Are you worried about your mental health during the Coronavirus lockdown?
We’re back for Part 2 of this care package of 10 ways to support you with your mental well-being during this crisis. If you haven’t read the first blog (Part 1), you can find it here – and you can also watch the associated video here.
So let’s get into the final 5 ways.
Defences are how we guard ourselves during this time. We can put in place adaptive defences or maladaptive defences so try to be aware of where you fall and what kind of defences you are putting in place.
Adaptive defences are the ones that bring us back to the ventral vagal system of our brain. As we saw in my blog on fear, the ventral vagal system allows us to remain socially engaged, connected, grounded, and present – both to ourselves and to others – and to perceive beauty. Examples of adaptive defences we can use in this time are finding meaning in this experience and learning from it; using the time productively or to rest; or getting creative.
Maladaptive defences are for example:
- Denial – at the opposite side of the spectrum than alarmism, denial happens when we don’t believe the crisis is true or when we don’t see the gravity of the situation, when we think “it’s just not a big deal”. This usually happens when reality is too much to take in or when it touches existing internal conflicts.
- Anger, often coupled with feelings of rebellion – when we get angry because we can’t go out or because our freedom is limited, when we think “I don’t care I’m not supposed to go out, I’ll go out anyway”.
The idea is to work on maladaptive defences to transform them little by little in to functional ones. For example with anger, let yourself feel it and release it little by little through your body, with movement. Denial is usually underpinned by a great fear – and we’ll talk about fear next.
Fear can be very useful at times. Generally however, we tend not to feel what we’re afraid of and in doing so our fear gets bigger and bigger and it can overwhelm us.
This is the best way to deal with it. Choose one of your most immediate concerns and let your fear come up. As you feel it, I want you to observe what it looks like, how it moves through your body, what its qualities are. You don’t need to do anything – just stay with it, sit with it and be curious as you observe it.
And remember, if it gets too much, use the inner resources you found and the tools you learnt before, like connecting and breathing through your heart, writing and using your body to explore it.
You will see that your fear is like a wave: it rises, it peaks and then subsides.
I have recently discovered Frank Herbert’s Litany Against Fear, included in his book Dune, which explains this process very well. It says:
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain”.
When fear has passed, you will still be there. Trust that!
Is there place for pleasure in these difficult times?
The sense of pleasure is something that gets lost with trauma and PTSD and part of the healing process in trauma therapy also involves rediscovering what brings pleasure.
In these weeks, we can use pleasure in a preventative way, to help avoiding trauma’s long terms effects.
So cultivate activities that allow you to connect with your aliveness, your vitality and the vibrancy of life. Do it as a way to fill up your resources, rather than thinking of it as unnecessary indulgence.
And look for pleasure within you first – not relying on others to produce that pleasure. Things like a taking a hot bath or giving yourself a massage, or applying face masks if that’s what you’re into, or even exercising and dancing if that is pleasurable to you.
Also be playful, like children can be playful in the most difficult situations.
Finally, if you are in a couple, make love, and make love often.
In Part 1 we talked about filling your environment with music. So play the music you love most, let it fill the air and follow it with your body. Music is great to mobilise the body.
You can also listen to music that has been proven to have positive effects on our cells, for example Gregorian chants or symphonic music, especially Beethoven and Mozart.
And sing! Sing even if you think you are not good at it. Singing is a tonic for our lungs – so important now! And it has the ability to improve on our mood. It’s a proven fact!
Many of us find respite in books. Books take us away but also remind us of where and who we are.
So what to read now? A part from the obvious Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, myths, fables and whatever follows the hero’s journey is great right now.
What are you reading at the moment? What are you listening to? Let me know in the comments below!
As a society we are learning some important lessons. For example the phrase social distancing should really be called physical distancing because if anything we’ve seen creative ways to come together socially. You may have seen and loved people in Italy singing from balconies or people in NYC cheering on health professionals…
It is critical in this time to keep engaging with others, physically separated yet socially connected. Our nervous system and our health in general so need that.
And the best ways to connect with others while isolating are phone calls and video chatting. Our brains rely on voice and facial expressions to feel safe, connected and regulated. Texting, unfortunately, doesn’t provide that.
So the message here is simple, reach out!
These were the final 5 ways for self-care and trauma prevention in this moment of crisis. You can also find them on YouTube here.
Combined with the previous 5, from my last blog and video they will help you coping a little bit better in these times.
Reach out if you have any questions or if you just want to say hi!
ANIMA TV. (2020, March). Erica F. Poli – Ben-Essere nell’emergenza 1 to 14 [Videos]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OnLDssb6Ds&list=PLjYsTkYeO2BteVrc_XkEBcslDRwMTu85A