(It is tough, but I am doing it and you can, too!)
COVID-19 has changed our lives forever. We are never returning to the “normalcy” we once accepted (which was not normal after all). Instead we are on a rollercoaster of unstoppable emotions as we adjust to a sanitized, masked life filled with fears and anxieties.
STRESS IS HARMFUL
To survive the daily twists, turns and continuous threats, we must cultivate an inner peacefulness. This is undeniably tough yet highly necessary. Without doing so, we are doomed to succumb to stress hormones rampantly coursing through our bodies activating a constant state of fight-or-flight. Such a biological response without pause puts our immune system on hiatus and messes with our digestion and other non-essential functions. Stress destroys our homeostatic balance and renders us far more susceptible to illnesses…like viruses! To thrive, we need to be calm; now more than ever. But how?
I thought I knew. As a Personal Development Coach, I certified in a host of eastern and western traditions. You might say I have lots of tools in my “de-stress” toolbox. Yet I watched with curious detachment as the Coronavirus first descended on the United States. To me, it was not real. It could not be happening in my lifetime. How could our brilliant scientists and researchers not be able to combat this pandemic head on and stop it? My first instinct was denial which morphed into shock and then terror as the world shut down. The reality penetrated my awareness.
Clients demanded my help. They were experiencing bouts of trauma, insomnia and depression. I started parsing out my mitigation tools (I share five strategies with you in this article!). By mid-March, I opted to stay at home. I gave up in-person life coaching, business meetings, teaching workshops, dining out, socializing with friends, tennis, golf, shopping (except for essentials) and hunkered down. I transitioned all programs and coaching sessions online (and, along the way, got an education in zoombombing and other social media indecencies). I created informative videos and meditations for Youtube and posted motivational messages on Instagram and Facebook, I was reaching out to others in ways that were available to me. I was doing what I could do…and distracting myself in the process.
I continued to work in a false bubble of safety. I was not safe from my own terrifying thoughts with all 2,000 of them per hour being influenced by horrific breaking news alerts every few minutes from my smartphone. I could feel my nerves getting frazzled. Most of my family in New York were in the bullseye of this unimaginable virus. No one had ever seen anything like this disease. No one could understand why it attacks the body in ways it does. Plus, it seems to strike people with the uncanny fickleness of a tornado; some were asymptomatic, others overwhelmed and died. What would be your fate? Everyone is doing whatever they can to help, comfort and support one another.
From moment to moment I confronted my own demons. Insecurities flooded into my psyche from ancient childhood episodes of facing unknown illnesses like FUOs (fevers of unidentified origin) that kept me bedridden and out of second grade for two months. To cope with my chaotic reality of 2020, I began to establish new routines. While social distancing, I could still stay fit by taking walks within my own neighborhood in sunny Southwest Florida under infinite blue skies surrounded by tropical palm trees, song-filled birds and colorful spring blooms. To keep myself motivated, I began observing and photographing the sights on my 2-mile nature trek every morning and again each evening. I was amazed at the changing panorama that I recorded while on the exact same daily path. The sunlight constantly shifted to illuminate a new bloom or create another unique shadow. Fascinating creatures came into view. I became enchanted.
I felt joy during these discoveries and in those unique seconds in time, I felt inspired and far removed from the angst of the pandemic. Those moments reminded me of the importance of finding peace within. The hard fact is that when you are present in the moment and accept what is, you are safe and empowered. Eckhart Tolle calls it the “Power of Now.” I call it mindfully learning to “be.”
YOUR TURN TO FEEL THE SHIFT
In this very instant, as you read these words, are you safe? You may worry about what is next. What about my job? My bills? My health? But in this millisecond, you are okay. So, the magic bullet is about learning not to be rattled by external circumstances and instead tune in to your center, your source, your internal forces that make up your intuition, your gut instincts, your authenticity, your spiritual self. The more you cultivate your vital life energies, the more you transcend all the slings and arrows that are trying to pierce your sense of calm. You have the power. Let me help.
FIVE SIMPLE STRATEGIES FOR ACHIEVING PEACE WITHIN:
Many tell me they are too restless or too unnerved by life to meditate. If this is you, you are delusional! You are allowing yourself to be controlled by your mind. It is time to create a new relationship with your thoughts and just let them come and go without attaching emotions to them. Take a minute, five minutes or 25 minutes to interrupt those old “stress” patterns. I call this “a productivity pause” because you often function far more optimally afterwards. Quietly sit and observe whatever comes up.
Meditation is an opportunity to take an intentional “time-out” from deep thinking and just allow yourself to become the observer of the moment…however it shows up. Whatever you notice is neither good nor bad. Cultivate your presence in the now. Just be!
During these uncertain days, I use my own 15-minute recording created for Youtube: A Gratitude Mediation to Stop Anxiety. By doing this every morning before I even brush my teeth, I establish beneficial brain waves that guide me calmly through my day.
When you are tense, your breathing is shallow and labored. You deprive your cells the oxygen flow that is essential for wellbeing. In fact, 70% of the body’s toxins are released through breath and when you are too upset to breathe normally, you are causing more stressful imbalances. Slow, deep breaths help signal your nervous system to relax. If you want to try a simple counting breath, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDCy93lBJaM&t=146s
Writing down your feelings can help you process experiences more easily. It allows you to acknowledge what you are going through rather than letting loose, scary thoughts stew randomly in your mind. This strategy quantifies how you feel which helps you accept and transcend difficult times. Many clients use this technique by writing feelings on paper and then they burn the paper which allows them to watch their worries literally go up in smoke.
4. GET MOVING.
Sitting on the couch binge watching Netflix series may provide temporary mental distraction but is not good for your body. Your body is designed to move. Interestingly, the world’s longest-lived people do not pump iron, run marathons or go to gyms. Instead, they live in ways that nudge them into moving without thinking about it. In this “Blue Zones” lifestyle, they move naturally throughout the day — walking, gardening, taking care of the house, kids, pets, etc. My daily walks have helped me stay mentally and physically feeling good (and lucky for me I live in a Blue Zones area). So, start walking!
This may seem like an odd piece of advice but frankly adults lose the ability to play. As George Bernard Shaw said: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” Actively playing stimulates brain function, reduces stress, improves creativity and uplifts your mood. Give yourself permission to feel the childlike exuberance of playing. Try online games, board games, charades online with friends or just sing, dance and laugh for the heck of it. Do something fun and joyful.
I use these five strategies as my personal protocol to stay more present and healthier. As I teach in my Supercharge Your Life series, I am also determined to get enough sleep and eat as nutritiously as possible. At the end of each day, I release all tensions by lying on the floor with my legs up against a wall and breathe deeply for 10 minutes to quiet both body and mind. Of course, you may find these methods take a little practice to create consistent, reliable habits. I assure you they are worth your time as you will discover more focus, energy and vitality.
We exist in our minds and egos which prepare us for worst case scenarios, intended for our protection. However, when you allow your mind to live in a calamitous future, you sabotage your ability to tap into the present where you can access resilience, creativity and wellbeing. Being aware of what you are feeling by using my five recommendations helps restore the biological connection of mind and body. It activates alignment and integration which allow your immune system to function more efficiently. Ultimately, you connect to the place where you can truly feel at peace. It is undeniably fleeting but when you mindfully string more and more of these moments together, you may feel — dare I say it — HAPPY!