How are you coping with isolation due to COVID19?
I thought I would check in to see how you were getting along. This isolation stuff can be very difficult, even trauma inducing. We tend to think of trauma as something that is the result of major cataclysmic events, or war. Not so.
Trauma can occur with any event or series of events that overwhelms our ability to cope. This pandemic and the steps we are taking to “flatten the curve” could be one of those events. However, we can implement some strategies for coping that will help bring us through this difficult time with a greater sense of peace and increased resilience.
Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., author of The Body Keeps the Score, who has researched trauma for decades, talks about how we can become traumatized and what we can do about it to stay healthy. Here are some coping tips he gave recently to address the effects we might be experiencing due to the current situation.
He talks about six pre-conditions for trauma and steps we can take to ameliorate those conditions:
- A Lack of Predictability. We never know what will happen in the future, but there are some things we can do to help us feel like our world is more predictable.
He suggests that we create some predictability by creating a schedule. Schedule time to do things alone and with others. Scheduling things to look forward to in the future – an online cocktail party, games, or just time to catch up with someone. Going for a hike, or walk outside (being in nature is healing), or attending webinars to learn something new.
- Immobility. Feeling unable to move.
We need to take action, or move. Helpful exercises for regulating the nervous system and instilling calm would be practicing things like, Tai Chi, Chi Gong, Yoga, Meditation, Mindfulness, and Breathing exercises.
Find a place where you can sit or lie down and relax. Follow this one-minute breathing exercise, or practice the 4-7-8 breathing exercise.
- Loss of Connection: We are meant to be connected with other people.
If you have an internet connection, make a date to connect with others online where you can see them. Zoom, Skype, Facetime, or Facebook Messenger, and What’s App are all platforms for video calls that have free options. If you do not have an internet connection, use your phone. Call people. Remember we are all in this boat together and there are others who need that connection as much as you do.
Other ideas: Family meals, storytelling, making music, singing.
- Numbing out vs. Being mindful. How are you handling the stress? If you find yourself numbing out with alcohol, drugs, food, excessive internet surfing or shopping rather than noticing what’s really going on, it’s time to start noticing and making more skillful choices for your health and well-being.
Being mindful helps you to recognize what is happening and bringing to however you feel a sense of compassion for yourself and what you are experiencing. If you are angry or bored, can you feel those emotions and sensations – without reacting to them and letting them pass as they will?
- Loss of a sense of time and sequences: When you’re traumatized, time stops, and you feel like it will last forever.
When you meditate you notice uncomfortable sensations, uncomfortable thoughts, and you go back to your breathing. Then you notice that your thought has shifted to something else. If you feel a cramp you notice it, and something else happens. Things are constantly changing. Sensations and events arise and then change or go away. We live in continuously evolving organisms.
A very important part of dealing with potential trauma is to live with an inner sense that every moment is different from the next. At some point this will be over. Can you keep that knowledge in your mind? This will not last forever.
- Loss of Safety: Traumatized people feel unsafe inside their own bodies. They are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness. They learn to hide from themselves.
Use exercises above to help you achieve a sense of calm. Ground yourself. What does that mean? It means taking some time to feel into your body. Feel (don’t just think about) the soles of your feet on the floor, or your seat in a chair, or your hands touching your chest near your heart. Open your eyes and focus on something inside or outside. Know and feel that you are sitting, or standing or walking.
If you are actually unsafe, are a victim or know someone who is, don’t wait for it to get worse. Do what you need to do now to protect and care for yourself. Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit https://www.thehotline.org/help
If you would like to learn how to mindfully take better care of yourself consider taking a class. It doesn’t have to be mine. Find something that resonates with you and do it for your own sake.
If you have any questions or need support reach out.
May you be well.