Hitting the Coronavirus Wall
I thought I was doing this quarantine thing fairly well. I was maintaining many of my regular practices like going for walks and showing up for work, but then I crashed this week. All I want to do is sleep, eat potato chips and scream at every person I see who isn’t wearing a facemask in public. Anger and frustration live right below the surface for me now, along with tears and gratitude. It’s a strange mix of emotions and I’ve rarely felt so many different emotions in such a short period of time. Every day I think about how I would be faring in this time had I not learned coping skills to maintain my mental health.
If I hadn’t had a break down a few years ago, this pandemic surely would have forced it upon me now. There’s no doubt in my mind that I would be lying in a corner in the fetal position waiting for something outside of myself to ease the pain because I wouldn’t have had the wherewithal to help myself. So, in the spirit of sharing the coping skills I learned to be able to function again, here are some of the practices and resources that have served me well over the past four years that I keep turning to again during this pandemic.
1. Meditation – Nothing has grounded me more than meditation. It’s taught me to sit with my emotions, notice my thought patterns and escort the negative thoughts out of my mind. It’s also enabled me to retrain my brain to lessen negative self talk. It’s become a sacred practice and a way to honor myself by giving me time to just be.
2. Let Yourself Feel – Feelings are for feeling. We often forget that. Let yourself feel what you feel in the moment and if you need to step away from what you’re doing to have a good cry, give yourself permission to do so. There’s so much pain right now, we can’t store it in our bodies. Let yourself feel the pain. It’s the secret to also inviting joy into your life. You have to feel the pain to get to the joy.
3. Move Your Body – It’s no secret that trauma resides in our bodies. Check out Bessel Van Der Kolk’s amazing book The Body Keeps the Score if you’re interested in learning more. Learning to breathe and come back to my breath through yoga and meditation has enabled me to relieve stress in my body and loosen clenched muscles I’ve had for years. Go for a meditation walk. Timing your breath with each step helps regulate your nervous system and quiet the mind.
4. Touch a Tree – You don’t have to social distance from trees, plants or flowers! Touch them! Hug them! Feel the moss that grows on tree trunks. I’ve found so much connection with trees during this time. I miss hugging my people and trees are great stand ins.
5. Connect with Your Senses – When I feel panicked or overwhelmed, I stop and notice five things I can smell, five things I can see, five sounds and five things I can touch. By the time I get to touch, I’m usually in a much better state of mind and have brought myself back to the present moment.
6. Watch Funny Videos – I have a loop of videos on my phone that I return to when I need a good laugh. Nothing pulls me back to the present moment like laughter. A favorite is “I need more cowbell” from an old Saturday Night Live sketch with Christopher Walken. It never fails to put a smile on my face.
7. Look at Photos of Loved Ones – I also have old photos of friends, family and travels on my phone that I can view whenever I want to feel connected to people. This never fails to make me feel grateful for the people in my life and the life I’ve led.
8. Listen to Podcasts – It seems everyone has a podcast now, but I’ve found a few that resonate with me and the conversations I hear go a long way to helping me feel connected. Some favorites are shame researcher Brene Brown’s “Unlocking Us,” author Cheryl Strayed calls up other famous authors and chats with them on “Sugar Calling,” and Oprah’s “Super Soul Conversations” are often insightful.
What works for you?