The last few weeks have been turbulent to say the least.
They’ve been full of confusion, hearsay, and fear. We are in a moment of significant change.
With the global news, social media, and other updates coming at us, it can feel overwhelming. I get the sense that the bombardment feeds into a collective, underlying belief that “it shouldn’t be this way.”
People “shouldn’t” have to self-isolate, my kids’ schooling “shouldn’t” be interrupted, people “shouldn’t” be dying, I “shouldn’t” feel as uncomfortable and out of control as I do.
Yet, this change and uncertainty is also, fundamentally, a keystone of life. We never know how, what, or why something may happen.
Change takes adjustment, a recognition of loss of what was and will no longer be. That doesn’t happen immediately, and it doesn’t happen because we say it must, or because we know that it would be good for us if we could just “accept and let go.”
So while we are swirling around in such anchorless moments, what can we do?
Whenever we feel ungrounded, we can return to a simple grounding technique using our senses and “5-4-3-2-1”: five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can touch, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
It’s a technique I’ve used countless times with clients to help ground them too, and I think we could use this framework to help take the heat out of our resistance.
I’m tempted to go down the whole “limit your social media and news intake” route, which I have to say, has definitely worked for me. However, let’s think about other visual sources of stress.
Clutter creates stress, releasing cortisol into your system. While cortisol is necessary (it facilitates your fight-or-flight response), over time your body can get used to having too much cortisol in your blood, which leads to more inflammation. It also decreases your white blood cells (needed for fighting infection), and when these are suppressed, it is harder to fight off viruses (hellooooo).
Therefore, creating an environment that is free of clutter is something that is within your control to keep you immune system firing as well as it can. You will also feel smug, which, at times like this, can feel good (we’re all human).
Anxiety, anxiety, anxiety, anxiety, anxiety. Are you feeling more anxious now after reading that?
Compare your feelings to how you feel after reading this: calm, calm, calm, calm, calm.
My next point is to think about what you are saying and how.
Saying, “I feel so anxious” is a reactive comment. Saying, “I want to feel calmer” is a proactive comment. The former may leave you feeling stuck and out of control, while the latter leans toward a growth mindset, which may lead you to asking yourself, “What can I do now that would help me feel more calm?”
This is a principle used in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP for short).
Peter Levine is a specialist in trauma healing. He developed a practice called Somatic Experiencing. This is one body oriented technique from him that may help to make you feel calmer:
Put your right hand under your left arm beside your heart (tucked into your armpit). Place your left hand onto your upper right arm/shoulder and just hold the pose. Essentially, give yourself a hug.
Notice your breath. Notice all the feelings that may be going on inside and continue to hold yourself, to remind yourself that you are in a specific location. Watch and wait to see if there is a shift in your breathing, your bodily sensations, and how you feel. Wait until you feel a shift, a sense of settling, of calm.
This helps us to feel contained and to remember that all of our feelings and sensations are held in the body—there is a finite element to it.
Smells can instantly affect the way we feel. Think about how you recoil in disgust at the smell of an unemptied bin for example (I could think of worse, but let’s try and keep it pleasant). You don’t think about how disgusted you feel before you recoil; your olfactory system has sent a message to your amygdala, which has kicked in with a “flee” response to your legs before you can utter “yeuch.”
So you can use this to your advantage right now. Personally, my go-to is eucalyptus oil if I want a brain reset, but lavender, vetiver, orange blossom, rosemary, and sage all have their benefits in helping you feel better.
I don’t want to start a panic buy of essential oils, but there are even studies that suggest that the vapour of bergamot and eucalyptus killed the influenza virus after 10 minutes.
Vitamins A, B6, C, D, E, zinc, and flavonoids are all instrumental in building and maintaining a robust immune system. As tempting as it is to binge on the carrot cake you made from the carrots you stockpiled (just me?), eating them in sticks with a bit of hummus is going to do you more good. So boring, but so true. Sugar also adds stress to you body and, if you read my first point, you’ll know that’s not good, especially now.