View this post on Instagram
Even the most well-balanced counselors are prone to get hooked in the emotionally charged atmosphere that is full of dread and inciting panic around the world.
So, I took time today to calm my roll (not referring to toilet paper here; I simply went to yoga class) and take a break from the fear-based, negative headlines that are everywhere you look. Friends, it’s time to use some good old-fashioned, healthy coping skills, or all this negativity will start to trigger your acute stress response (which is not very good for, say, your immune system).
Is the COVID-19 situation serious? You bet. Should you take precautions? Absolutely.
But let’s not forget that aside from the physical health piece of washing our hands and staying out of large crowds, it’s also a good idea to address the mental and emotional piece too and remember that we are divine beings, fully capable of taking good care of ourselves in all kinds of ways.
This will also help us stay healthy and allow us to continue to see and experience the good in life too.
Here are some ideas in case you are still in the grip of anxiety (which we all know freaking sucks, to use a nonclinical term).
Note that the following are healthy coping skills. I’m not going to suggest any coping skills that are “negative/unhealthy,” but we all know they’re there.
In my opinion, a glass of wine or two with your friends will do more good than it will harm (even if you have to sit outside at a healthy distance). Things like “avoidance” can be seen as unhealthy, but it’s okay like when we’re talking about avoiding or distracting ourselves from the low vibe click bait of the media, at least sometimes.
Bottom line—do what you gotta do to deal; just keep being a good person.
Here are the positive coping skills to address the mind, body, and soul during this pandemic:
1. Be aware of your thoughts.
The thoughts you choose have a direct effect on your central nervous system. It’s science. And that little thing in your brain that was created to keep you alive—your amygdala—loves to shine a spotlight on all the ways you can potentially get hurt or die. When it’s done there, it will also encourage you to contemplate any negative outcomes possible for every single person you love or care about.
Yeah, not helpful.
So, here’s the deal. You are going to read or hear something that will trigger the fear-based negative thoughts. This is a certainty. If you can catch the thoughts before there’s too much negative momentum—before your amygdala starts it’s “sky is falling” routine—you can change the thoughts.
Attempt to change the negative thoughts to neutral or more positive thoughts. You’ll know you’re on the right track if one thought feels a bit better than another.
Read this twice: the more emotionally balanced you are, the better able you will be to fight off infections.
Changing your thoughts to neutral or positive helps keep you more emotionally balanced. We generally don’t get sick when we’re balanced, or it’s a lot less severe. This coping skill is better than any vitamin, supplement, or medicine you can buy (but it won’t hurt to get some of those too).
Why are positive thoughts the best defense? Because your body has the unique capability to heal itself. You are around germs, bacteria, and viruses all the time. You get a cut—it heals. You get a cold—it heals. You don’t have to think about it. Trust it. Immunity does play into it, but your thoughts are also a powerful contributor to healing (or illness).
Remember that your heart beats and your lungs breathe without you even thinking about it. Your body is a miracle. Believe that. Let it do its job.
2. Practice self-care.
Be mindful to practice patience and kindness with yourself. You are doing the best you can. The more balanced you are—the better off your family and pets will be.
>> Try creating a routine and implementing more structure in your life.
>> Create a calming space in your home and/or at work.
>> Moderate your access to media and negative information.
>> Take baths.
>> Diffuse essential oils.
>> Get good sleep.
>> Give yourself a foot massage.
>> Take breaks during the day to get grounded (see #6).
>> Quit judging yourself.
Schedule self-care in your calendar. Really. And when you have a day where you feel under water, and the fear takes over, acknowledge and accept it all, then go to sleep and try again tomorrow.
3. Pray and/or meditate every day.
Take time every morning and evening to align yourself with your Higher Power. This is your greatest source of support. Taking time to allow focused thought through surrender in prayer or allowing thoughts to slow down through meditation are the greatest gifts you can offer to your mind, body, and soul.
Sounds cliché, but that is the power of prayer and meditation.
Similar to this practice is taking a mantra or verse with you to repeat throughout the day. Choose something that will soothe you, a phrase that you can believe, like: “In this moment, today, all is well,” or “I have control over how I take care of myself and my family,” or even “God/The Universe has got this.”
Choose to let go of the resistance. Consider joining a prayer or meditation group to help you spread some love and light (good for all of us), while also keeping you connected to others (#7).
Prayer and meditation also help us practice nonattachment. Through nonattachment and letting go of the outcome, you can move through life without letting situations, things, people, or places have such a strong hold on you that you give your power away. You can release your attachment to desired outcomes, knowing you can only do so much and that it’s out of your hands. This creates personal freedom. Accept what is and change only what you can (your response).
I know it seems obvious, but we really do forget the power of breath when in a state of stress. This is your life force energy. It literally keeps you alive, so why not do it intentionally?
Set reminders and try focused breathing like breathing in for three counts and out for five counts, or try box breathing: breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, breathe out for four counts, and repeat. Mindful breathing helps your brain in many ways (like how increased oxygen helps you stay in the reasoning space of your frontal lobe), and it’s like singing your amygdala a lullaby.
The other great thing about this coping skill is that you can practice it anywhere because you easily take it with you!
5. Go Outside.
Nature is a healer, and there is all kinds of science to prove it. Being outside in nature:
>> boosts energy
>> is good for your vision
>> helps you focus
>> can help mitigate pain
>> boosts your immune system
>> can help you relax (especially if you smell trees, plants, and flowers)
>> enhances creativity
>> gives you vitamin D
>> can lessen sadness
>> helps you let go of pressures in society
6. Ground yourself.
I also refer to this as “getting back into your body.”
It’s that heavy feeling you get after you’ve exercised or done something relaxing like a massage. When you are grounded in your body, you are more easily able to stay out of the thinking mind where overanalyzing and fear thrive. There are lots of grounding exercises to try:
>> Walking barefoot outside
>> Putting your legs up the wall (easy and loads of secondary benefits)
>> Moving your body by exercising, stretching, or dancing
>> My personal favorite for getting grounded—loving on my animals. I lay on the floor and cuddle my dog, put a cat in my lap, or go outside and hold one of my chickens. Animals are literally love bombs. Let them help you.
“I can do it alone.”
No, you can’t. We’re hardwired for connection because we are a social species. Without authentic connection, we suffer. Read Brené Brown’s work (reading = healthy coping skill) and look at scientific data on human neurobiology.
It’s important that you find ways to connect, even in the midst of being encouraged to self-isolate (in the event that you have been exposed or are contagious).
Connect with your neighbors. Reestablish a sense of community. Meet up with friends and family one-on-one, or talk on the phone. Find ways to connect that leave you feeling inspired and uplifted.
You can talk about your fears and feelings, but don’t get stuck there. Witness and hold space for other people’s feelings, and encourage each other to find solutions or focus on where you have control instead of just beating the drum about the fear, worries, and problems. Connection should feel good and supportive, and if it doesn’t, find somebody else who is willing to go there with you, because that is also good self-care.
8. Have fun!
It doesn’t feel like it right now, but life is meant to be fun! We came into physical form to experience being human, and the fun is a needed and necessary part of this human experience. If you can’t go out and have fun, create your own.
Have you seen the video of the Iranian doctors and nurses dancing in-between their COVID-19 patients? Or do you remember the episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” from way back? When things got too serious, they would stop and have a dance party.
Do that. Do lots of it. Do it by yourself; do it with kids; do it in front of your judgmental cat. Raise your vibe. Remind yourself that even though this situation is confusing, scary, and hard, it is also temporary, and it’s okay to lighten things up with fun.
In fact, it’s a necessity.
Let me end by repeating that your body is a miracle. It knows what to do. Believe that. Let it do its job. And you help it by doing your part. All is really well.
Lots of love to you all.
We can do this, and we’re in this together.