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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Is Boyfriend Too “Go with the Flow” for Her?

Dear Vicki: I’ve been dating an artist for three months and we’re really good together in many ways. Obviously, Craig’s creative, but he’s also very mellow and not overly fussy. We have great discussions and he takes my opinions seriously, which is a refreshing change. I’m having trouble getting people at work to take my suggestions seriously. It’s really frustrating; like I’m talking, but they don’t hear me, so I’m not getting ahead quickly. Anyway, I like Craig a lot, but there is something about him that’s really hard to take. If he says he’ll call on Monday, he might not call until Wednesday. Or if he’s supposed to pick me up at 6:00 pm, sometimes he doesn’t show up until 7:00 pm. This makes me angry. How can I get Craig to change without spoiling what we have? Signed, Angry in Annapolis

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Dear Angry in Annapolis: It’s encouraging that you and Craig are doing so well given how very different your tendencies are. You like punctuality, he’s more go with the flow, and both of these can be traced back to your primary elemental personalities. So, let’s take a look at what those might be.

You’re frustrated at work by the fact that no one acknowledges you and you aren’t getting ahead quickly. This is really typical of a primary Wood personality. And Craig, as a mellow artist who loves discussions, seems to be pretty stereotypically a primary Water personality. As you have discovered, there are some pretty significant differences between these two elemental personalities, as well as definite issues associated with each.

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Can She Bring Back the Enthusiasm?

Dear Vicki: I’m writing about my partner Lizzie. We’ve run a small auction business for several years and have done really well. I love seeing what comes in and the challenge of researching its history. I run our office, but Lizzie literally runs the auctions. She is engaging, outgoing, funny, and makes running the events look easy. Or at least she used to. Our auction house burned down several months ago and while I took it philosophically—that’s what insurance is for—Lizzie was devastated. I’ve done everything I can think of to get her to see things the way I do, but nothing I’ve said or done has perked her up. Not even breaking ground for our new building. It’s like she’s really burned out or something and the more I try to help her, the worse she gets. I’m fine doing this alone, but I miss Lizzie’s sunshine. How can I help her get enthusiastic again? Signed, Gloomy in Glendale

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Dear Gloomy: I’m so sorry about the fire. It’s surely a traumatic event for both of you, but based on your primary elemental personalities, it is probably something that will be easier for you to get over than for Lizzie. But there are ways for each of you to heal, so let’s look at your primary elemental personalities and see what we can do.

The fact that you manage the details of the business, love to research the history of the pieces that come in, and have approached the fire in a philosophic fashion makes me suspect that you are a primary Metal personality with a secondary Water personality. The Metal part of your personality will absolutely love the history of the pieces you sell because Metal people tend to appreciate the past. And no elemental personality does details like the Metal personality. However, your philosophic approach to the fire and loss is something we often see in the Water personality. Water people care less about things and more about ideas and meaning. You don’t mention it, but it wouldn’t be out of character for the Water part of your personality to wonder what the meaning was behind the fire or why the fire happened at all.

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Handling a Challenge to Her Authority

Dear Vicki: I’m a married mother of one who works in Manhattan. For three years I’ve also served as the president of our condo association. We have a congenial board and I keep our meetings pleasant, but efficient; we all have plenty of other things we need to be doing. That all changed four months ago when “Laura” joined the board. She is cheery, but opinionated. Productive, but assertive. Upbeat, but bossy. We clashed almost immediately, but I couldn’t tell you exactly why. The best I can say is that for every suggestion I make, she has an alternative version. If I say we should have something signed by Friday, she’ll say she thinks Monday is soon enough. If I bring paint samples in for the laundry area, she’ll suggest the colors should be “more gray.” She is difficult to work with (honestly, I’m angry with her most of the time), but apparently, she isn’t going anywhere, so what can I do? Signed, Bossed Around Boss

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Dear Bossed: Actually, this is a fairly straightforward issue and will make complete sense if we look at your primary elemental personalities. The fact that you are running a board, like efficiency, and assume everyone wants to be doing things makes me suspect you are a primary Wood personality. Always “doing,” liking to make things happen, running the show, and not appreciating it when your authority is challenged are all pretty basic hallmarks of the Wood personality, as is the resulting anger when forward movement is impeded.

And here’s the rub: the words you use to describe Laura – opinionated, productive, upbeat, assertive, bossy – are also very characteristic of the Wood personality. So, this means that you and Laure are probably both primary Wood personalities.

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