Self-Soothing in Solitude
During this pandemic and in life’s most harrowing moments, we are challenged to relax. It seems counter-intuitive, but those are the moments when the best response for survival and success is to relax as much as possible, to relax and focus. In doubt and uncertainty and with catastrophic thinking, the nervous system is triggered into fight/flight/freeze, the roots of trauma. If a bear is chasing me those responses might make sense. Not so much in modern life.
However, our culture, our media, is full of fear, anger, helplessness and victimization messaging. It affects my thinking and it really matters what I’m thinking and believing in the most difficult moments when my well being, stability and survival is uncertain. To believe in a negative outcome affects the outcome. Just that negative belief triggers my nervous system into anxiety and fearful stress. The higher functions of the human brain which enable intelligent judgment are offline or impaired when the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight/freeze) is activated.
To be open, curious, relaxed and trusting makes a huge difference. You know? Going with the flow. Not living life in fearful resistance and control tactics. So, first of all, don’t believe the worst is certain. You don’t know. Don’t believe your negative thoughts when the evidence isn’t in. It’s not quite positive thinking; it’s an open mind. When we don’t know, it’s not necessarily bad. It’s not about good and bad; it’s about survival and resilience. Watch your thoughts. They can hurt you.
So, how to calm the feelings in the body when the nervous system is triggered into fight/flight/freeze and there’s no bear? First, know it’s happening. Be aware of your stressful feelings in order to care and comfort them. Be mindful, and instead of escaping, marry your mind to your breath. Let go of thinking and focus on the feeling of allowing a full deep breath to fill your belly and then an even more relaxed exhalation. Notice/feel/inhabit your physical being and prioritize comfort and care. Breathing easy is essential. Meditate, take a nap. It also helps to bathe or shower in warm/hot water using soaps/products with essential oils like rose and lavender. Any rhythmic physical movement deepens breathing and calms the body. Think yoga, walking, running, biking, swimming, dancing. Music helps, playing it, singing, humming, chanting. Also, slowing down into this moment and taking in the details of now. Tea and honey. A good read.
There’s nothing to run away from and nothing to run to. Without putting pressure on yourself, what would you like to do? If it’s calming and centering and satisfying to create, organize, build and clean, now is a good time to settle in and do stuff. You may have your own list of things that bring you back to feeling comfortable in your skin: journaling, photography, nature, etc. At the core of it all is opening up, relaxing and letting life breathe you right now instead of resisting all that we cannot control.