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We are over six months into our new COVID realities. Tempers are flaring. Patience is in short supply. What techniques have you developed to lessen your knee-jerk reactions?

Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, Academic Impressions, Denver

When the trigger comes across via email, one thing that helps me is to remove the email from my in-box until I feel I can address it calmly. I save it to a folder and put a reminder on my calendar later that day or the following to respond. That way I don’t forget about it, but I am able to mentally take a step away from the message that’s upsetting me.

Lee Skallerup Bessette, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

No joke, I’ve started meditating. My credit card offered me one year free membership to Calm, and I’ve been pretty good at finding at least 10 minutes to meditate with the app most days. I think it’s helped? The biggest thing for me has been to practice gratitude: my husband and I both still have our jobs, my employer is doing better than most in response to the pandemic, the kids’ schooling is going well, my daughter is back in the studio for ballet, my son is in the pool and I am on deck coaching … I remind myself that things are going extraordinarily well for myself and our family, all things considered, and that we are lucky in that regard. If I can’t find the patience or grace to extend to others who are probably dealing with a lot more than I am, I take a step back and literally count my blessings.

Annie Adams, Morehead State University, Morehead, Ky.

Reminding myself that what I may perceive as insensitivity or unhelpful behavior may be another person’s method of coping. We are all tired and on edge.

Lauryl Tucker, University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn.

First, I try to remind myself of the humanity behind whatever has me fuming. If in person or on Zoom, I take a deep breath, and then -- it’s important to do this after the deep breath -- I stuff a quantity of chocolate into my mouth sufficient to render any cursing indistinct and plausibly deniable. (If the precipitating humanity comes via email, I get up from my chair and pace around, meditatively rehearsing the training montage from Rocky IV until I feel sleepy. Then I compose my reply, reminding myself that my recipient is human and also sometimes imagining them covered with feathers.)

Bonnie Stewart, University of Windsor, Windsor, Ont.

Uh … first I close Twitter? That helps a solid 50 percent of the time. ;)

More generally, though, I’ve been trying to build a mental framework that allows me to recognize that some people simply see the world through different lenses than I do. I don’t have to like those lenses, but figuring them out sometimes helps me identify where they’re worth addressing and where they’re not. So when I’m annoyed or losing patience with someone, I use their statements as analytic tools to try to unpack what their assumptions are about the situation. Then -- if I need to respond at all -- I try to respond by asking about those assumptions and clarifying. Sometimes, I then need to state my own position or even address the assumptions -- if that’s in my lane. But often, just figuring it out helps me chill a bit, gives me a moment to rest and process before the reaction takes over.

Except on Twitter where I’m pretty much just sitting there in full-blown shock and rage, of late.

Niya Bond, the University of Maine, Orono, Me.

Lately, if I’m honest, I think my coping strategies involve 70 percent avoidance and 30 percent affirmation. Sometimes when I wake up at 4 a.m., to make my magic out of a quiet moment on my own, the world is literally on fire. That’s hard to reconcile. Subsequently, at least for me, it can be difficult to move forward with feeling anything other than despair, dread and defeat. Then, layer on social, political, economic and pandemic-induced calamities, all commingled, all complex, all contributing to a sense of overwhelming chaos -- I just can’t.

So, I turn to escape. I stay off social media. I spend inordinate amounts of time daydreaming about redecorating my house -- bohemian chic or midcentury modern? I’ve repainted my entryway three times, with no end in sight. I read Sarah J. Maas books, where the same tensions from real life somehow seem safer to grapple with in text. If magic exists, if the fae and witches and mortals can all find a way to work toward a common goal, if good is possible in the face of monstrous evil, surely there is hope.

Then I hold on to this hope. I check my privilege. I think about how I can give back. I rally for what’s next. I advocate for others. I trade despair and dread and defeat for good deeds. Maybe my avoidance isn’t aimless after all. Maybe it’s how I gather my strength, how I start a little stronger.

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