June 8, 2020
Written by Registered Psychotherapist, Robbi Currie
We are in the midst of a pandemic and most people are feeling a range of mental health impacts from restricted movement, life disruptions, unexpected unemployment, learning how to homeschool children, social isolation, fear of getting sick, and so much more. Our Mindfulness Meditation expert and registered Psychotherapist, Robbi Currie, provides some helpful insight on how our response to the stress of this pandemic can influence our mental wellness.
Let’s begin by understanding our response to stress. Our autonomic nervous system (ANS) is designed to constantly scan for cues of threat or safety. It’s similar to a computer program that scans in the background for signs of a virus. Unless we choose to look directly, we do not see it working. Whether we are looking or not, it continues with the task at hand.
COVID-19 has heightened our cues of threat. Throughout the day we are focusing on the “rules” of safety and we are consciously checking for danger. Paying attention to these threats every second of the day can be exhausting! Although it may not feel like it, you have the power to learn how to let your nervous system do its job by focusing our conscious mind on courage, growth and connection. Here’s how it works:
Courage – Prepare and take precautions to ensure your safety. Then, I encourage you to bring the mind elsewhere while the nervous system scans in the background. Here are some examples of simple activities: Music – listen, play, and sing along – your autonomic nervous system (ANS) will sense safety. Half-smile by turning up the corners of your mouth slightly – your ANS will respond!
Connection – Check in with a loved one and make sure to talk about spring arriving, the return of birds, their nesting and singing, and the beautiful flowers. Go for a walk (distance of course) and look at the trees and the sky – your ANS will calm. Place your hand on your heart and breathe, a moment of loving touch is healing, and then sigh, release and reset – did you feel the difference?
Growth – We cannot control what is happening in the outside world, but we can choose how to respond to what is happening in our lives. You can learn to move beyond the fear zone to the learning and growth zones. Click on the image above and choose one example each day from the diagram to practice. For example, “Today, I will identify my emotions” or “Today, I will show empathy to myself and others”.
Practice Mindfulness – Show up for the present moment with curiosity and loving kindness. Links to free meditation instruction and groups can be found under the “Mindfulness Meditation” section of the CHC website by following this link.