One of the things that is becoming abundantly clear to me is that we are not all reacting to stress in the same way. Here’s how it’s playing out in my house. My husband is on a mission to complete every household project in a week. My son is numbing with media. My daughter has retreated to her room. I’m writing and spending a lot of time in the barn. In the barn I often look to my animals behavior to make sense of what I’m thinking or feeling. Today I found the perfect connection. Chickens. Have you ever tried to catch a chicken? Not an easy task, I assure you. I often let mine free range. Yesterday I had one that didn’t want to return to the coop. After being cooped up myself for a few days I get it. I approached the chicken hoping it would go into fright mode. Sometimes when you approach chickens they will just freeze. They stand still and don’t move, sort of resigning themselves to whatever will happen next. Unfortunately for me, this chicken decided a better option was flight. She started running around darting this way and that. I darted around after her looking a bit crazy I bet. I kept getting more and more frustrated and she kept being more and more elusive. Finally, I stopped. What am I doing I thought? My chickens follow me when I call. All I have to do is stop and walk away. I started walking calling out my call of “chick, chick” and rattled the food container in my hands, just like I always do when I’m thinking straight. The chicken willingly followed me right into the coop…and we both got her reward. Mealworms for her and no more running around after a crazy chicken for me.
The lesson. We are all handling the stress of COVID-19 in different ways. Some of us are flying around in flight mode. Others are freezing, spending way too much time on social media or actually staying in bed either recovering from illness or hiding from reality. Whichever reaction, the best thing to do is stop. What do you do when you are not stressed? What tools work for you? What’s the call that will get you back to where you belong? You can’t control your automatic reaction anymore than a chicken can control if it will freeze or run, but you can control the pause. Take just a moment to get your thinking brain back and do the thing that you know works for you. Don’t make it complicated. It may just be taking a walk or a nap, baking or reading a book.
Special thanks to Elena Peterson for the photo. Her pictures are so remarkable better than mine I wish I could get every photo from her.