- Maintain Structure, routines and rituals as much as you can.
For most of us, the normal structures that would demarcate our day are no longer in place. We have to consciously create these structures and boundaries for ourselves.
Some general tips: Go to sleep and wake up at reasonable times, shower and continue to get dressed for your day is if you were going to work/socializing, write a schedule that includes time for work, family time, intimacy and self-care.
- Connection is key.
We are mammals and our nervous systems are wired for connection and living/surviving in groups. In addition to self-regulation, we can also dramatically lower stress and panic in our nervous systems through co-regulation and attunement with another person. Just the simple but attentive presence of another person can help us to not feel so scared and alone.
Tips for connecting and attuning with others:
- Provide full attention and presence when someone is expressing a difficult experience.
- Just simply listen without fixing or giving solutions or advice.
- Make empathetic statements (“Wow, that sounds really frustrating. I’m so sorry that happened to you.”).
- Reflect back the other person’s thoughts and feelings.
- Create your self-care toolkit.
Our nervous systems are working overtime and everyone around us is feeling under resourced more often. We need regular ways to nourish and replenish ourselves. Everyone will be drawn to different self-care and coping strategies. Pick and choose which ones work best for you. Here are some places to start.
- Laughing regularly (watch comedy, read memes, play with children, whatever works) releases endorphins and deactivates the stress response
- Breathing exercises help to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system (Soft Belly Breathing)
- 30 minutes of exercise (at least) per day, releases endorphins, moves stagnation, increases immunity.
- Guided visualization – it’s particularly difficult to maintain a sense of safety right now, especially if you have a trauma history or a sensitive nervous system. By engaging our imaginations, we can create feelings of safety almost anywhere. Your imagination can become an internal resource you can use at any time. Safe place exercise is a great guided visualization tool.
- Find some form of self-expression (journaling, painting/drawing, dancing, singing, music)
- Reduce unhealthy coping as much as possible (substances, media consumption, limit COVID conversation)
- Boundaries and finding privacy.
As our many activities all begin to take place in one primary location during quarantine, we need to find creative ways to create boundaries, find privacy and demarcate separation between activities. When you are feeling overloaded or when you have no more to give, it’s a great time to create a boundary.
Some tips – When you need space, notice your activation level on a scale of 1-10. Communicate this to your partner, children or roommates and let them know you need space to yourself.
Ways to change the channel or create a boundary: go outside, close the door, take a walk, light some incense or sage.
Be creative and use your imagination to mark separations between work, family time, romantic time, and private time. Change your cloths between activities, take a shower, wash your hands, sit in a different location in the house, dress up, dress down, change the lighting, drink a glass of water.
- Notice the good in the world.
There is so much collective tension, doom and gloom and real suffering in the air right now. It can be easy to focus your attention on quelling your anxiety through consuming more information, researching ways to stay safe or reading updates about the virus. Chasing the carrot of anxiety through these methods can lead to feelings of hopelessness and keep you in an anxiety loop. We need a break from the information overload. Focusing on the good around you doesn’t mean you are sticking your head in the sand. It’s a healthy way to regulate your stress. A great way to do this is through a gratitude practice. Taking a moment to notice the good or what you are grateful for upon waking or before a meal can be an uplifting and easy practice.
- Help others, we are all in this together.
Everybody is experiencing a similar thing right now. We all need support. Helping others naturally uplifts our mood and brings hope. If you see a need, take the initiative to help to the best of your ability.
- Remind yourself this is temporary.
This too shall pass. Remind yourself of this daily. Yes, there are still many unknowns about what life will look like after this pandemic. However, avoid thinking about the future or attempting to plan for things you really cannot control right now. Embrace the moment and take things day by day.
- What do you have control over? Think small scale…
Find and access your sense of agency. Trauma takes its biggest toll on people when circumstances create a feeling of absolute helplessness. Keeping your body and mind geared toward the small aspects of your life that you do have control over can counteract this trauma response and activate your innate feelings of agency (instead of getting stuck in the freeze response). Helping others is a great way to feel agency. Simple things like organizing your pantry or purging your closet can also give a sense of agency.
- Find the lesson and see the bigger picture.
As mentioned above, a key part of working with and repairing trauma is to help people find agency, meaning and positive outcomes from a seemingly destructive experience. We can do this in our own lives right now by reflecting on what we are each learning or taking away from this experience. What is this crisis highlighting for you in your life that you can take steps toward now or soon?
- Stretch to become more comfortable with the unknown.
Humans need a sense of security and safety to function well. Most of our society is geared toward gaining and locking down a sense of security and currently much of this foundation of security is being disrupted. It’s a stretch to sit in the unknown. However, most of our learning and growing happens in our stretch zones, not our comfort zones. This crisis is forcing us to sit with many unknowns. This is easier said than done, yet reframing crisis as opportunity can broaden our viewpoint without dismissing our suffering.