I hit a wall last night. I took a walk and when I got home I could have dropped on the couch and fallen asleep for the night, at 5pm. Maybe it was the trip to the grocery store which used to be enjoyable but now entails waiting outside until your turn, wearing a mask, wiping down the cart, etc. I am grateful for food and my health, however, it has become a stressful outing. Maybe it was the news with “I don’t know” meeting every question I have. When will it be safe to do anything? Why do some people get symptoms and end up in the ICU and others don’t? When will the economy get back on track? I DON’T KNOW, with no clear plan or national coordinated effort in site to do the adequate testing, tracking and containment that is the ABCs of public health. Sigh, I try to focus on creating something of value, an online meditation, some new features for my website, a nice meal for my family, new garden plans. But the energy and attention are just not there. What is going on?
When faced with major stressors, the body over time, has a harder time maintaining health thus the fatigue. Choosing some kind of routine self care is critical right now.
Remember Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs? He describes a ladder of basic, essential needs that need to be met before being able to focus on higher needs and pursuits. This pandemic has put us all at the Safety and Survival levels with a stark difference emerging between those who were living paycheck to paycheck and those with a bit of a nest egg. I feel privileged to be able to shelter in a nice place with family I love. In reality, I am safe and secure. But many are not. My worldview has shifted to one of inter-being, my “me” has become more of a me + we. Dr. Dan Seigel calls this recognition of our interconnectedness” m-we.” On that level, I feel the pain and fear and grief that is a palpable part of the collective. But knowing this interconnection, I also know that when I keep my peace, I am keeping the peace for all. Notice how this works in your household if you don’t believe me!
The definition of stress is anything that requires adaptation. This pandemic has required us to adapt in every way. Major life stressors include illness, job insecurity or loss, housing insecurity or loss, relationship issues, loss of social connection and grief. So much change in so little time! This level of change is very taxing on our nervous systems. The adrenal glands are working overtime to assist the body in maintaining some kind of normal known as homeostasis. When faced with major stressors, the body over time, has a harder time maintaining health thus the fatigue. Choosing some kind of routine self care is critical right now.
I’d like to share my approach to coping that involves the concept of nourishment and “befriending the nervous system” as Deb Dana, LCSW and Polyvagal Theory expert teaches. I ask every new client if they feel well-nourished. Most stop and pause and have to think. I always get a very honest answer. Many say no,”I know I can take better care of myself.” Many list other ways of nourishing themselves than food, such as taking a bath or reading something soul-full or spending time in nature. We are being inundated with resources, online entertainment options, work requests, family requests, and on and on. By honoring your needs and letting your nervous system guide you to make the optimal choices to nourish yourself you send the message of safety to your brain. This allows you to shift out of fight or flight and into rest and repair mode, keeping all your systems (including the immune system!) functioning optimally.
The concept is simple and involves the following:
- Tune into your body. It is your built in guide. How does it feel? Ask what the body needs, in this moment or maybe that day. Don’t get too far ahead. More rest, more movement, some specific food?
- Do a simple test and feel how the words Yes and No feel in the body. No usually gets some kind of a contracting feeling. Yes is an opening.
- Before you choose anything, even if it is something that is supposed to be good for you, check in with yourself and see if it’s a Yes or a No.
- If in doubt or anxious, focus your awareness on your heart and do slow deep breathing while bringing to mind something or someone you are grateful for. This aligns your mind and body and relaxes the nervous system and will allow for more clear guidance. The brain can easily become hijacked by fear, let the heart lead the way!
Please see other recent posts on sleep, your stress personality and ways to relax and care for the nervous system and yourself. How will you take care of yourself today?