We are living in unprecedented times. The uncertainty is palpable. The panic, inevitable. As an intuitive person, I feel the heightened anxiety in the world around us. Walking through the crowded aisles of a grocery store only to find empty shelves has a way of striking a moment of panic in all of us. As a therapist, I understand the complexities of emotion running through our collective psyche. In times like this, it isn’t uncommon to feel our survival system activated. We may feel stress in the body, an irritable or depressed mood, and feelings of fear and hopelessness. We may be exploring frightening scenarios in our minds of chaos, illness, loss, and death.
If you’re needing some light in the darkness, here are a few ideas to guide you through your fear.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
I’ve gone from stocking my cabinets with food, and wondering what to do when I run out of toilet paper, to finding a place of peace and presence with this crazy pandemic. Yes, you heard that right, I said peace. Trust me, that’s not what I expected at a time like this either. For me, this peace comes from a combination of a deep spiritual connection to something greater, and some of the coping skills I’ve used and taught clients over the years.
I’ve always been an intuitive, spiritual seeker, and in times like this, it brings me a sense of complete knowing that we will all be ok, no matter what. And for me, that includes the thought, even if I die. One of my favorite mantras, borrowed from Matt Kahn is “everything is here to help you”. Now I realize that not all people can share this belief or faith, and that’s ok. You can skip past this part if you want.
For those of you who do have spiritual or religious beliefs, I think it is incredibly helpful to stay connected to the beliefs and practices that lift you up right now. Meditation and prayer help. Maybe it’s yoga. Being in nature. Seeking the gifts in this. Most of all, it can be a remembrance that there is something greater than us, and that we are simply spiritual beings having a human experience.
I get the sense that despite this darkness we trudge through, this is a time of great healing and clearing for the planet and humanity. Every imbalanced system needs to find a place of balance and equilibrium. Our planet is suffering with starvation, violence, social and economic inequality, environmental devastation and much more. A global pandemic, while devastating in many regards, can have a balancing effect. A virus knows no borders. It is a great reminder of our humanity, and the importance of having compassion and love for each other. It also gives the planet a breath of fresh air as people are forced to stay home, slow down consumption and pollution.
Prepare, don’t panic.
This is actually a very serious situation. Listen to reputable news such as the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. If you aren’t worried about yourself getting sick, please consider others who aren’t so healthy. And consider the hospitals and health care workers who will soon be overloaded and unable to bear the load of sick patients. We must be good citizens and help each other for the greater good. Do stock up on food and basic necessities. Do wash your hands and follow social distancing guidelines. And remember to leave some for others so we can all be prepared. Eat healthy. Get plenty of rest. Support your immune system. On some level, having a degree of preparation will help calm your nervous system.
Ask new questions.
When we are in a time of anxiety, we often focus on fear based questions like what will I do if I run out of money to pay the bills? What if I get sick? What if a loved one is sick? Is this the end of the world? I challenge you to ask some different questions. Remember, our energy flows where the focus goes. Here are some ideas:
What can I do about my energy or thought process at this moment that could shift my mood? What about this situation could be positive?
Are there other ways to think about this that would help me feel better?
What if this was actually an opportunity for something bigger and better for our planet? Humanity?
What if I fully trusted that the Universe/God/Spirit has a benevolent plan for all of us?
What if this global crisis was actually a way to create more love, abundance, and connection (health, financial, peace, etc) for all of us, but I’m so focused on the old paradigm (work for money, pay bills, independence vs. interdependence, etc) that I’m not even aware that there could be other possibilities for humanity?
What good can come out of being quarantined?
Can I catch up on sleep, connection with family, a good book, or time in nature?
Can this be breath of fresh air for the planet when people slow down consumption and pollution?
Step outside of yourself.
Did you know that when we turn our attention to others in acts of love and service, it can help reduce our own anxiety? You may find that helping others creates a sense of well-being and purpose for you, and can also help you feel grateful for what you have.
Offer to get groceries for an elderly or homebound person.
Check on your neighbors, single friends, and parents at home with kids.
Canceled your spring break trip? What if you shared some of the money to help a family stock up on food who doesn’t have the money to buy food on a good day.
Are you a busy person? Could you see this as a time to rest and slow down?
Get creative. Play some games, do artwork, write. Get silly with your kids.
Be the light for someone else who is feeling scared.
Dare I say….lean in?
Do we have any way of knowing how this will all pan out? No. We have no way to know. In this time of uncertainty, we may very well panic.
(And by the way, please remember that no human being chooses to panic. It is a natural reaction to fear. I encourage all of us to find compassion with each other. We are all fighting internal battles and carrying our own stories of trauma, loss, fear, and pain from the past. You never know why someone else is feeling the way they do.)
You may ask, how on earth do I lean in to this nightmare? We accept the fact that we do not know how the future will be. We only have the present, and we can choose to be in this moment right now. We can be present with time alone to regenerate. We can be present with time with our children, our partners, our families. We can step outside and breathe in fresh air and feel sunshine on our faces. We can love each other as we walk this path together as one human race. We can feel the solidarity in this. We have one choice, and that is to move from moment to moment, day by day. We can breathe out fear and breathe in love.
And when fear arises, because it will, we nurture it like a small child, listening to its whimpers, holding it, and coaxing it into a place of love again. We also remember that there are many human beings that rise up in compassion and connection in times of crisis. It’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to be scared. It’s ok to be angry. And maybe, just maybe, may you find a moment of peace.