Healing in the time of covid-19
What strange times to be witnessing. I am sure you have all received multiple emails pointing out what to do and not to do, how to recognise COVID-19 symptoms, how to support your immune systems etc... I am not here to add just another voice to the same. Hopefully, you will find some helpful information that may give you a sense of what may be going on inside you.
Responding to stress
As we all are grappling with this worldwide COVID-19 situation, we are shown with great clarity the way different people’s nervous systems respond to stress. Some find themselves into a fight/flight response, for example: mobilising and stocking up groceries, getting angry at the political leaders or people around them for their "inadequate" or otherwise "excessive" response, going into self-isolation before it is a requirement. Some go into a freeze/collapse response, behaving as if nothing was happening and going about life in a business as usual fashion, feeling utterly helpless and paralysed with hopelessness, or assuming that we can chant or pray all of this away (spiritual bypass is a form of dissociation). Some people try to grasp the situation, rationalising and making meaning and stories to feel a sense of control. Some look outside themselves for someone to blame, pointing fingers at the way others respond to stress in a constant quest to avoid sitting with their own emotional discomfort.
Personally I feel I have oscillated from one extreme to the other of all of the above before finding my centre again (only to lose track of it as the wind blows).
One thing though is important to understand; these are all "intelligent" (even when inadequate) and unique responses of our nervous system to this situation of uncertainty and fear. Like Thomas Hübl points out, the virus pandemic is triggering us on a global scale to feel into collective trauma (our reactions are amplified by equal reactions of those around us), as well as into our own histories of personal trauma. The way we react to this emergency is a mirror of our very own learned patterns of coping with trauma and survival and we may find ourselves pushed to the edge of our own challenges.
An invisible enemy like a virus is likely to make us feel under attack from all directions, so look out for signs of hyper-vigilance and increased levels of anxiety. Bring yourself to the here and now feeling your feet on the ground, do a check-in with your own felt sense, focus on longer exhalations to calm that racing heart which may be keeping you awake at night. You may also try to refrain from making projections of the future from a place of terror; chances are you will see no positive outcome: your brain can see of the future only what is in the present moment, so unless there is a degree of nervous system regulation, the scenario will be rather gloomy. When you cannot see a way through, just take the next step, and then the next and the next...and so on: mindful awareness in a nutshell.
I am doing my best to stay grounded in reality, noticing what makes me falter while also setting boundaries to negative stimuli (too much "information" or videos of politicians are not good for getting in touch with my inner sense of peace), while also being open to observing what happens both within me and without. This is what I call presence; a witnessing of the inner processes, giving time for things to arise and pass, a compassionate stance, devoid of judgement: like sitting with oneself, in contemplation. If there is one good thing coming out of this situation it is time.
Don't forget, if you are finding it difficult coping with feelings of anxiety or stress you can speak to a professional counsellor. Many therapists are on-hand offering online and telephone support. You are not alone and there is help available.
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