Updated: Feb 28
All of this is pretty unsettling. Not knowing for sure what's fact or fiction. Stay home or go out? Rice/canned food or toilet paper/milk? Selfishly hoard shit at the market or selflessly buy just what is practical. It's a lot to digest. Our parents present another set of challenges.
There are some things we can and should do to take care of ourselves in times of uncertainty. Here are three of them.
1) Limit social media/stop arguing online. Yes, you're self-quarantined (or mandated), not going out as much, so your options on how to spend your time are limited. Online comments from people disagreeing about whether to wear a mask or not, who to blame for all this, what countries are getting it right/wrong, etc just serve to keep your nervous system aroused and activated, ready for fight/flight (and this is not good). Know the importance of separating facts from fear. You've got a good head on your shoulders. Find a source or two that report facts, get updates from these outlets, and allow yourself to tune out the rest.
(Side note suggestion: instead of following the righteous know-it-all or the girl who only posts selfies, follow people like the.holistic.psychologist and mindfulmft on IG. These two accounts are amazing for healing, and personal/spiritual growth. Rick Hanson is a neuroscientist and has a great newsletter to subscribe to).
2) Create a healthy routine that elevates your heart rate (exercise) and quiets the mind (meditation or a hobby like cooking, gardening, writing, etc). One reason why yoga is so healthy is it requires your awareness and attention to hold that challenging pose. In that moment, your monkey mind is much less active because you're so focused on how not to fall down in this pose and break your arm. Finding outlets that lend to sharpening focus and practicing mindfulness are vital for mental and physical nourishment.
3) This may be the most challenging, but try to get clear on what you're identifying with right now. Often, it is only when we slow down and do some deep reflection that we gain some clarity and insight into what state the mind, body, and spirit are in at this moment. When this happens, often what lies beneath our current emotional state can be untangled into either Fear, or Love.
For example, you may realize that you're identifying with the uncertainty of these times. When we break down uncertainty, we can identify the fear underneath it. We don't like uncertainty and often, our whole lives are geared toward creating a sense of control and security. When uncertainty is broken down, we can notice what it is we are afraid of (a lack of knowing, a lack of control, not having financial security, a lack of toilet paper). Knowing that this fear is constantly humming and driving decisions, whether you're aware of it or not, is pretty important. When we are not clear on what we're identifying with, that's when it can get ugly and manifest in unhealthy ways. If a scarcity mindset is what is driving you during these times, that's ok, just be aware of it. It's just fear and fear need not have the power that it sometimes does.
So, asking what other alternatives are available to identify with, like Love. Well, sticking with the above example, uncertainty: The first step is recognizing in what ways you're identifying with uncertainty/fear (lack of control, having enough supplies, etc). Then, as an act of self care, allowing that voice of fear to shift into one that is more aligned with presence and the reality that in this moment, you are ok. Shifting into recognizing that right now, you have enough. Your ass isn't dirty because you don't have toilet paper, you have food/water, and shelter over your head. If you are quarantined, you're probably quarantined without being infected or with a loved one. Notice all that there is to be grateful for. Medical care if needed, a support system to can turn to. Right now, I have enough, and I'm ok. Do you feel this shift is possible from fear to love? When we practice this shift from what's wrong (fear) to what's right (love), new neurons in the brain are firing together and wiring together, making that feeling of gratitude more likely to be our default state.
I hope these 3 acts of self-care are useful during stressful times. As a bonus, here's a fourth: Generosity: When we give to others, do something kind or say something thoughtful to another, we are in that moment self-less, not preoccupied with our own shit. That in itself is an energy that is needed. Help others, and notice all of the people out there that are doing good things. Don't hoard. Give something to someone instead of selling it. Ask someone how they're doing and mean it, and ask someone for help or support if you need it. These are all acts of self-care.
For more work on self-care and growth, you may want to consider enrolling in the online course Lunch Break Therapy.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy your quiet time.
If you want to read more, I think this is a very special piece:
It is no longer a request.
It is a mandate.
We will help you.
We will bring the supersonic, high speed merry-go-round to a halt.
We will stop the planes, the trains, the schools, the malls, the meetings, the frenetic, furied rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our single and shared beating heart, the way we breathe together, in unison.
Our obligation is to each other, as it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.
We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions, to bring you this long-breaking news: We are not well. None of us; all of us are suffering.
Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth did not give you pause. Nor the typhoons in Africa,China, Japan. Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.
You have not been listening.
It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives. But the foundation is giving way, buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.
We will help you. We will bring the firestorms to your body. We will bring the fever to your body. We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs that you might hear: We are not well. Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.
We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.
We are asking you: To stop, to be still, to listen; To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all; To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart; To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy?
How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy? To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?
Many are afraid now. Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you. Instead, let it speak to you—in your stillness, listen for its wisdom. What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk, beyond the threats of personal inconvenience and illness?
As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about quality of your own health, what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers, the trees, the sky, and all of us who share this planet with you?
Notice if you are resisting.
Notice what you are resisting. Ask why.
Be still. Listen.
Ask us what we might teach you about illness and healing, about what might be required so that all may be well.
We will help you, if you listen.
-Written by Kristin Flyntz.
I hope this is useful! I'm a licensed psychotherapist (similar to a psychologist) in Vietnam. Please