I’ve been reading a lot about COVID-19-related anxiety, our collective anxiety and how it is manifesting in different ways, and tuning in to the ways that I have been experiencing it as well.
There have been a few articles that have helped outline how our nervous systems are reacting when we are stressed and anxious and what that looks like. It looks like anxiety in the face of uncertainty – highly activated nervous system in “high alert mode” responding to uncertainty as a threat.
It looks like: hypervigilance and health anxiety navigating the world around us; it looks like shutting down and lying around on our couches with netflix because we feel so overwhelmed; it looks like anger and rage that is misdirected at our loved ones or those around us in public even (the aggressiveness I have seen is alarming). It looks like insomnia and an inability to relax because we don’t know where our next paycheque is coming from, or we are asked to go to work when we feel unsafe.
Young children and even teens are getting extra clingy, and including myself; I went through 2 weeks where I kept saying to my partner that I could not be left alone- which is so unlike the introverted, “independent” person that I am.
We don’t feel safe during this time, we don’t feel secure, there are so many unknowns and we are going through this – albeit together- at the same time.
Our bodies are asking to be held, and are not feeling safe during this time.
If you’re someone who already experiences nervous system dysregulation, then this time might be particularly activating for you.
I know for myself I channelled my anxiety into hyper productivity during the first month of the pandemic. According to Paul Gilbert’s model of the systems of emotional regulation, we spend most of our time in drive and threat mode, and for me that looked like deciding to do an online yoga teacher training, grow my indoor garden, schedule weekly zoom calls, practice yoga 3 x a week, and then out of nowhere my energy dipped and plummeted and I went into a lethargic, “hypo-aroused” state.
The key to regulate our nervous system successfully during this time, is to try and utilize the tips and resources out there in a way that makes sense for you.
Yoga can be a resource, if and when you feel ready, and so can so many other exercises and techniques.
For example, if you’re feeling depressed, or in hypo-arousal, then doing gentle movements in a gentle hatha flow might be good for you. I know that I had to push myself to make sure I went out for walks, and bike rides during this time.
If you’re feeling very anxious, however, movement might be good as well, though perhaps grounding techniques might be better. It’s really about tuning into your body, your emotions, your physiology to see what types of self care resources might be the most helpful to you. This was helpful for me during my hyper-aroused state at the beginning where I was churning my wheels. I actually had to work hard at chilling out and taking it slow and I found that deep breathing exercises like the ones I’ve shared below were really useful for that.
And then for some of us -not all of us, you know your body best!- restorative yoga practices that engage our parasympathetic nervous system might be the way we need to be held and/or self soothe.
I thought I would share a number of resources during this time that might be helpful for you, with some context as to why these might be helpful resources.
Hope you can try some out.
Remember that it’s a unprecedented and unusual time right now, and feel all your feelings; they are completely valid.