4 Min ReadLifestyle 27 April 2020
How do we build an emotional moat around ourselves so that we can still thrive in a time such as this? There's so much light within the darkness and yet, how can we continue to keep that light and energy shining on others and ourselves as we navigate through this crisis
We all have, what I refer to as a mental, emotional, and spiritual thermostat. In other words, we are all "set" at different levels and when we cross and go over our mental, emotional, or spiritual number, we go into a state of overwhelming stress and feel out of alignment or off balance. What do we do to lower those levels so that we can move forward and function? Once we identify what that number is for ourselves, we can self-regulate and live in our power. Living in our power allows for more clarity to move forward with the activities at hand.
The best way to innovate, create, and stay calm is to fill your mental, emotional, and spiritual buckets up first and foremost. Be proactive about it. Schedule it like you schedule every other important thing in your life. If you do, then your thoughts and ideas are empowered to flow freely, and you'll build up momentum and be productive in spite of the circumstances. It is this level that's required in the New Normal in order to remain a relevant, innovative leader in your business, in your community, and in your family. They all need you now, perhaps more than ever.
Let's take a look at what we have to work with.
Filling up your Mental Bucket
The words you use are always important — especially now. Words matter more than you may realize. Why? Because your words come directly from your thoughts as a means to communicate your innermost thinking to yourself and to others.
What are you reading? What are you watching? Are you spending your days immersed in the steady stream of bad news from around the world? Or are you selectively checking in to know the facts so that you can decide how to help others around you? Find books and podcasts that lift your spirits and remind you that we are all going to be OK; that we are stronger than we think; that our role is to (like they tell us on airplanes) put on our oxygen masks first so that we have what we need to help someone else. Are you doing that? Are you looking out for you?
Filling up your Emotional Bucket
Accept your feelings as they are and be compassionate with yourself. It's hard not to feel grief over all that has transpired over the past few months. Perhaps the shock has calmed a bit for you and it's time to "see" through a new perceptual lens that you're OK now. You may need to check in hourly to see how you're feeling and when the feeling of overwhelming and intense fear crop up, remind yourself that you are okay right now. Be kind to yourself rather than beating yourself up for not doing more. If you're saying "You should…" be doing this or "should" be acting a certain way, you know you're being harsh to yourself.
Many people are losing their jobs, losing loved ones, worrying about the economy during this crisis and ongoing shutdown. Others are grieving, too, worried about their economic future and health. This is the time to strengthen your "compassionate and understanding" muscles. We've seen the beauty and power of compassion help all across the world. We are the Second Responders that must be available for ourselves and for others' emotional well-being.
A very effective strategy to help you let go of anxiety and anxious feelings is to allow them to be expressed. Recognize your emotions, maybe even journal about them. Research has shown that writing by hand in the form of journaling is an excellent way to keep the brain's gray matter sharp and generate a more positive mood by being self-reflective, instead of bottling things up inside. Many areas of the brain are activated when you journal, such as thinking, language, memory, and healing. There's a reason why, with more than 30 million copies published, one of World War II's biggest bestselling books was in the form of a journal: The Diary of Anne Frank.
Filling up your Spiritual Bucket
As Albert Einstein said, "In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity." The gift is to find the prospect within a predicament and to grow from the experience. This starts with assessing the situation as though you are an observer… or as if you are sitting in a theater and watching the show. Being able to "distance" yourself and become the character onstage, you will be able to "see" with a new lens filled with observation and curiosity, rather than watch with judgment while fixating on the worst-case scenario.
Above all, stay in gratitude. Research studies continue to show that gratitude increases happiness, reduces depression, and is a major contributor to resilience. As you focus on gratitude during the day, it will help realign your mental, emotional, and spiritual buckets around the clock.
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5 Min Read
You may recognize Judge, Tanya Acker, from her political and legal commentary on different networks and shows like Good Morning America, The Talk, Wendy Williams, CNN Reports or The Insider. Acker is more than an experienced commentator. She is also a Judge on the fifth season of Emmy nominated CBS show, Hot Bench.
The show, created by Judge Judy, is a new take on the court genre. Alongside Acker, are two other judges: Patricia DiMango and Michael Corriero. Together the three-panel judges take viewers inside the courtroom and into their chambers. “I feel like my responsibility on the show is, to be honest, fair, [and] to try and give people a just and equitable result," Acker says. She is accomplished, honest and especially passionate about her career. In fact, Acker likes the fact that she is able to help people solve problems. “I think that efficient ways of solving disputes are really at the core of modern life.
“We are a very diverse community [with] different values, backgrounds [and] beliefs. It's inevitable that we're going to find ourselves in some conflicts. I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.
Acker's career has been built around key moments and professional experiences in her life. Particularly, her time working right after college impacted the type of legal work she takes on now.
Shaping Her Career
Acker didn't foresee doing this kind of work on television when she was in college at either Howard University or Yale Law. “I was really open in college about what would happen next," Acker comments. “In fact, I deliberately chose a major (English) that wouldn't lock me into anything [because] I wanted to keep all of my options open." Her inevitable success on the show and throughout her career is an example of that. In fact, after graduating from Yale, Acker served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Dorothy Nelson who sits on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
It was not only her first job out of law school but also one of the formative experiences of her professional life. “[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law," she exclaims. “She delivers it all with a lot of love." Judge Nelson is still on the bench and is continuing to work through her Foundation: The Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California, where Acker serves on the board. The foundation helps people seeking alternative ways of resolving their disputes instead of going to court.
"I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.
“It was important to her to try and create platforms for people to resolve conflict outside of court because court takes a long time," Acker explains. “I'm proud to be a part of that work and to sit on that board."
After her clerkship, she was awarded a Bristow Fellowship and continued building her career. Outside of the fellowship, Acker's legal work incorporated a broad variety of matters from civil litigation, constitutional cases, business counseling, and advising. One of her most memorable moments was representing a group of homeless people against the city. “They were being fought for vagrancy and our defense was, they had no place to go," she shares.
As part of her pro bono work, Acker was awarded the ACLU's First Amendment Award for her success with the case. Though, she has a hard time choosing from one of many memorable moments on Hot Bench. Acker does share a few of the things that matter to her. “Our show is really drawn from a cross-section of courtrooms across America and the chance to engage with such a diverse group of people really means a lot to me," she discusses.
How Did Acker Become A Judge?
In addition to Judge Nelson, Judge Judy is certainly among her top professional influences. “I think it's incredible [and] I feel very lucky that my professional career has been bookended by these incredible judges," she acclaims. “I've really learned a lot from Judy about this job, doing this kind of job on television." Before Acker was selected for Hot Bench, she hadn't been a judge. It was Judge Judy who recommended that she get some experience. Acker briefly comments on her first experience as a temporary judge on a volunteer basis in traffic court. “I was happy to be able to have the chance to kind of get a feel for it before we started doing the show," she comments. “Judy is a wonderful, kind, generous person [and] she's taught me quite a lot. I feel lucky."
Photo Courtesy of Annie Shak.
Acker's Time Away From Home
Outside of Hot Bench, Acker took recent trips to Haiti and Alabama. They were memorable and meaningful.
Haiti, in particular, was the first trip she excitedly talks about. She did some work there in an orphanage as part of LOVE Takes Root, an organization that is driven to help children around the world whether it's basic aid or education. “Haiti has a special place in my heart," she began. “As a person who's descended from enslaved people, I have a lot of honor and reverence for a country that threw off the shackles of slavery."
She was intrigued by the history of Haiti. Especially regarding the communities, corrupt government and natural disasters. “They really had to endure a lot, but I tell you this when I was there, I saw people who were more elegant, dignified, gracious and generous as any group of people I've ever met anywhere in the world," she goes on. “I think it left me with was a strong sense of how you can be graceful and elegant under fire." Acker is optimistic about the country's overall growth and success.
“[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law."
“There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," Acker says. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving."
Her other trip was different in more ways than one. She traveled there for the first time with her mother as part of a get out to vote effort, that Alabama's First black House Minority Leader, Anthony Daniels was organizing. “It was incredible to take that trip with her [and] I've got to tell you, the South of today is not the South of my mother's upbringing," she explains. Originally from Mississippi, Acker's mother hasn't been back in the South since 1952. “Every place has a ways to go, but it was a really exciting trip [and] it was nice for me to connect with that part of the country and that part of my history."
Overcoming Racial Barriers
As a black woman, Acker has certainly faced challenges based on her race and gender. But it doesn't define who she is or what she can accomplish. “There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," she says. “There's no sort of barrier that someone would attempt to impose upon me that they didn't attempt to impose on my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother." In a space where disparity is sometimes apparent, she recognizes that there is no barrier someone would try to impose on her that they didn't attempt to impose on her mother or grandmothers. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving," Acker states. The conversation continues truthfully and seriously. Acker shares what it can be like for black women, specifically. “I think we're underestimated and we can be disrespected, whereas other folks are allowed the freedom to enjoy a full range of emotions and feelings," she articulates.
At times black women are often restricted from expressing themselves. “If someone wants to make an assumption or jump to a conclusion about me because of my race or gender, that's on them, but their assumptions aren't going to define me," Acker declares. “If something makes me angry or happy I will express that and if someone wants to caricature me, that's their pigeonholing; that's not my problem." A lifelong lesson she learned and shared is to not let other people define who you are. It is one of three bits of wisdom.
Three Pieces Of Advice From Judge Acker
The Power Of Self-awareness
“It's really important that you have a really firm sense of what you want to do and be, and how you're moving in the world because when people try to sway you, judge you or steer you off course you've got to have some basis for getting back on track."
Know Your Support System
“Have a strong community of people who you trust, love and who love you," she advises. “But also learn to love and trust yourself because sometimes it's your own voice that can provide you the most comfort or solace in something."
Learn From Your Experiences
“Trust yourself. Take care of yourself. Don't be too hard on yourself. Be honest with yourself.
“There are times when it's not enough to say this is who I am. Take it or leave it. Sometimes we've got things that we need to work on, change or improve upon," she concludes.
Acker stands out not only because of her accomplishments, but the way she views certain aspects of her life. These days, she's comfortable accepting what makes her different. “I think there's a time when you're younger when conformity feels comfortable, [but] I'm comfortable these days not conforming," she laughs. She enjoys being a decision maker and helping people work through it on Hot Bench.
This article was originally published May 15, 2019.