Managing the Stress Created by Coronavirus

Dear Readers: Thank you so much for your positive response to last week’s blog offering insights into how each of the elemental personalities might handle the isolation and confinement associated with the coronavirus pandemic. I am deeply grateful for your positive comments.

I’ve also heard from many of you that the stress associated with the coronavirus pandemic has been hard to manage. Certainly, it is stressful to worry whether you and your loved ones will manage to stay healthy as the virus spreads around the globe. It is stressful to wonder if there will be adequate healthcare should someone you love need it. And it is stressful to ponder how best to keep your household running and adequately supplied when faced with layoffs, shortages, and shelter in place orders.

There is no doubt that the concerns associated with COVID-19 have thrust most of us into a state of prolonged stress. When added to whatever stress we were experiencing in our individual lives prior to the pandemic, we are likely experiencing significant imbalance in our energies. But we have choices in how we address this stress, and the Five Elements model offers us informed options.

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Coronavirus, Isolation, and the Five Elements

Dear Readers: I’ve had several questions this week regarding challenges people are facing while isolating and/or practicing social distancing given the rapid spread of the coronavirus around the globe. Of special import is how to help children who are used to socializing at school and are now confined to a much smaller universe of interaction, oftentimes just their homes. And for adults here in the U.S., many of the places we usually socialize, like our workplaces or restaurants, are also temporarily closed. That leaves us working at home, often surrounded by the children who aren’t going to the closed schools. How do we manage to stay productive, upbeat, and sane?

It won’t surprise you that I believe how we manage to make it work will depend on our elemental personalities and the elemental personalities of the people who are at home with us. Each of the five elemental personalities handles isolation and confinement differently. With a basic understanding of what does and doesn’t work for each elemental personality, I believe it is possible to create scenarios where we not only make it through these difficult times, but cherish some of the precious moments made possible by our time in isolation.

It goes without saying that we are already doing everything in our power to stay physically healthy (right?), so let’s look at ways to help each of us stay emotionally and mentally healthy as more and more of us “shelter in place.” But before we do, we will need to make sure we’re all on the same page regarding our understanding of the Five Elements personalities, so please bear with me as I quickly review key points regarding the Five Elements model and the elemental personalities associated with that model. If you already know this material, just skip down to the Managing Confinement and Isolation section.

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They Both Want the Spotlight: Can This Relationship Work?

Dear Vicki: I’m wondering if you can help me with my new boyfriend. I’ve been dating Skip ever since we met at a friend’s party about six months ago and it’s been a blast! He’s funny, outgoing, and really exciting to be with. His hobby is stand-up comedy and he focuses on performing for charity events. He’s got a big heart, too. The problem is that I’m also funny and outgoing, so there are many times when we seem to be competing for the spotlight. We aren’t seeing other people anymore, but do we have a chance of staying together? Signed, Funny in Fresno

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Dear Funny: Do you and Skip have a chance of staying together? Absolutely! Any relationship can work if we take the time to understand each other and our relationship tendencies. And that’s where the Five Elements model comes in – it’s a wonderful tool for understanding our personalities and how they relate to each other. In your case, it’s pretty easy to determine what elemental personalities you and Skip have. As outgoing, funny people who enjoy the spotlight, it’s a good bet that you and Skip are both primary Fire personalities.

A big priority for Fire personalities is connecting with other people, and parties are a great place to do that. The challenge is that Fire people also love to keep moving, so not many of their quick meetings from parties turn into long-lasting relationships. The fact that you and Skip are still together six months later speaks well of your chances. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that there are very specific challenges that come with a Fire/Fire relationship. Knowing them upfront will help a great deal.

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Her Sister Lost Her Optimism

Dear Vicki: My sister Cate used to be a pretty trusting, optimistic person. Growing up, she always looked on the bright side of things and tended to see the good in life. She was, and still is, a bit of a loner, too. It was always clear she preferred reading or weaving over loud parties, and that hasn’t changed. Cate also has a soft spot for cats and is always taking in strays. She has a home studio as a decorator and I think they keep her company. I love my sister but have noticed over the years that she seems more likely to assume the worst in a given situation, rather than the best. She doesn’t trust anyone or anything anymore (except her six cats) and appears really frightened about what’s going on in the world these days. Is there any way I can help her return to some version of her trusting, optimistic self? Signed, Worried Sister

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 Dear Worried Sister: It’s understandable that you want to help Cate return to a happier state of being and there are definite ways you can do that. But first I want to suggest that, if you think it’s warranted, you encourage Cate to seek professional help. You will know if that’s necessary, so enough said, but it’s important to remember.

For now, let’s start by taking a look at Cate’s likely elemental personality. From your description, it’s pretty clear that Cate is a primary Water personality. Water people definitely tend to be loners with a keen awareness of their inner resources. This means that, when balanced, they usually trust that they can handle whatever life brings. Water people also view life through the filter of depth, so deep, profound issues (like world peace) matter a lot to them.

The fact that Cate has six cats and they are her only connections right now suggests that her secondary elemental personality is Earth. It is very likely that having six cats to take care of may have caused her to build her Earth energy to such a degree that it is negatively affecting the Water part of her personality. In the Five Elements model, Water and Earth relate on the Controlling Cycle, with Earth controlling Water. If the Earth part of her personality is over-energized from cat duty, it could have decreased the Water part of her personality to the point that she has lost the optimism and trust that comes with a balance Water personality.

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She’s Feeling Betrayed by Her Friend

Dear Vicki: Almost five years ago, my good friend Lanny and I started a business helping local restaurants get leftover food to homeless people. Lanny did most of the planning and was definitely the energy behind making it happen. I did the analysis and created the process necessary to get the food where it needed to go. I also managed our books. It was a small operation, just the two of us, but we felt good about it. Two years ago, my son became seriously ill. I had to leave our business, but Lanny kept it going. Several months ago, there was an article in our newspaper about the business with a quote from one of the people we had helped together thanking Lanny for all she’d done to make such a difference. She was quoted as thanking him, but she never mentioned me. I’m sure this seems petty, but I don’t understand why she didn’t acknowledge all I’d done to help start and run the business. How could a friend do that? Signed: Left Out 

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Dear Left Out: It’s difficult to feel ignored when praise is passed out, especially when you were half of the team that created the company. And since you’ve only been out of the company for two years, Lanny clearly can’t have forgotten all you contributed. Also, you don’t mention it in your letter, but you might be wondering if Lanny purposely left out any mention of your contributions. Let’s look at the likely dynamic between you and Lanny and see if we can’t bring some understanding to this situation.

It’s no surprise that you and Lanny were able to start and successfully run a company. If you contributed analysis and process to the founding of the company, it is likely you are a primary Metal personality. And the fact that Lanny contributed planning and motive energy makes me suspect that she is a primary Wood personality. Also, given the nature of the company you created, I suspect you both have strong secondary Earth personalities. Earth people are usually the ones who care about the less fortunate ones in society. It is a beautiful company you created, but with her Wood and your Metal, you probably could have done absolutely anything! But maybe not smoothly.

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