reporting, social media postings and other cultural handwringing, about Covid-19.

Godin describes the tendency as “day trading [our] emotions”:
“When the stock market is on an upward tear, day trading becomes popular. You sit in your basement, surrounded by terminals and tickers, searching for the latest bits of information, hoping to make a profit buying and selling based on what’s happening in this very instant.

It’s pretty tempting today to trade your emotions.

We’ve piped the voices of a billion people directly into our brains. The loudest, angriest, most frightened people are the ones that are amplified the most.
Everyone sharing what’s breaking. The visceral angst of this very  moment, over and over. 

Just as it’s almost impossible to make a profit as a day trader, it’s difficult to be happy when you day trade emotions .. . . Add up the sum of our days and that’s who we are. We get what we repeat.

Last week, I participated in a number of Zoom meetings and conference calls where all participants were understandably voicing distress and grasping for a life ring to figure out what to do, to estimate how long the crisis would continue and to plan how financially to survive the interim period.

While telling myself that a few of my own, obligatory social media postings or the telephone “insights” I shared with friends were helpful, I soon realized that I was “descending into the weeds.” I found myself repeating observations I’d earlier had and, as Godin aptly put it, “getting what I repeated.”

Let me hasten to say that, in my reading, Godin is not advising us to deny or efface our emotions. The power of occasionally crying when one’s trying to level one’s emotions has never been clearer to me, than during the past 10 or 12 days.

And there has been much needed work done by business leaders like Silvia Martini and Henry Buitrago, over Facebook’s “Business Support Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce Page.” There, these and other entrepreneurs have provided a public service by vetting and consolidating relevant knowledge, such as government wage subsidies and financial supports that are crucial to the survival of small- and medium-sized businesses. These folk have done well to prevent readers from wringing their hands.

And I know they’d agree that entrepreneurs managing (not trading) their emotions still need to limit the hours we spend online and consuming media. For me the balance has been reading or watching one hour a day of local news; another for national news, and not more. For some, it could be reading one or two newspapers online or listening to a particular daily radio program.

The huge uncertainty created by the global pandemic makes repeating our emotional distress understandable, but we only amplify our depression and anxiety by repetition. Godin describes some alternatives that I illustrate, with examples:

Buy and hold.” Support local small businesses (e.g. independent bookstores, take-out restaurants, dry cleaners, etc.) by arranging for touchless delivery, or by buying gift cards you can redeem when better times return.

Stand for something.” While striving to accomplish work, don’t overlook the needs of children or other dependent family members, whose fears and confusion can be stoked, instead of relieved, in the commotion. Stand for family and humanity.

Stick with it.” Just as the best stockbroker argues for investing long-term, so as the weather the ups and downs of the market, commit to a limited number of activities and “FOCUS” (“focus on one course, until success,” or at least until you see gradual improvement).

Long-term contributions matter. Today ends, tonight and tomorrow starts again, but we only get one long-term life.” When we get out of repeating or “day trading our emotions,” we restore our calm and our capacity to see that “this too shall pass.” We enable ourselves again to see the bigger picture, that life is still a gift and one that is (or will again feel) much worth living.

Add up the sum of our days and that’s who we are. We get what we repeat.” Choose carefully the activities and people with whom we share our lives, each day, and we will see the value of the investments we make in each moment.

And now it’s your turn: Do you “day trade” in emotional angst in this time of pandemic? What alternative transactions can you seek, to lift yourself out of repeating loss and distress?