At this moment, take a breath and see if you can relax your jaw. (I just noticed I was holding my breath too.) Grab some tea, and go easy.
At a time like this one all my clients are going through the same thing I’m going through — a pandemic engulfing the world and devastating entire countries. Everyone is going through it in their own unique way, but we are also in it together. With every hour, the news gets more dire and yet so many things still remain uncertain.
Uncertainty is immensely difficult for all of us to live with, even the regular everyday uncertainty that we each must bear. But uncertainty on a global level, about pretty much every single aspect of our lives that we had come to take for granted — that’s Hard with a capital H. Even — and pardon me for the utterly obvious joke — being able to count on toilet paper is no longer a given. (And I actually was anxious about it for a while!) We know the world is not going to look the same ever again, but we don’t know what that means — and I think we feel similarly freaked out by this.
So, we take to the internet and social media to try to relieve our momentary anxiety. It has been so helpful for myself personally — everyone is posting about the same thing, and the immediacy of the posts helps me feel connected. I’m sure this is why so many people take to it now as well. That, and so many being grounded at home.
I’ve been amazed to see so many articles and links to all the cool free stuff being offered online — courses, museum tours, concerts, and even operas. Every time I see a post like that, my heart warms up a little, feeling the generosity of companies and organizations everywhere. There is indeed so much goodness, and so much knowledge and beauty at our fingertips, there for the taking. However, I also realized that this grateful feeling came with a kind of asterisk — which is why I decided to write this post.
The pandemic — along with the unbearable uncertainty of what may come — has kicked up most of our nervous systems into survival mode even if your immediate survival is not at stake at this moment. Stress chemicals are squirted into your body, and you are constantly working to mitigate anxiety. That’s where social media can be so useful, despite its other flaws. But not everyone is able to simply shift their routines and treat their self-quarantines (or mandated ones, for that matter) as a “break” or an opportunity to learn from this new experience. Even when you are not stuck at home with children or don’t have an abusive situation you can’t escape from, even when you can order your groceries online and aren’t worried about paying your rent, what is happening in the world is stressful and it affects your body and your life. And in a state like this, watching a museum tour or taking in a free opera, might not be possible. When you are stressed, you might be in fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response (or a dizzying blend of all of the above) — and it might not be immediately obvious even to yourself. The effects can be so subtle.
So yes, for many people, this experience can be an incredible learning opportunity, a chance to be mindful, to learn to appreciate the little things, a chance to recognize and withdraw unnecessary attachments (like, do I really need that book I probably won’t get to read for 3 years?), a chance to reconnect, and an opportunity to practice kindness and connection. But for so many, that’s too much — too heavy a burden.
Many people with various traumas (whether big or microscopic-and-cumulative) are going to be too amped up right now, to take in free courses or virtual tours online. When one’s nervous system is amped up like this, relaxation and learning are not possible and cause them to feel more stressed. Many people need more comfort and support now, even if it means watching familiar shows on loop.
So if you’re up for a free online course, a gallery tour or a new movie, by all means — revel in those delicious offerings. But if you are feeling that “asterisk” I have encountered, if you can’t “make the most of” a global pandemic, you have full permission (and please give it to yourself!!) to hold onto what’s always worked for you. Your defenses (i.e. coping mechanisms) are okay to use. (Of course, if they lead you to also hurt yourself, please be kind to you, kinder than ever!)
Social media has always been skewed toward bite-sized, easy advice, positive quotes, attempts to inspire, and jokes/memes. Balancing this out can be hard if it’s all you’re seeing, even when you already know that not all of it is going to be useful. I personally find the humor very healing, but I also have moments when I feel sick to my stomach and reach for easy comforts that have worked before. That’s just fine.
So, my own, bite-sized advice is this:
– Be really, really kind to yourself. If all you can do is put one foot in front of the other, you are doing enough.
– Find ways to create a state of relaxation in your body whenever possible.
If you can take deep, intentional breaths throughout the day, amazing. There are also wonderful guided meditations that can be lovely for this purpose. This doesn’t need to be a time to “learn to meditate”. This is simply to give your body a break, and a chance for the stress chemicals to get filtered out.
This is enough. You are doing enough.
I have compiled a list of resources that can be helpful to help your body relax and release the stress. I am sharing things I’ve used myself and have found helpful (but feel free to explore the myriad others available!):
Guided Body Scan Meditation for Mind & Body Healing
Mindfulness Meditation in 20 Minutes
Sleep Hypnosis for Calming An Overactive Mind (guided)
Sleep Hypnosis for Floating Relaxation | Calm Your Mind for Deep Sleep
Hypnosis for Life Healing Sleep (guided)
Lucid Dreaming Music (instrumental)
Sleep Talk Down Guided Meditation (Guided)
Lucid Dreaming Hypnosis (guided)
Sleep Hypnosis for Anxiety Reduction & Reversal (guided)
GOOD NIGHT Deep REM Cell Rejuventing Sleep Guided
RELAXING, SOOTHING, and HEALING MUSIC
Meditation Music – Increase Creativity
Beautiful music (instrumental)
Chakra Healing ~ Spa Music w/ Binaural Beats (instrumental)
DISSOLVE TOXINS, CLEANSE INFECTIONS | Full Body Cell Level Detox
Rain & Thunder Relaxation ~ 2 Hours High Quality Ambient Sounds