In times of high anxiety—right now?—two of our core capabilities may be at risk: Agency and motivation. (“Agency” identifies our power to affect change, in ourselves or others. “Motivation” is an inner trait that positively alters our willingness to act.)
Why might this diminishing of capabilities be happening? The isolating fear of disease, danger or death during COVID19 may have taken away our normal decision-making powers. With that loss may also have come another, connected deterioration: Mistrusting the eventual outcomes of our actions, and subsequently wondering about the futility of our previous motivations.
We may have yielded to the effects of cognitive and emotional freezing. (Along with fighting and fleeing, “freezing” is also one of our brain’s default reactions to stress.) When we’re frozen inside our minds or souls, nothing much happens. If that continues, not good!
When you want to help someone that you sense may have lost agency or motivation, you could just stand by and wait for them to come out of that mood or disposition. OR you could push hard at them, offering advice or other active help. Again, not so good: When unnoticed, folks reacting to stress might remain hyper-frozen, or perhaps not react well to the added burden of your (unhelpful) solutions.
A light nudge—probably voiced in conversation—might be better. Coming from trusted non-threatening elders (like you), and buoyed by loving attitudes, your words might be just enough to help the stressed-out person take a small step toward regaining personal power and incentive to deal with life.
What would those gentle prompts look like? Any set of words/actions that tell the stressed-out person that you’re there for them now and into the future, and that they’re dear to you.
And yes: You’re probably already an elderly nudger…!
(To receive these entries when they are posted, go to the upper right-hand corner of the top banner and click on the three dots or parallel lines. Scroll down to the subscription form and enter your information.)