We can't let this virus beat us.
Besides wreaking havoc on our health care system, stealing lives and breath from hundreds of thousands of people, and debilitating our economy, COVID-19 is also trying to beat so many of us in our minds and in our hearts with paralyzing anxiety.
When entire nations shut down, with prolonged quarantine, food insecurity and financial pressure, we are talking billions of people in a potential mental health crisis, making fear an even greater pandemic than the illness itself.
Even for the most stoic, being holed up in our apartments and homes across the nation has brought us all emotional ups and downs. There are the lonely, the elderly and even those surrounded by family who are close to being at their wits end due to the cruel and far-reaching impacts of this pandemic. While hanging on to the last ounces of social interaction we have, people are looking at each other with suspicion at grocery stores or the post office -- just trying not to get sick. A lot of us are getting work done, albeit in a state of shock. I learned very quickly that I need face-to-face contact. In the weeks we've been #saferathome, I've felt numb on more than one occasion.
Now, I noticed that I have two kinds of friends: those who were very concerned and those who are cheerleading. But no one was really talking about how they were handling all the change and the added pressure of keeping their minds right.
While I am the biggest proponent of silver linings, I thought about what I could do not only for myself but for anyone struggling with this. Thinking happy thoughts was not quite cutting it for me. Quiet time needed to be structured. While I continued compassionately mentoring and encouraging so many people struggling through this, I saw that I needed answers, too. I was becoming overwhelmed and feeling disconnected.
Then I remembered I needed to listen to my own advice! I wrote about how being kind and thinking of others initiates creativity and innovation that brings new ideas in my book, "Your Hidden Superpower." Clarity and connection comes from being genuinely kind. I stopped thinking about my own problem completely and brainstormed about what I would tell someone going through the same struggles with distancing and isolation. This is the thought that popped in my head:
"I need to write my future self a letter -- I need to remember what I went through in 2020."
I saw myself documenting a kind of time capsule of the experiences and emotions so that the next time I was in a crisis (personal or global), I would know what worked for me this time around could help me tomorrow. But it had to be more than a pep talk.
I started out by writing: "A letter to my future self" and then addressed three parts:
What am I going through?
Writing this helped me to be honest and open about how challenged I was by my whole world changing and zero time with others. And it allowed myself to be real with where I was.
What was bringing me hope?
For me, it was a daily phone call from a loved one and the evening rally for health care workers across Manhattan. People going out and cheering was such a bright spot in an otherwise quiet day.
What would I keep doing that coronavirus could never cancel?
All the places we would usually go and enjoy were gone, and people I would see on a regular basis, including co-workers, had been stripped from us. But the virus couldn't steal my ability to be kind or give to charity or smile at strangers. This helped reaffirm in me that I could have everything taken away from me and I would still be who I was even when I didn't feel like who I was.
I ended the letter with my declaration that "I am the unbeatable kind."
COVID-19 can't stop kindness.
After I wrote it, I recorded myself reading the letter out loud. It created my own personalized inspiration that I can replay when things get shaky. Your words spoken about you are always going to be much more powerful than anyone else's.
The next step was to be vulnerable, and share the letter and to encourage other people to repeat these steps. This is the kind of story time we need right now, for people of all ages. This could be a way for us to rewrite our story, too. As we get ready to step back into the public life we long for, we will need people willing to give ourselves, our businesses and our culture a new narrative.
Here's what I'm challenging us all to do:
1. Write the letter including what kindness you'll continue to show in spite of crisis.
2. Record yourself reading your letter out loud.
3. Post the video on your social accounts tagging friends to encourage them to write and record their own letter. (Repeat.)
Sharing what we are collectively going through and seeing that we are not alone in struggling to stay strong. That gives us hope, and nothing can stop hope.
We are the unbeatable kind.
Adrienne Bankert is an ABC News correspondent and author of "Your Hidden Superpower: The Kindness That Makes You Unbeatable at Work and Connects You with Anyone" available June 9, 2020. Visit www.yourhiddensuperpower.com.
Editor's note: This was originally published on May. 18, 2020.