In what seemed like overnight, our sense of security, our world, and our lives were turned upside down. Roles and responsibilities to ourselves, our families, our friends, and our communities are now in a state of transition as we have been propelled into unfamiliar terrain. Much of what had grounded us has been abruptly displaced and accompanied by uncertainty, danger and confusion as well as an unexpected need to learn new ways of doing what we had once considered ordinary (food shopping, retrieving the mail, attending school or going to work, etc.). This sudden shift has been extremely disorientating for most, and potentially destabilizing for some.
There is no one answer to navigating our way through this pandemic, nor are there any right or wrong ways to feel as we manage our emotional reactions to the ramifications of this situation. Not only do personal circumstances and potential stressors (i.e. isolation, 24/7 childcare, remote learning, working from home, threats or actuality of job loss, caring for aging parents or being on the frontlines as a medical provider, for example) have an impact on our particular experience of this, but also our tendencies and defenses from past conditioning are brought into the mix, such as automatic default modes of fight, flight or freeze or pronounced feelings of helplessness, denial or discipline when faced with burden, overwhelm and fear. Therefore, it is not surprising to notice how differently people around us are reacting, functioning and weathering this storm, even though we are all in the same boat, so to speak.
Despite individual experiences, there appears to be for almost everyone some sense of grief for what is being lost, along with a predominance of uncertainty. From the utter disruption of life as we’ve known it to the pondering of what the future holds, we are being forced to steer our way through a time that is replete with losses and disappointments, that is universally stressful, and that that has few certain answers.
It is possible to remain steady, durable and anchored even when we are surrounded by turmoil. Here are some suggestions to help guide you in nurturing a sense of “ok-ness” and to help keep you grounded through this unparalleled period of time:
-Try to teach yourself to stay in the present moment. If you find yourself thinking about the future, frame it as “a visit”-You’ll know you are overstaying your welcome if you begin to have repeated negative or “what if” thoughts to which there are no immediate answers or solutions. When we stay in the moment, life is much more manageable.
-Support yourself in your efforts to stay in the moment by leaning on and repeating stabilizing expressions or grounding mantras. Examples include: One day at a time, This too shall pass, Keep it simple, May I be well, Everything is ok in this moment, etc.
-Practice any form of meditation that feels suitable. This does not require you to sit crosslegged while chanting “Om”, unless of course this comforts you. It can take the form of long deep breaths, gentle reflection, gardening, yoga, taking photos, etc. These activities help remove us from a mode of emotional reactivity and assist us with conscious responsiveness by channeling our focus.
-Check in with yourself often about what you are needing, for example, connection, space, rest, stimulation, nurturance, peace, understanding, information, etc. and make an effort to seek out practical ways to get those needs met. (Picking up the phone may be more effective than logging into Instagram or checking the news once a day may be more useful than constantly surfing internet headlines, for example).
-Focus on living intentionally. Setting intentions related to stability, steadiness, maintenance, health and peace of mind would most likely be useful and relevant right now. Try to make mindful decisions for yourself throughout the day that support these intentions.
-Cultivate consistency and predictability in your daily life. You can do this through routine, ritual and schedule. These do not have to be rigid- just making your favorite tea or coffee drink every morning or getting up and going to bed at similar times each day can be effective. These acts will help breed a sense of security and comfort.
-Consider changing your definition of what it means to be productive. Readjusting your priorities as well as your expectations of yourself (and others) to match the current conditions would be appropriate and reasonable.
-Identify the things, the people, the accomplishments, the circumstances, the efforts, and the moments for which you feel appreciation and gratitude. This is not to minimize your struggle, but rather to contain it. Remain open to noticing any “silver linings”, as well.
-Keep your wheels in motion, meaning both exercising your body and taking action toward ongoing fulfillment in your life. Yes, so much has been interrupted, and along side of those interruptions, you can maintain goals, experience enjoyment and tap into your creativity and resourcefulness. With whatever level of energy you possess, keep moving forward at whatever speed and in whatever amounts seem fitting.
And please remember, you do NOT need to learn a new language, teach yourself how to play an instrument or plant an organic herb garden right now. Doing what serves you (without pressure or self judgment) and doing what feeds your health and well-being (at a pace that feels manageable) is what will bring you stability, peace and healing.