Do you recall learning about Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of human needs?
For humans to have the bandwidth to attend to our top-line social, emotional and psychological needs, such as being better versions of ourselves personally and professionally, he said we first require a level of certainty around our basic survival needs. Basic needs are physical needs like air, food, shelter, and rest (and toilet paper and flour, as it turns out). These are followed up by personal safety needs, such as security, finances/ employment, and health – physical and mental. "Higher" needs feed different parts of us -- the parts that need connection and love; growth and learning; accomplishment and esteem; and personal and professional fulfillment. For the past 2+ months, most of us have been attending to our basic needs in a way that has been wholly unfamiliar, and in many ways adrenaline-rich and fatiguing. We have been learning through a fire hose and adapting as we can to make sure we and our families, pets included, have what we need to SURVIVE under multiple scenarios. Higher needs have felt elusive at best for many of us, and may be getting sidelined in the chaos.
Ok, let’s hit PAUSE here and peer at Maslow's Pyramid of Needs...
We have made it this far.
We know how to get food and stay as safe as possible for now. We have new and imperfect home and work routines in play. If we’re lucky, we still have our jobs, and our friends and family have stayed healthy and whole. On good days, we may be able to ladder back up to our higher needs. I’ve been bowled over by the creativity, resourcefulness and compassion people are employing to hit that next rung up on the needs pyramid: our need for love, connection and belonging (friends / family / community). For example:
Virtual and at-home game nights
Zoomed family check-ins and happy hours
Drive-by birthday “parties;” physically distanced prom dates
Virtual Easter, Passover and Ramadan celebrations “with” family
Mask-making efforts and food deliveries for the poor and frontline workers... We humans are naturally creative and resourceful. __________________________________________
With that said, I am wondering:
How many of us are checking in with ourselves regularly to see how we’re doing emotionally and what we need today and to get us through? How many of us are minimizing the impact of this experience on our minds and bodies and just plowing through, head down?
_________________________________________ What do YOU need right now? Check in with yourself. Do you need:
A stress release? Time for or to yourself? More energy and movement? More order? Something to get easier? Connection with others? A good laugh or cry? Comfort? A feeling of accomplishment or contribution? To make progress against a personal or professional project or goal? What is one small action you can take today to get closer to answering these needs and sustain you? When our needs feel overwhelming or impossible to address, we can break them down into smaller pieces and use our creativity and resourcefulness to make what seems impossible possible at some level. And small actions DO make a difference, oftentimes disproportionately so. Answering needs could look like:
A 5-minute walk listening to your favorite music, a podcast or the birds
Taking a class virtually for 30-minutes a week
Family members taking turns with meals and meal-planning
1-minute of silent meditation at the start and end of the day
Getting the sleep you need, no matter what
CAUTION: At times, our “saboteurs” get in the way of our taking these actions, or take the joy or energy out of them. Watch out for self-judgment, guilt, resentment, and rigid black and white thinking as you consider an answer to your needs. For example, if you need time or space to attend to your mental health, you NEED it. Claiming space is not a judgment on you or your family, and not the kind of separation that will scar your children (or spouse). You can start with something as small as claiming 5 minutes in your bedroom with a book or hiding in the bathroom. ;-) Vocalize and act on your needs so they don’t spill out internally and externally in less healthy ways. Fill your cup so you don’t spill your cup. If acting on your needs impacts your family, be sure to share with them what you are doing and why, as appropriate. Ask for support if you need it, and set up structures to ensure you can act on what you need. Finally, be kind to yourself during this time (and always). Remember that your needs ARE needs. Go gently, Wendy