It’s a difficult time to find center, to ground. Even those of us lucky enough to have homes, family, and health, even those of us who know we will not be homeless or jobless, now or at the end of this, are faced with buckets of stress to manage.
Psychology teaches us that much of our fear and anxiety is a response to an imagined threat. There’s no snake hiding in the grass. It’s history repeating itself in our limbic system and soma. Our brains are finding old neural pathways to follow in response to minor slights, imagined events, random surges of emotion, physical sensations.
The way to approach that kind of anxiety is to recognize it. There are behavioral ways to respond – acknowledging the fear, inviting it in, meditating, revealing the true nature of the event and so on. Osteopathic treatments, that balance the autonomic nervous system, also help with this type of anxiety. A somatic experience of calm ease and balance, systemically, serves to reset the neural pathways that are habitual and reminds us of a state of health that is normal.
But in this case, the threat is real. If you get a haircut, pick up groceries, go to the bank, you could get sick. Your family could get sick. You could cause an exponential spike of COVID-19 cases. The dominoes could fall. The snake is real.
So, with a real snake in the grass, our adaptations are going to serve us. But it’s also a time when we can learn new ways to adapt. We can actually re-pattern our trauma response. (how’s that for reaching for a silver lining?)
So how do we manage this real threat? The simple actions given to us by leaders – wash hands, stay home – are a good start. Take that one step further and Acknowledge, that you are handling the threat when you do those things. Bringing into your consciousness that you are doing the right action to defeat the snake will help your nervous system realize you have some bit of control in this situation and you’ll get a small burst of brain chemicals that make you fell better. This is part of re-patterning neural pathways.
Of course while you are home, all the things we’ve talked about, that boost and improve your health and balance, can help too. But changing how you look at those healthy habits can both help you to actually do them and help you feel better right when you are doing them.
In your mind, you frame it this way:
You are not meditating to manage stress. You are not eating well to manage weight, or metabolic health. You are not cutting down on coffee and alcohol to minimize headaches, hangovers, and stomach problems. You are not taking your supplements to have increased energy and vitality.
Each action you take, each move towards health, you are suiting up. You are putting on your armor and picking up a sword, and stepping forward into battle. You are thoughtfully preparing to face a real threat by strengthening yourself, by balancing yourself, by caring for yourself. You are grooming yourself to be the kind of person who can handle an apocalyptic situation with courage and grace and kindness. You are, in real time, being the person your family can rely on, being the person who we all need right now, to help us fight the snake.