Create a Team to Battle Fears and Loneliness

People Holding Hands

“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~Lao Tzu

Five years ago, I found myself rebuilding my life after my fourteen-year marriage ended. During those first months preceding my divorce, crushing feelings of fear and loneliness often consumed me. Thankfully, I began seeing a wonderful therapist named Muriel.

Each week, I held my breath until it was time for my appointment, when I could curl up on Muriel’s sofa and exhale all my anxieties.

One week, when I was particularly overwhelmed, Muriel gave me the number of the local Crisis Hotline and insisted that I save it in my mobile phone.

“I’m not suicidal!” I said, laughing as I dutifully recorded the number.

A few nights later, I awakened in the middle of the night filled with anxiety and fear. I couldn’t stop crying. I called a good friend, but she didn’t answer. Just as I began to panic, I remembered the number Muriel gave me.

After pouring my heart out to a complete stranger at the Crisis Hotline Center, an hour later I hung up the phone and promptly fell asleep. (In fact, I felt better from the moment I heard the volunteer’s voice on the end of the line.)

Having the right resource empowered me to get the help I needed, when I needed it, in an appropriate manner.

After that night, I realized the value of reaching out to the “right” person to help me through the various challenges I faced.

In the months that followed, I came to rely upon my attorney to navigate the often rough waters of custody negotiation and property dispersal.

I called on my accountant to provide me with guidance on my tax return.

When I became anxious about my financial situation, I tapped the expertise of a financial planner to help me set up long- and short-term goals.

In my personal life, I knew I could rely on my sisters for parenting tips, and I tapped the wisdom of my (single) friends when I began dating again.

I also had colleagues with whom I could share ideas about pitching stories, or finding new clients. And I sought out a spiritual community with whom I could study, meditate, and pray.

After a while, I began to look at every person in my life who helped me with an aspect of my well-being as a member of “Team Brigid.” Soon, my phone was filled with numbers of “experts” who could help me weather any crisis, or celebrate any triumph.

Celebrities and millionaires have entourages and handlers to take care of their every task and need. But I don’t have to have fame or fortune to put together my own personal concierge service. In fact, having a team doesn’t have to cost me a cent; I only have to identify the people who are most valuable in my life and ask them for help.

Creating my team roster didn’t take a lot of effort. Most of these people were already helping me in some capacity. But it’s a great source of comfort and confidence to create a list of all the people in various areas of my life who could help me with different tasks.

For example, the mechanic who changes my car’s oil every 3,000 miles is an incredibly valuable member of my team—if I choose to look at him that way. Same goes for my hair stylist and my dry cleaner and my editor. I can look at each facet of my life—intellectual, physical, and spiritual—and identify people who are already helping me.

By using the team perspective, I consider everyone who provides me a service as an ally, which makes the world a friendly place.

The checkout woman at the grocery store who is always so nice to me (and everyone in her lane), and the Zumba instructor at my gym are all members of my team. As I expand my list, I realize how many people contribute to how I get through the day. Sometimes a friendly smile in the checkout lane makes all the difference.

I don’t have an intimate relationship with every single person on my list. In fact, most of Team Brigid doesn’t know what’s happening in my personal life, let alone that they are on my “team roster,” but I can count on them all to play their part.

Today, my team is more important than ever. Some days, just remembering that I have a wealth of (paid and unpaid) experts at the ready to support and guide me helps me maintain sanity and perspective when life becomes difficult.

“Team Brigid” includes: my accountant, financial advisor, therapist, attorney, gynecologist, general practitioner, dentist, spiritual teacher, my neighbors, work colleagues, editors and clients, my car mechanic, hair stylist, 12-Step Sponsor, 12-Step program friends, my sisters and family members, girlfriends, my son, boyfriend, ex-husband*, my son’s teachers, coaches, and school counselors, and my son’s pediatrician.

(*Yes, my ex is on my team today, as he plays an important role in helping raise our son.)

Whenever I begin to feel anxious or lonely, I pull out my team roster and call up the appropriate player. For example, if I’m concerned about my son’s math grade, rather than sit and worry, I send an email to his teacher.

Sharing my team perspective comes in handy when I have a loved one who is struggling with a difficult situation and leaning on me for support. Like my dear friend who (thankfully) slept through my 2am meltdown years ago, sometimes I just can’t be on the end of the phone—or I’m not the appropriate person to provide assistance.

By helping my loved one develop her own team roster, I’m empowering her with far more help than I could by simply doling out advice based on my limited experience. (Plus, the team approach helps reduce caregiver burn out.)

Who’s on your team? Spend some time today making a list of all the helpful people in your life who contribute to your well-being. You might find a position or two that needs to be filled. Or you may discover that you’ve “over-hired” in some areas.

Looking at my life from a team approach helps me be open to the resources that are around me. I don’t have to be completely self-reliant, nor depend on any one person to take care of my needs.

Ultimately, creating a list of the Most Valuable Players in my life helps me remember that, no matter what comes my way, I am never alone.

People holding hands image via Shutterstock

About Brigid Elsken Galloway

Brigid Elsken Galloway is a journalist and editor who’s reported for NPR and contributes to various publications and websites. She is also on the faculty of the Institute for Conscious Being. This fall, Brigid published her first collection of essays, entitled The Nature of Things: Twenty-four Stories About Embracing Reality. She blogs at Adventures of a Southern Buddhist Catholic.

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