There will be some incredible survival stories and insights that come from COVID19. It’s very hard to grasp the gold nuggets of an experience when you’re busy digging out from under an avalanche. But it’s not impossible.
This audience is no stranger to enormous challenges. COVID19 is forcing us to remain un-social. At a time when social support is typically the first place we go for connection, we must stay isolated. Either alone, or with your small family, some with new infants. No matter your home situation, it is difficult.
Stress under normal circumstances?
Speaking with a friend who had her first baby under “normal” circumstances, remembers the huge adjustment of learning to care for this new tiny person, while under the influence of post birth hormone fluctuations and financial duress. There were HUGE fights with her partner. She didn’t recognize herself or what was happening to her. Under normal circumstances she would never have said the things she did or behaved toward her partner the way she did.
How did you get to the other side? I asked. After some thought, she said, we had to get away from each other (even in 5 degree weather in January), for just a while. The exchange goes from a simmer to a boil to an explosion in mere moments, before we can get a grip on what’s coming out of our mouths. If not recognized before, this is when you create space. It’s like, somebody peed in the pool and everybody has to GET OUT. The energy in the room is contaminated. Anger molecules are bouncing around cutting your skin, hitting you in the head and kicking your shins. The energy has to change for it to stop.
One of them would recognize this and go out for a while.
Space, an internal frontier
Time spent away from each other is time to cool your jets, calm the nervous system, have a little self-compassion for your own pain, and then perhaps, be in your partner’s shoes for a bit. How can you have compassion for your partner if you don’t first have it for yourself? Space, which includes time, opens up the opportunity for greater understanding. Space may also be headphones and music, a room alone, the “man cave” (for either of you). Space is what you decide it is.
Of course now, with COVID19, the streets or park or neighborhood must suffice since coffee shops, libraries and restaurants are closed. But we still have sky and thank goodness here, we have spring. The simple physical activity of walking helps to change our biochemistry (lowers the cortisol) and paves the path to transform our thoughts. The rhythm and repetition of walking and breathing can begin to slow and change the angry thoughts.
Lots of families are cooped up together. Things can get tense. Fears and anxieties about the future are all mixed up in this home. Small insults feel more hurtful. The molecules of resentment begin to crowd the space. A miscommunication or misunderstanding happens, the simmer becomes a boil and a potential explosion. OR, even more damaging, no explosion. If there’s no explosion the emotional pain molecules are circulating and no one is opening the door and leaving to change the energy. Everyone is sitting in the nasty pee pool.
Daily check-in: How AM I doing?
Staying present to your current physical and emotional state is key to both your own emotional health and the health of your family. Just a few moments to deepen the breath and ask: How am I feeling today? What is my mood? Am I uncomfortable in my body? Where in my body do I feel off? When you’ve identified the source of your discomfort, you may be able to then discern what it needs. Quiet, music, exercise, talk, food, water, reading, dancing (yes we can safely dance in our own homes:-), a walk, meditation, a project to focus on, a TED talk, a podcast.
We are fortunate that there is still SO MUCH available to us! Which brings me to the practice of gratitude. When you practice being grateful for your home, access to food, your family, a warm bed, a job, the internet, close friends, then you can not feel anxious about an uncertain future. It’s very difficult to be in a state of gratitude and to be anxious at the same time. I know that some of you will give this a try. And some of you may succeed. But please, don’t try too hard. Gratitude feels so much better than anxiety. And we get better at what we practice.
I am grateful for my friend who inspired me today!
Love to you all!