How are you feeling today? Did you take time to answer that question, or did you just pass by it as a statement on a page?
You probably hear the question “How are you today?” used as a greeting, and not really an inquiry into your well-being. Tapping into our feelings is not something that you often allow space for in your life. I know I have to make the effort to check in with you.
There are several keys to cultivating resilience during difficult times and what they all have in common is that you must look at and experience your emotions. For some of you, these last two years might have felt like a blur, and most likely you have pre-pandemic memories that feel distant. You may have pushed through each day in survival mode and may have started to feel the impact now.
The pandemic experience can feel like a roller coaster of emotions that can be taxing on our emotional and mental health. So it makes sense that we do whatever we can to numb or escape our emotions.
Although I currently feel as though I am on the high end of the corona coaster I know that this is not always the case. The truth is that my mood, energy level, and overall sense of well-being can shift and change on a daily, weekly, and even hourly basis. It is natural to have fluctuations in mood as a human being.
But what happens when we have a global pandemic? This collective trauma caused by the loss of life, jobs, businesses, loved ones, all the natural disasters that have been happening, all the divisiveness, and then you add that to our own personal struggles – and now you are most likely irritable and/or burnt out, even if periodically.
I am sharing some tips to help you feed your soul, get in touch with your emotions, and cultivate your resilience.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE HAVE A GLOBAL PANDEMIC? HOW DO YOU COPE? AKA The Corona Coaster
You have already heard this term, The Corona Coaster, and if not you have now. I am using it because I think it describes the emotions you may have felt over the last couple of years, especially after realizing that things are not going to go back to “normal”.
Depending on who you ask, this may not be a bad thing, the way things were functioning before just wasn’t for everyone. A lot of the spiritual teachers I follow keep saying that this is a big shift, a big shift in consciousness, and a big overall change.
IF THIS IS A CHANGE? WHY IS THIS SO HARD?
Why is this so hard? With all the positive changes there have also been negative consequences such as people dying, disconnection from family & friends, and shortages.
To understand this at an intellectual level let’s talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Some of you may be familiar with this theory which says that our needs have an order of importance and if some needs are not met we are not in a place to even consider the other. This model is a pyramid and at the bottom of the pyramid are your physiological needs: food, water, things which you need to survive. The next level is safety, then belonging, then esteem, and then self-actualization.
So most likely, you were in the higher part of the pyramid before the pandemic hit. And as soon as we had to do shelter in place and we had to be home, you dropped down to the safety part of the pyramid and maybe even the physiological part of the pyramid because we went to grocery stores and some of our essential needs were not there. Or you were concerned about whether you were going to get the food you needed or not. So that threatened the physiological level. With all of that playing in, it makes sense that those higher levels of the pyramid aren’t as much of a priority when we are concerned about these other more basic needs.
We are usually in other parts of this hierarchy, but we have spent a lot of time in survival mode lately. We have been in a constant state of fight or flight mode, whether we are conscious of this or not.
YOUR USUAL COPING MECHANISMS MAY NO LONGER BE WORKING
With this added level of collective trauma, rapid changes, and personal stress, it is no wonder that the usual meditations that you used and the journaling or other techniques are not feeling like they are enough. Here are some things to try instead:
SHIFTING YOUR PERSPECTIVE: THE STORY YOU TELL
Ask yourself, what is your perspective, or the lens that you look at the world through? When you experience an event, hear a story, or even have a memory that has to go through your brain to be processed before you can perceive it. What have you been focusing on? Be honest with yourself.
If you want to feel less anxious, tell yourself a new story. Think about how you can see things from a different perspective. Maybe focus on what is working vs. what isn’t. Our brain’s default is to focus on all that isn’t going well, which is not going to help you cultivate resilience.
It is time to focus on what is working in your life, your community, and your family. When something happens that is not the way you would like things to be, going down a negative spiral of thought is not going to make the situation better.
Instead, acknowledge the thought that this event didn’t go the way you wanted, allow yourself to feel the sadness or whatever emotions come through. Then, think of what is good, what if anything you can do to contribute to others to improve the outcome, or if there is anything you can do to change the situation. This is a key to resilience.
LISTEN TO YOUR PHYSICAL BODY- YOUR BODY COMMUNICATES WITH YOU
Our physical bodies are an essential source of wisdom when we choose to pay attention. Most of us go through our days lost in our thoughts. We tend to ignore bodily sensations regularly while focusing on our work or inner world. It is so easy to stay busy and distracted while ignoring our body’s wisdom.
I am going to recommend that you pay attention to what your body is telling you, which is key to your well-being and resilience.
For instance, if you are feeling hungry then your body is telling you something. Take a look at your diet, did you eat what your body needs to today? Are you dehydrated? Hungry? Or do you just need a break? Hunger is a signal to pay attention to. It may not mean you need to eat, but you must take care of your body to decipher the message.
Listen to your body for the emotions it communicates as well. Your body will tell you when you are stressed, you have a physical response to stress. Your heart rate will increase, your muscles tighten, and maybe your stomach hurts. When you are in that state, notice and make changes necessary to move into a more aligned and calmer state.
How many physical sensations a day do you ignore? Try paying attention to when you are tired, hungry, thirsty, or feeling pain. Your body is communicating with you, so pay attention. When you receive a physical sensation, take a few moments, and check in to see what your body is telling you, as your physical sensations are also tied to your emotions.
RELEASE AND PROCESS THE ANGER (IN A HEALTHY WAY)
Anger can go hand in hand with stress and the Corona-coaster. Are you feeling irritable, do the littlest things frustrate you? You may have pent-up anger. It is time to pay attention and release anger in a healthy way that harms no one.
You can use your body, kinesthetically and safely, to release the anger. If you are not sure how to do this, here is a list of some things you can do to process the anger and release it from your body. First, it is important to recognize what is happening, notice the anger, and then choose a safe way to release it.
Throw things safely:
Can you go into nature and through acorns? How about stuffed animals against a wall? How about a baseball or tennis ball at a court wall?
Whatever you choose, imagine that your anger is being thrown out of your body. The object you choose to throw is a conduit for your anger.
I am going to recommend you scream in an empty room and not direct this at anyone else. This is not meant for you to take your anger out on someone else, it is to get the frustration out of your body. You may also try screaming in a closed car while driving solo.
Punch a pillow:
Take some pillows and imagine you are punching your source of anger. Imagine the anger is leaving your body and going into the pillow.
Stomp your feet:
You can imagine you are stomping out the anger.
Go for a run, spin, or other meditative movements:
You can use the exercise to move the energy out of your body. Set the intention before you begin and imagine the energy moving out of your body.
Once you release the anger you may notice the emotion underneath. Is it a disappointment, or hurt? Then you can really work through the emotions, once you’ve moved past anger.
If you have deep emotional regret, this emotion is guiding you to work with someone. Do you need a coach, therapist? Seeking help can support you in cultivating your resilience.
ACCESS AND CHANNEL YOUR CREATIVITY
Use your creativity to express how you are feeling. You can draw, paint, color, or make a collage. Be creative, play with the medium you choose, and don’t worry about the end result.
Use the creative tool to have fun and release the emotions from your body. We store emotions that can cause health issues, including anxiety. Sometimes they just need safe release and expression.
Cultivating anxiety and coping with emotions will take some effort, but it is definitely worth it.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS!
There are so many ways to move through these difficult times and cultivate your emotional resilience.
Some other tools that are often recommended include mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and exercise which are great outlets to release that negative energy.
Please know that this is not forever and it is a great opportunity to grow. You are much-needed now, so you must learn resilience.
Cultivating resilience takes some effort, you must experience your emotions, and process them. Pay attention to your body’s guidance, tell a new story, use your creativity, and channel your emotions in a healthy way. Denying your feelings and pushing them away will not work for very long.
If you feel you need extra support, I am going to encourage you to reach out and find some. Invest in your mental health.
“Whether you reach out for support with me or someone else, please know you deserve support, and we can’t do this alone!”.