As we move through COVID-19 situation, we are encountering many unplanned changes. If you are like me, with a sensitive nervous system, you may be finding yourself feeling anxious or overwhelmed. With power and control taken out of your hands, you may be feeling powerless and even angry. As Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor and author of 'Man's Search For Meaning' writes:
"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms _ to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
After some introspection, here are some suggestions that I would like to offer to the community, that I believe will assist us to relieve the distress, relax our mind and body, and allow us to choose a helpful attitude towards COVID-19. These suggestions are only an invitation. Please feel free to discover your own and add to the list.
#1: Finding Gratitude
Countless studies show that opening the heart and being in a state of gratitude changes our internal physiology. Starting right now, give a silent 'Thank you' for all things working for you. The fact that you are alive right now, reading this, breathing, is something to be grateful for! Through out your day, add to this list, write it, journal it, or make a list mentally. You can create a gratitude jar and drop in little notes of gratitude or begin a gratitude diary. If you have little ones, this is a wonderful activity to engage with them.
#2: Establishing Firm Boundaries To Protect Your Well Being
This is a big one folks! There is ample evidence to indicate that stress (physical and mental) reduces the efficiency of our immune system, and increases our tendency to fall sick! Do we really need to be falling sick RIGHT NOW? Take care of your mental well being by removing yourself from anything or anyone that drains it and causes you anxiety or overwhelm! This includes all media channels and even social media! Restrict your news intake to once a day, same time, same channel. Do your research first to make sure the source is legit and correct, factual and not laced with emotions! A good way to check is to see if the information is being given by epidemiologists, immunologists, mathematicians, policy experts and if the news is independent. Restrict your interaction on social media to those posts that increase your well being, Stay away from those that trigger overwhelm or draw you into bleak pictures of current reality. It is OK to not want to read a friend's post because it only focuses on the negative or blame and adds to your distress. Ask yourself this question: does reading this post relax me or increase the tension in my mind and body? Then silently drop into your body to check this. From this place, you can choose the right action.
"Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that's very important for good health." Dalai Lama
#3: Opening Yourself To Creativity
Find an activity that channels your energy in a creative way. If you like craft, get yourself organised with materials and get started on expressing yourself and how you are feeling right now. If an artist, get those paints or colours ready. If writing is your thing, write a blog or journal. If a gardener, take care of your plants. If you like cooking, have a go at making simple delicious meals or something from your childhood. If cleaning is your thing, get creative and make your house spotless. If an organiser.....you get my drift!
#4: Staying Away From The Blame Game
Blaming someone or something is the way our mind copes with big, uncontrollable changes. It gives the mind a sense of power but it is not real power, only an illusion. Take your power back by focusing on yourself and making choices that will allow you to take care of yourself! It is never the situation but how we react to it that causes our suffering. Make a commitment to choosing how you will respond to the current situation, that brings you calm and peace right now. Reflect on what you need to be able to bring yourself to that space of equanimity!
#5: Getting A Perspective
The Buddhist Law of 'Impermanence of All Things' states that 'nothing lasts for ever.' It is important to keep this perspective in mind right now. This situation too will pass. The important question to ask is: Are my thoughts and perceptions weakening me or strengthening me right now? Are they bringing out the best in me or the worst? How can I be kind to myself right now?
#6: Self Care
It is all about You, You, You..... I write a lot about Self Care in my blogs as it is my favourite mantra! www.transformativeholisticcounselling.com/blog/raising-your-vibration-through-self-care
Here are some more tips on Self Care in addressing the current COVID-19 situation:
++++Filter Your Thoughts
You can't stop your mind from thinking but you can notice their effect on your body. Let the thoughts come and go. Keep only those thoughts that strengthen you, notice the thoughts that weaken you. Choose to listen to thoughts that cultivate Hope, Courage and Strength. Let go of thoughts that bring about Anxiety, Fear and Worry!
"When there is full acceptance of our not knowing, instead of fear, when we stop insisting that reality should be otherwise, then we can relax with things as they are." Frank Ostaseski
++++Be In Nature
Engage in an activity each day that takes you into Nature. A gentle, mindful walk will be as effective as a brisk, mindful walk. Connect with the trees and notice how they withstand so many changes. Notice how trees have strong roots that ground them and keep them strong and upright even in the face of big storms. Connect with the birds and listen to their songs. Let their songs bring you into the present moment. Connect with your pets and feel into their calm centres.
Use this opportunity to begin a COVID-19 journal in which to write all your thoughts and how you feel, without judgement. This is a healthy way of letting it all out without hurting anyone, including yourself! Express your inner world in words or draw how you feel. Remember that writing in a journal can be cathartic and is a very healthy way of releasing without hurting ourselves or our loved ones. Remember also a time in the past when you experienced adversity. We all have. Reflect on the qualities you needed to develop to get through it. Connect with those qualities. Reflect on what attitude/attribute you need to develop within yourself to get through COVID-19 with grace and dignity?
Not only does it relax your face muscles, it also sends a message to your nervous system that you are SAFE! Smiling here means 'Smiling to Yourself' and is an act of Loving Kindness for yourself! Nothing is more important than the well being of your mind and body! Smiling is an act of acknowledging this to yourself. As Thich Naht Hanh puts it so beautifully:
Breathing in I calm my body (and my mind)
Breathing out I smile
Breathing in I am in this moment
Breathing out....This is a wonderful moment
Breathing in I smile (to myself)
Breathing out I release (my tension, worries, projects)
#7: Serving Others In Need
In times of distress we want to assist others, in order to feel useful and to be in control. Some of us may be feeling helpless as we want to make a change either within our neighbourhood, community or globally, but are unable to find ways what with social isolation/distancing being practiced right now. Don't lose hope. A kind word, a kind look, or a kind gesture goes a long way. Say a prayer (if religious), engage in a ritual, donate (if you can), volunteer where needed. Instead of feeling helpless, be aware of the collective distress and be creative in finding your personal way to be in service to others. This will open your heart and make you feel useful.
As you finish reading this article, take a few moments now and reflect on your own acronym for COVID that represents the qualities and attributes you would like to cultivate for this challenging experience. I wish you all the best in your journey! May you remain safe, resilient and experience equanimity.