Remaining Grounded During Times of Fear and Uncertainty
Regular readers of mine will know that I love LOVE to preach the importance of remaining grounded during life’s ups and downs, and of accepting what life has thrown at us with the knowledge that for every loss there’s usually a greater gain, if we’re open and willing to see it. It’s what I do.
Well, I’ll admit that the current coronavirus climate has, on days, tested even me. Like a lot of us, I made a conscious decision early on NOT to read the constant doom and gloom news reports, NOT to get caught up in the panic buying hysteria, and to remain mindful at all times whilst scrolling through social media.
All of this was going well and I had even come to appreciate the underlying feeling of community, and quiet, around me as more and more people chose (or were forced) to stay at home. It almost felt as though we were all getting a break from the hustle and bustle of regular life, of taking things for granted, of racing here and there without so much as a second thought as to what we were actually doing it all for. As an introvert, this new pace of life kinda suited me.
Yet when I woke with a sore throat and chest pain two weeks ago my peace and zen threatened to leave me for good. Every virus horror story EVER decided to set up camp inside my head, and I soon found myself convinced that I was the latest coronavirus statistic.
I won’t go into all of the details here except to say that a trip to my GP soon alleviated my fears. Weirdly (or not so weirdly) my symptoms eased after seeing my doctor. I think it is safe to say that at least some of what I was going through was psychosomatic.
And so it is with the mind-body connection – if we’re constantly bombarded with doom and gloom and fear it is not all that difficult for it to become a part of us, for it to enter our psyche and deliver us a plethora of unpleasant mental, emotional and physical symptoms. Even if beforehand we swore black and blue that this would not be the case with us.
It is easy enough to say that we wouldn’t react with hysteria if a particular thing happened to us, to tell ourselves that we’re above that or stronger than that. How easy it is to cast judgement on situations external to us.
The REAL test comes when we find ourself face to face with the situation that we’d previously judged from the comfort of our distance from it.
It is at THESE times that we need to do our utmost to stay grounded.
It is at these stressful and panicky times that we need to remain mindful of what is truly going on. Walking home from my doctor’s surgery, I very consciously reminded myself that I’m not completely powerless to what’s going on around me. I reminded myself of my inner strength. And I thought about the strategies that I’d successfully used to navigate every other so-called disaster in my life.
I thought of the unexpected demise of my marriage. I remembered that the less I listened to and fretted over the divorce horror stories, the more grounded I felt. And the better I got through it.
Here’s some strategies for remaining grounded during times of fear and uncertainty. I hope they help you as they’ve helped me:
1. TAKE THINGS ONE DAY AT A TIME
Literally, one day at a time. Some days, one HOUR at a time. A colleague reminded me of the necessity of ‘one day at a time’ recently as he listened to me blab on about how bad things could potentially get with the virus, and lockdowns, and everything else related.
His reminder was enough to stop me, and my out-of-control thoughts, in my tracks.
When things start seeming insurmountable, force yourself to STOP and BREATHE. Remind yourself that you really have no way of knowing what tomorrow, or the next day, will bring. This is particularly true of this latest world crisis. Things are changing every day. And this is OK.
Life has taught me that EVERYTHING – every situation, every person, every thought, every feeling, every thing – is temporary. Nothing lasts forever. Good or bad. We tend to get so caught up with wanting the ‘good’ things to remain, and the ‘bad’ things to go, that we forget this fundamental truth. Everything goes eventually. And we shouldn’t be afraid of this. Right now, we should find solace in this.
2. PRACTISE MINDFULNESS
Like a lot of people, I’m not always great at setting massive chunks of time aside for meditation. The good news is that we truly don’t need to be. At times like this it is more than OK to grab five minutes here and ten minutes there to be still… and to breathe.
Try this exercise:
Sit or lay quietly in a comfortable position, with eyes closed and muscles relaxed (as relaxed as you can get them). Start breathing through your nose. Remain focussed on your breathing, not paying heed to the thoughts as they pass through your mind. You can’t stop the thoughts, so just leave them be. Acknowledge that they are there, then picture them leaving. Remaining focussed on your breathing will help greatly with this.
I like to breathe in for a count of three, hold for a count of three, then exhale for a count of three.
Stay in this state for 5-10 minutes (longer if time allows). Once you are ready to move on, do so slowly. Open your eyes, gradually become aware of your surroundings, then slowly rise. You should find yourself feeling a WHOLE lot more relaxed, and in a MUCH better state than before you started the exercise.
Why? Mindful breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, getting you out of ‘fight or flight’ mode quick smart. (Crazy how we literally forget to breathe when we’re stressed).
3. AND FINALLY… LEARN TO LOOK AT THINGS A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY
Amidst the current media reports of deaths, overflowing ICU units and economic disaster there are stories of great hope. Blue skies returning to heavily polluted cities, animals returning to waterways, families coming together, communities singing together. THESE are the stories I’ve decided to focus on.
It has honestly been my experience this lifetime that before every breakthrough or beautiful new beginning there has been a period of unrest, unease, chaos and anxiousness. I’m starting to know the pattern! And I don’t believe that this current situation will be any different. Good will come from it, as part of the natural cycle and ebb and flow of life.
In the meantime, I’m going to continue enjoying the slower, more deliberate pace of life. I’m going to remember to breathe, and I’m going to resist obsessing over things I can’t control.
Will you join me?
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