I had a birthday in April, which I pretty much spent alone. In the weeks prior, I occasionally thought about how odd it will be to forego the usual birthday traditions. Would I be lonely? Perhaps, but I was determined to have a lovely birthday, so I did what any outdoor-loving person would do—I prayed for a warm, sunny day.
The Universe delivered, mostly. I guess I wasn’t specific enough in my weather-related request. I got my sunny, 50-degree day, but with winds that made it feel more like a chilly 35.
Still, from the inside of my home, I was able to enjoy the warm caress of the sun all afternoon long. It turned out to be a lovely birthday, with friends who stood on my front lawn bearing gifts of flowers, balloons, sweet local honey, and a delicious dinner.
Soon after my birthday, along came a rainy, windy, cold Mother’s Day. Ok, I have some mad mindset skills, but come on. Two special days, only a couple weeks apart, that I (along with many other moms of adult children) would spend cooped up and alone? Really?
Again, I shifted my mindset and felt fine about “celebrating” the day all by myself. Or, at least I thought so.
It wasn’t until dinner time on Mother’s Day (I made a delicious lasagna and salad) that the loneliness set in. I decided to voice text my daughter and as I began to speak my voice broke. As though some unknown force took over my emotions, a torrent of tears flooded my eyes, ending up in a mushy mess of mascara that ran down my burning cheeks. What the heck? I seriously didn’t know how much emotion I had suppressed. I cried, tapped, and let it out for a few minutes and then I was fine. Thank you, EFT!
There was something to learn from this sudden outburst of emotion, so I did a little internal exploration. Sure enough, a mild Ah-Ha moment came along as I thought about the nature of stress and its effects on the mind.
When the reality of a pandemic hit this country, we were all thrown into a state of acute stress. This is when the survival instinct kicks in because of what our brain believes is an immediate threat to our safety. Extreme reactions are involved, (thus the toilet paper rampage) including heightened anxiety about where we’ve been and who we’ve been exposed to. Will everyone we love survive this virus? Will the world ever be the same? Am I already infected?
Since that initial shock, most of us have transitioned from acute stress to the chronic stress phase: fewer extreme responses, but consistent underlying tension. Most of us know about the physical toll this can take on our bodies, but you may not be quite as aware of the mental toll. Chronic stress can cause certain physical and emotional responses that seem to come out of left field, like what happened to me on Mother’s Day. When symptoms of stress display themselves, it can be confusing.
Acknowledge your chronic stress.
Just last week one of my clients told me that since he’s healthy and his income has remained unaffected, he had no right to complain. Was he right to feel guilt and shame for being down?
Not at all. He has every right to his feelings. We all need to put a voice to our fears.
- No matter how well you’re doing under our current circumstances, your world has changed. Like the rest of us, you have no way of predicting if and when life as you know it will be restored.
Repeat after me: “Of course, I am stressed!”
- Tell your mind and body that it’s ok that you’re not at 100 percent right now. The fact that others are worse off than you are should not diminish your concerns and fears. To remain healthy, everyone needs to access and experience their unhappy emotions.
- Let go of any guilt or resistance to experiencing whatever it is that you feel. Spend time taking care of yourself during your trek into unchartered territory.
- Most of the world has slowed down, so it’s ok to lower your expectations for a little while. Take breaks. Go for a bike ride or take a walk in the middle of the day. As a result, you'll feel better and be more productive.
- Add some nurturing activities to your day. Listen to a guided meditation at bedtime. Keep a journal to help you explore your thoughts and stress responses.
As they say, we are in this together, and in many ways that’s true. People around the entire globe are experiencing a life that's much different than they could have ever predicted. The inability to concentrate, sleepless nights, fatigue, and everything from sadness to anger are all a part of being human and “in this together.”