Updated: Mar 18, 2020
TIPS TO HELP YOU NAVIGATE THE CURRENT CORONA REALITY
This new corona-virus reality must be a dream…
Like it would make more sense if that were the case... that one day I woke up trapped inside a virus-infected game of Candy Crush with signs everywhere that say “Welcome to Corona Land”... and I stand here flabbergasted... wondering how I got here from a harmless video game with cute little candies…
There is a gumball machine that says “enjoy now, pay later.” I pay the unknown price... I'm in a dream... right?
It lures me in.
I realize that these gumballs are in fact viruses with colorful dots all over them. Well everyone seems to be lured now so I allow myself the luxury of freedom... but now I am trapped.
I am simultaneously fascinated, confused, amused, terrified, overwhelmed and empowered.
I’m sick to my stomach, yet I am drawn to the action and can't pull myself away.
You know those dreams when you can’t tell whether you are awake or still sleeping? What’s real and what’s not?
That is the nightmare that we all seem to be trapped in right now.
But we are all in this together... and we will all wake up...
...and it will pass.
It may pass as painfully as a friggen kidney stone would... or surgery without anesthetic...
But it will pass.
My hope and prayer for all of us is that it will pass with as little pain as possible.
But, yes, it will definitely pass.
As humans, we’ve survived viruses, hurricanes, plagues and dark times, and we’ve made it through... and we will continue to do exactly that.
We keep going.
We all feel somewhat trapped by the need to practice social distancing, and for many, self-quarantine.
And there are so many questions... and those questions are important.
But before I get into validating the real concerns associated with this pandemic, lets look at some ways you can help to alleviate some anxiety symptoms.
RELEASING SOME CORONA LAND ANXIETY
As you may already know, I’m a big believer in mind and body self-expression. Any form of making sense of what is happening now is a form of self validation, self healing and processing for your psyche.
You can make any form of self-expression a family project, or this can be an activity that is purely focused on you. Figure out what you need and do it.
After all, you can't pour from an empty cup!
All of these activities are not merely self care. They will help us process all of the thoughts and emotions swimming around in a more effective way.
When worry, ambiguity and uncertainty becomes something of texture… something tangible... something external... it can be released from that knot in your stomach, the pain in your shoulders or the tension in your neck. Your body needs somewhere to put those strong emotions.
Sounds strange? I'll explain... Anxiety, panic, fear, sadness and other intense emotions that aren’t expressed get trapped in our bodies and can cause us to have less clarity, leaving our bodies compromised and robbed of our ability to focus and be present in the moments ahead.
So try whichever of these ideas work best for you. It's not one-size-fits-all.
1. CREATIVE EXPRESSION
MOVEMENT, MUSIC & DANCE
Movement & music can help release pent up worry, tension and stress, helping to shift your body chemistry.
Here are some ideas to help inspire your creativity in this way;
Find a song that deeply resonates with you and slowly start moving to the music, dancing and moving your body.
Have a family dance party!
Find a playlist to fit whatever mood you are in and enjoy. Project Proactive's Spotify account has some great playlists for different moods, or find an musician that speaks to your soul (Sarah Dukes has very calming piano solos)
If you are musical, take out an instrument and make up a song to express your feeling about whatever you are going through.
ART & COLLAGE
If you’ve got some scraps of old magazines, some colored pencils or markers, I invite you to draw, sketch or create a collage. Collage about the feelings you are having, light ones of hope or tough ones such as fear and panic.
I encourage you to collage or draw a picture of what you imagine life will look and feel like once we have gotten past this difficult time. Collage or paint a sunny day on the beach, a fun lunch with a friend at a restaurant, a kiss on the cheek from someone you love. Anything. Just collage. This will help your brain fire out “feel-good” hormones.
When I collage or draw, I do so with my little one. I find it to be a fun, playful activity where we can focus on whatever it is we each are thinking or feeling without needing to “talk” so much about what is going on.
WRITING & JOURNALING
There is so much power to a story, a poem, a free-flow of words...
Find a way to express whatever it is you are thinking, feeling or sensing.
Put your unspoken words to paper. Take out a pen and paper, and just write.
Free Flow Writing - Just write... with no focus or “goal” except to bridge the gap between your heart and mind. Words. Sentences. Letters. Whatever speaks to you.
Journal - Write about your worries, hopes, dreams... we all know famous people whose diaries kept them sane during the most horrific times.
Poetry - This is a creative way to process all your jumbled thoughts and feelings in a stimulating and creative way. You can process your own heaviness, or your fears for your loved ones... There are some amazing and powerful poems on this blog that you can use for inspiration, one by my dear friend and colleague Esther Schwarz called My Tree, and an incredible one about body image by Rachel Cohen called Safe.
TALK IT OUT
If writing is not your thing, call a friend, a confidant, a therapist or a mentor and just talk.
Ask them if they could just hear you out as you share what is on your mind.
If no one is around, or if the ones you trust aren't local, just talk out loud to yourself. Yes, out loud. There’s wisdom that sometimes comes out when we hear ourselves speak. We can better make sense of all that is going on around us, and inside of us. If it helps, look in the mirror and watch yourself as you speak.
I will be sharing some tools in the next few weeks that you can use to make your internal dialogue more effective. Modalities like IFS (Internal Family Systems) are used by professionals, but once you get the hang of parts work, you can do it yourself.
FOOD AS AN ART
If you have a limited amount of time and resources, you can elevate any functional experience like food preparation.
Get your family involved in a private rendition of "Chopped", being creative with whatever ingredients are available.
Allow young children to get messy and practice measuring skills and art skills with fun and creative meal prep.
2. TAP INTO MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness is a practice where we help our mind and bodies get in touch with the present moment.
When we feel anxious, our ANS (autonomic nervous system) is activated and puts us into fight, flight, freeze, submit or collapse response - leaving us feeling powerless to face the challenges ahead. We can be left with confusing symptoms, and feel out of balance.
A wonderful way to unwind the tension is by trying a simple mindfulness exercise that helps ground your body and slow your breath. By doing this you’ll be sending more oxygen to your brain and feel more able to be in the present moment.
Your body can take care of you, especially when you tap into its natural capacities.
3. MAKE LISTS
For all of you who consider yourselves "Left Brainers", it can be helpful to make lists and charts.
MAKE A LIST OF ALL THE HARD THINGS YOU HAVE ALREADY OVERCOME
If you’re feeling the frazzles, I want you to think for a moment.
We’ve all been through rough times; some of us more than others, but we’ve all faced something or another that has made us dig into resources we wished we didn't have to. But we did... and we are where we are today in part because of that necessity.
Somehow we always manage to get through situations to the best of our ability, with whatever internal resources we have at that given time.
You have survived 100% of your most difficult moments.
So in this moment, I want you to remind your mind and body of the tough stuff you’ve been through….literally all the small and big stuff you’ve survived.
FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS
Take time to refocus on your general strengths. Allowing your body to focus on this will reboot the way you relate to yourself and your capacities.
Think about it... Did you speak up to a teacher on behalf of a child who was struggling? Have you gone shopping, done the laundry and put a smile on your face on days you wished you could escape being an adult? That takes strength. Have you ever set a boundary with an ex, a boyfriend or nagging friend who was emotionally stifling? Did you create a new routine with your sleeping, exercising or eating? Have you engaged in healing your anxiety, depression, relationship issues or trauma? All of those take strength.
Consider the strengths that you have been able to tap into during other tough times (that you would not consider natural for you).
Do you recall tapping into courage? Taking stock and focusing on your relationship with your higher power? Reaching out to friends? Seeking support that began deeper healing? Taking a real look at your life and gaining some perspective? Committing to some life goals you had previously been “too distracted” to look at?…
CONSIDER GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES
What do you want to learn or gain from this experience at the end of it all? When you look back at this experience, what do you want your story to look like?
Do you hope to become a more flexible thinker? Do you hope to learn that you will be OK even when life throws too many curve-balls? That you actually CAN acclimate to new situations better than you thought... and make mistakes… and still, absolutely, be a worthy human? (Yes, even if you lose your cool more times than you’d like, you are worthy and doing your very best).
If you could look back at this time "in the bunker" and see growth, what would that look like? What are some steps you can take to get there?
AND NOW LETS LOOK AT YOUR VERY REAL WORRIES... (I TOLD YOU I WOULD GET BACK TO THEM)
There is a lot of fear mongering and confusion going on.
Lots of blame and chaos.
Lots of uncertainty.
Questions swimming around like...
Did the world not prepare for something like this? Did the medical system get some calculation wrong? Did we not pray hard enough? Is this some form of the world coming to an end?
No No No. That’s just not right!
But that’s where my thoughts go when I’m in a tizzy... so I can imagine other people's thoughts go there too.
And then I have this voice that reminds me of the bigger picture.
We each have a purpose, and each of our big and small experiences on this planet come to inform us of who we are, how we connect and what suffering means to us.
Life and Death are scary concepts, but they are realities of living. And sometimes those realities hit harder than we’d like.
No, none of us thought we’d one day tell our children and grandchildren about the time we were quarantined.
Hopefully these stories will be full of memories of the times we had giggles and sillyness, hopes and dreams parallel to our worries and lots of outside noise as we ordered laundry lists of food and home goods from Costco.
But this is what we are facing, and we are wading the waters as we step ahead, mapping the stories we will one day retell… and I say this, to remind myself as much as it is to remind you, my dear reader... that this will pass, as do many other things.
Will there be bruises, scars, losses and traumas? Unfortunately, yes.
There are already losses; financial losses, lost sense of security, lost feelings of power and control, of knowing what the future has in store, and a lost of feeling safety. There is a constant nagging fear, especially for those who have significant health related worries. And this is all on top of what we, and those around us, were already going through before this happened.
But as I said before... and as I need to keep telling myself... It will pass.
And then, my mind always goes back to fear...
The world around us is in a state of trauma, a state of disbelief, and the “experts” don't have simple answers for us, because, they, themselves, are stuck in a survival response, in a deep level of denial or just trying to get through their own thoughts and feelings about all of us. Swinging from freaking the living daylights out of us, to telling us to calm down and do yoga. That’s a very broad sweeping range of extremes. Denial and Minimization to Panic and Fight or Flight response.
But I know it will pass... we have been through tough times before.
“What about us?” a little voice inside whispers. “What about the medium size worries, the small concerns and the unknown waters ahead of us?” Where is the space for all of us to navigate and process what’s really happening, not happening, or has already happened?
To you, little voice... speak up!
Don't be afraid to express your worries... we are all worried.
Don't be afraid to cry... we are all crying.
Don't be afraid to be brave... It's OK to NOT be in a constant state of panic along with everyone else.
Don't be afraid to curl up and cower under the weight of it all... waves can pass more easily over us when we allow ourselves to be small when we need to be. We are not superhuman. There is no bravery in trying to fight the high tide. Allow your emotions to wash over you as you wait for the current to settle.
The waves will calm down... eventually.
Here are some words of comfort and care from me to you.
If you’re like any other human on this planet who is facing uncertainty ahead, I invite you to take a go at one of the above suggestions.
I hope you find some relief, inner wisdom and a sense of being that feels just a bit less frightening than it was a few moments before.
And I'll be here in my home, in the Five Towns of Long Island, New York, holding you in my prayers, and putting my own self care and mindfulness tools into play as I walk alongside each of you on this journey ahead.
And remember, we’ve been through hard things, we can get through this too.