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March 14, 2020

5 Ways To Find Your “Zen” in the Midst of the “Corona-Chaos”

Almost a year ago I went through the one of the scariest experiences of my life. My body completely shut down. I had been under sustained, chronic stress for many years, and on April 4th, 2019 my body finally said ‘enough’. I woke up early that morning to the sound of my heart pumping out of my chest, my right side going numb, and my entire body ringing and pulsing.

“What the hell is happening to me?!” I begged of myself. “What are you doing body?! Calm down! Please!” As I stared at my little daughter with autism on the bed who was captivated with her ipad, I wondered what she would do if I collapsed and couldn’t get help in time.

Panic took over my already panic-stricken body. Should I call the ambulance? Should I try to get myself to the ER. It was only 4:45 in the morning and I didn’t want to bother any of my friends. I hoped and prayed the feeling would go away, but they didn’t. I decided to call my very close friends and took deep breaths all the way to her house where I dropped my daughter off on the way to the hospital.

Once I got to the hospital I completely crashed. I was sobbing. My pulse was 120. I was fucking petrified. My body was swirling around in chaos and I did not know how to regain control.

When the doctor came into see me he asked me a series of questions and did some physical examinations to make sure I had not had a stroke. “What you’ve gone through is what we call ‘an acute stress response’. You need to take time off work to rebuild your nervous system. The chronic stress you have been under for years has finally taken it’s toll.”

I had no idea what he wanted me to do. I was a single mother. I had responsibilities. It’s not like I could just go on vacation and sip margaritas on the beach all day. I went home that afternoon with my trusty Ativan in hand and didn’t get out of bed for two weeks. Friends helped me with my daughter while I regained some strength. I knew things were going to have to radically change in my life if I was going to live a peaceful life, even with the chronic stresses that surrounded me. This last year has been an personal expedition to ‘find my Zen’ in my daily life. I am proud to say, ‘I found it!’

Yesterday I went to the grocery store to buy my weekly grocery supplies. I was in no way ready for what I saw when I got there.

Lines.

Masks.

Chaos.

Fear.

Paranoia.

My heart started to pound just like it did the morning I had my panic attack (acute stress response). I started to do some deep breaths to allow my parasympathetic nervous system to take over. It worked for awhile, but I was still rattled. Once I got home and back to the safety of my own sanctuary, I had the very same thoughts I did the morning I went to the ER, “How am I going to get through this? I am so afraid!” And a still small voice inside me said, “Just the same way your rebuilt your life when your body felt chaotic, you use the same strategies when the world feels chaotic.” That still small voice comforted me, and I hope it comforts you. Here are the 5 strategies I used to rebuild and calm my nervous system that we can all utilize to calm ourselves during the ‘Corona Chaos’.

  1. Create a Peaceful Morning Routine – Every morning I start my day exactly the same. I boil my water for coffee, fill my diffusers with water and my favourite essential oil, and turn on calming, peaceful music. This starts my day, everyday with peace and calm. I feel grounded as I watch the steam rise up from the diffuser and listen to soft music feed my soul. (I recommend Sound Bath meditation music.) Creating a morning routine is imperative in this tumultuous season. It will remind you that even though the world is swirling around you, you can create calm in your world.
  2. Nutrition – I became a crazy researcher when I was recovering myself from a nervous breakdown and I learned that many of us are depriving our brains of the nutrition it needs to function optimally. Dr. Drew Ramsey, who wrote “The Happiness Diet” recommends us getting a diet high in ‘Seafood, greens, nuts, beans and dark chocolate’ to feed our nervous system. Nutrition has made a huge difference in my mental wellness and ability to regain calm when I feel stressed out.
  3. Get out in Nature – Dr. David Perlmutter and his son Dr. Austin Perlmutter just released the book called, “Brain Wash”. In it, they describe the healing elements of being out in nature. Being in nature can bring down cortisol levels very quickly. There’s never been a more important time to get outside. Get outside today. I know I am going to.
  4. Gratitude – Gratitude can rewire our brain…make new neural pathways. Right now we are all scared. We are making neural pathways of fear, but we can change that with intentionally focusing on what we are grateful for. When we envision the life we want it shifts the energy in our body, imagine if we collectively focused on gratitude right now!? We could raise the vibration of our whole world!
  5. Meditation – I have a always been a skeptical meditator. But when I was so weak, it forced me to look for strategies to heal. I learned that meditation and deep breathing activate the Vagus nerve, which then tells the entire body to calm down. Taking deep breaths several times per day is essential in this time of ‘Corona-chaos’.

When I went through my nervous breakdown, I thought it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Almost a year later, I see that it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It forced me to find balance and peace in my life. I am grateful for the stress that catapulted me to change. I believe that it we use these five strategies to find our Zen during this chaotic time, we can come through this as a more patient, kind, enlightened human race.

Let’s do this together. Let’s commit to peace and positivity, no matter what is going on in the world. We’ve got this!

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Wendy Haley  |  Contribution: 685