We now live in a different world from the one we lived in last week.

Many people were already highly stressed before the virus reached our country and community. This week fear has intensified. We do not know what will happen. We are not sure of our own safety. We are afraid for people we love and for the world. Our bodies and breath are tight. Our mind scares us with catastrophic scenarios of the future.

On my Facebook feed, I am seeing many wonderful ideas and tips about staying calm. People who work with mental health suggest we minimize social media, reach out to connect with each other, go for walks, sleep, eat well, and take care of ourselves as we stay home to Flatten the Curve.

Nkem Ndefo is offering free online resilience training. Teachers including Tara Brach, Rick Hanson and Richard Miller are offering free online meditation. 

Musicians are offering free online concerts. 

Facebook groups have sprung up to connect people offering with people needing help.

I have extended my always free morning practice to 45 minutes so people can share and talk after our guided practices to calm, nurture and heal our nervous system. Please join us.  

I am also posting many new resources on my YouTube channel playlist Corona Covid-19 Virus Help, on Facebook and on Insight Timer. 

Humans are afraid of sudden change because our nervous system triggers our survival responses of flight/fight/freeze/fawn. We feel powerless. Afraid. Full of dread. What will happen? How will I know the best thing to do?

Life feels surreal. How could it change so drastically? A week ago we were dealing with our normal life and stresses. This week we live in a different world. We may be working from home, working extra hours on the front lines as nurse or grocery clerk, or we’ve lost our job. We may have enough financial resources to see us through or we might be broke. 

What can we do?

Acknowledge the Difficulty of the Situation: 

I am afraid. I don’t know how it will turn out for me, people I love and for others. I worry I won’t have enough money to pay rent or buy food. I am scared for my elderly parents. I am full of anxiety and dread. These are normal and many people experience this.

Stop Shaming Yourself for Your Nervous System Responses:

Fear is natural when there is a threat. It is normal and protective. Shaming shuts us down and makes a hard situation more difficult.

Learn the Basics of Survival Responses:

We are mammals with a primitive brain and survival system. Fear floods our system with adrenaline and cortisol. Our thinking brain goes offline making it harder to accurately assess information and threat. 

We go into flight/fight/freeze/fawn when we are in danger. People with a strong fight response tend to lash out when they feel threatened. That could be ourselves or people around us. Some people go into freeze and disconnect from themselves and others. 

Regardless of our response, we are all trying to make it through a scary time the best we can. Our primitive brain drives survival. It isn’t sophisticated or nuanced. It’s reactive.

We can take steps to down-regulate fear and bring our thinking brain online more of the time. Download my free 10-day healing trauma course from my website to learn more.

These are Responses to Feeling Powerless:

We are furious with politicians and with the guy down the street who just got home from vacation and is not observing self-quarantine (fight response). 

We pull the covers over our head. It’s too much (freeze response).

We feel better when we can take action. Get groceries for a few weeks so you can stay home. Reach out to vulnerable neighbors. Call friends and connect. Donate money if you can. Work with your own nervous system.

“The greatest gift you can give the world is a peaceful mind.” Swami Veda

Work with your mind and heart to calm fear and stay emotionally connected.

Compassion for Suffering:

People are struggling to maintain their balance right now. Fear tightens our shoulders and our minds. 

It is disheartening to see the many people who are acting from their animal survival instincts, hoarding food or ammunition. Knowing that fear is driving this behavior can help us be patient at the same time as we set boundaries without shaming others. 

When we are afraid, we need safety and reassurance. In a situation like this, we are not sure about our safety. 

Reassurance and Connection are an Antidote to Fear:

There is hope. Many of us are able to use this crisis as an opportunity to deeply heal.  

If you feel a pull to isolate yourself emotionally during this crisis, reach out. Join us for daily online practice. You can phone in or have your camera off and still feel the connection and support of being in community. 

Cultivate kindness, patience and compassion for yourself and others over and over and then again. Yes, these are hard times. The level of fear is high and our reactions are difficult. 

Relax your neck and shoulders, unclench your jaw, exhale. Right now, in this moment, is it safe to take a few minutes to calm and settle your body and mind? 

(9 min)
Nervous Systems on Display
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