Many of us are feeling the stress and anxiety surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. There is much uncertainty and trusting our government to help protect us can be anxiety provoking in itself for many. I want you to know that all of these uncomfortable and anxious feelings are a normal response to the overwhelming surge of information we get from the news, and media. Our sympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that prepares the body for action) is in active over drive, causing our bodies to be in a perpetual state of "fight or flight." Our parasympathetic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that restores the body to calm) seems to be on vacation. These systems are always assessing our environments for safety or danger; always on alert. If our nervous system detects danger, it helps us focus so that we can respond accordingly. This is a cool feature to help us stay alive. This becomes an issue when the threat, or danger is prolonged and certainty feels scarce.
When our physiological bodies are in a constant state of hyper-alertness, our mental health usually tanks, and we experience anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, dissociation, and irritability. Many of these, not so pleasant, symptoms arise from fear, but all the physical effects of the adrenals being in overdrive producing cortisol (fight or flight juice) for a prolonged period of time cause burn out and stress the organs in the body. I'm hoping that the strategies listed below can assist in mitigating some of the uncomfortable mental health symptoms many of us are experiencing currently.
Strategies for Coping
Limit News - It's great to be in the know about what is happening locally and around the world, just remember that moderation is healthy. Sometimes we get sucked in and the more we hear the more "fight or flight juice" gets dispensed. By managing the amount or duration of information we take in, we are assisting our parasympathetic nervous system in helping our mind and body reset to calm.
Make Yourself a Schedule - Working from home or being home on leave sounds wonderful, however it can quickly become overwhelming with no direction or purpose. There are no right or wrong types of schedules. For example, it could look like: 8am wake up/dress/eat breakfast, 9am client, 10am yoga online, 11am client, 12pm client, 1pm lunch, 2pm client, 3pm nap, 4pm clean fish tank... etc. Bottom line... give yourself some structure and accountability.
Acknowledge Your Feelings - This mess is stressful! It's normal to feel stressed, overwhelmed, scared. This is stressful, overwhelming, and scary stuff! It's best to honor those feels. Journal, write songs/music, make art, dance... do anything to acknowledge your emotions. Stuffing them down will only create more anxiety and depression.
Create a Self Care Plan - And schedule your self care!!!!!! This is so important! It's important ALL of the time, but especially right now when we are in "fight or flight"/trauma response overdrive. You deserve the same care and attention as your work, children, home.....as everything! You are a profound being who deserves and desires care. Take a bubble bath, a walk, read or color! We all have to define our own self care in times like these.
Utilize Resources - Yoga teachers, music instructors, meditation teachers, and artists are all live streaming free classes and tips currently. Take advantage of your resources! Online therapy platforms like Talkspace and Betterhelp are running specials and even providing a few free resources.
Initiate Human Connection - Skype, FaceTime, FB Video all are free! Connect with folks you love! Call your grandma or grandpa, or best friend that you never have 2 hours for - because that's how long catching up takes.
This time of uncertainty can be so stressful and disruptive to our worlds, but I'm hoping that we can all reach deep and uncover the opportunity that is in it for us all. Together we can save lives, have the 'time' to do the things we can never find time for, and as a cohesive unit, "flatten the curve."