I have one. You have one. Your family members and friends have one. The cashiers at the grocery store have their own. Your children’s teachers, your co-workers, your doctor… literally everyone is walking around with an invisible backpack loaded with stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
These emotions are hitting all of us because we are living with so much uncertainty. Is my job secure? What’s going to happen with my kids’ camp this summer? What about the fall? This is unchartered territory. There are no rituals or rules or lanes to guide us. When we are adrift and overwhelmed with endless worries, the filters disappear, and our words don’t always come out quite right. We unintentionally ignite a fire with another human being. In these intense moments, when someone else’s comments hit you hard, be forgiving. Remember the backpack, theirs and yours. Their backpack affects what they say, and your backpack affects what you hear.
Instead, I urge you to acknowledge the backpack. Talk about the worries. It’s ok to ask others about them… and go beyond the surface. Check out this article that suggests 20 questions to ask instead of “How are you doing?” It will lead to a more open and honest conversation, a deeper connection, and you both may come out of it with a little less in your backpack.