Updated: Apr 2, 2020
If you need guidance with supplementing your well-being with mindfulness or heightened-state-of-mind practices during this time, please feel free to reach out to us. We have several resources that we can connect you with. Later this week, we will begin 5-10 minute online sessions to facilitate a mindful or heightened state-of-mind. Please email me at email@example.com to receive a link to participate. Stay tuned for online workshops and community events, since our in-person events have been postponed.
2020 started off with the promise to renewal, new beginnings, and growth: new decade and rekindled hope. Yet, less than 3 months into the year, so many regions in the world are on lockdown or quarantine in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19. Places that are not on lockdown are practicing social distancing. It is chaotic, frustrating, and sometimes downright depressing. For some, this is causing hysteria, panic, stress, or anxiety. Some people are confused and some are acting out of fear. This situation has led me to continue reflecting on fear in our blog. Here, I discuss fear-based reactions and share some ideas on how to identify them. What can we do to manage our reaction?
Usually when we experience trauma or difficulty, we can turn to our friends and family. We can ask for a kind listening ear, talk things through together, hug each other, and be there for each other. However, the precautionary measures we have to employ to keep everyone safe, aka social distancing, can make this difficult. Traditional practices of visiting someone who is going through a hard time, or cooking them a meal, going for a walk with them, or sending them flowers are limited during a pandemic. Worse still, we are all going through it at the same time: it can be overwhelming to let others lean on you, when you need support yourself.
We are also having to navigate ourselves through the tight space that exists between hysteria and denial, anger at the failings of leadership and good will to focus on the important work of the now-and-here. It is not easy and it is not a comfortable place to be. Because, to be in that space, you have to stay informed and learn about the facts. You have to comb through the misinformation. You have to learn which sources you can trust. Then, in accepting the facts, you have to control the fear-based reactions in yourself so you don't experience and spread another kind of virus: panic, hysteria, and distrust. It is far easier to deny the facts and ignore the evidence. This, too, comes at a price, as often society at large pays a price when reason and community spirit break down in times of crisis.
What are fear-based reactions? How do we identify them?
Fear is an emotional response to a perceived danger or threat. It is a critical tool in survival, not just for humans, but for all species. Fear can manifest through physiological / biochemical, emotional, or intuitive reactions. Reactions manifest in different ways in different people. Physiological reactions can show up in the form of sweating, shaking, nausea, dry mouth, increased heart-rate, panic attacks, dizziness, and more. Our body literally goes into a survival mode and gets ready to "fight or flight". Some of the psychological or emotional responses can be in the form of denial, hysteria, dismissal, suspicion, grief, stress, anger, lashing out, defensiveness, etc. Feeling paralyzed, depressed, anxious, or feeling a sense of restlessness, maybe also be fear-based reactions.
What are some ways to address fear-based reactivity?
Give yourself sufficient time to feel and form emotions. Articulate which emotions are surfacing. Giving these emotions labels help us process and address them properly. It's natural to feel a range of emotions and unreasonable to only feel "positive" emotions.
Fear in the face of uncertainly makes it difficult sometimes to self-detect these behaviors. Reach out to your friends, confidantes, or your licensed professional therapist to talk about what is going on. Identify if you are reacting out of fear. Talk about what you are feeling and how these emotions are affecting you.
Use empathy. Empathy allows us to assess a situation with both our hearts and minds. It enables us to relate to someone else, give them the benefit of the doubt or seek to observe from someone else's perspective. Kindness and compassion at times of crisis are one of best healing tools even for ourselves. Helping one another, beyond selfishness, especially at times like these, is going to increase our well-being and our the collective chance of minimizing losses.
Educate yourself about the crisis at hand. Identify facts. Avoid getting caught up in the sensationalization of news, distorted, fake, or exaggerated. Sift through misinformation and help spread reliable, level-headed and credible information.
We make better, more sensible decisions during crises, when we are more mindful, grounded and lucid. Clarity of thought can be difficult when the environment around you is chaotic. We can employ various tools to help maintain a clear mind. Some techniques I found to be useful:
Exercise - The type of exercise activity that will help you will depends on your preference. If you want a low-impact and calming activity select stretching, yoga, barre, or pilates, for instance. If you want an activity that will get your blood pumping and ground to the body, you can try cardio or strength training. Avoid going to the gym until this crisis passes and workout from the comfort of your home as much as possible.
Mindfulness / meditation practices can reduce stress, anxiety, pain and improve decision-making and insight. There are various practices that enable us to be present and focus on the here and now. This is crucial for clarity of thought because you are not burdened by past events or concerns about an uncertain future. There are mindfulness practices that help us with releasing tension and promote relaxation. Meditation practices focusing on breathing are great for this. Then there are practices that evoke heightened states.
Techniques that evoke heightened states shift our mindset and raise our level of self-awareness. Our mind is one of the most potent tools, yet it is generally vastly under utilized and underrated. Using the power of our own minds, we can apply our will, intention, and attention to provoke or facilitate heightened states without the use of external stimuli or substances. You can learn about one such technique that we love at Neuma Being called VELO, by watching videos like this one or this one by one of our mentors Nanci Trivellato. Our neuro-bio tech or internal reality tech is designed to promote such states, as well. You can visit our Mind Spa & Showroom when we resume our post-pandemic lives.
Create something - make art, edit a funny video, write, work on a creative project or a problem-solving project. It is famously said that Sir Isaac Newton came up calculus and came up with a theory of gravity during the lockdown period of the plague in Europe. Even if we don't make groundbreaking mathematical or scientific discoveries, we can still contribute something original. It will be fun. And who knows, maybe you will come up with something magnificent!
Connect deeply with your family or friends, play analog games (maybe one you invented), and read a book. Read something fun or learn something new. - this way, we aren't completely taken by watching TV all day and glued to our devices. Give your eyes a break from a backlit screen.
This crisis is now forcing all of us to be creative about how to support each other and be there for each without really being in physical proximity. Use your phones and the internet to check up on each other. Lean on your community virtually.
When Nelson and I started Neuma Being, we brought together our knowledge of ancient wisdom and practices and married them with our expertise in technology and design. Our goal was to co-create an ecosystem of products, community, and resources to navigate this stressful, anxiety-inducing modern urban lifestyle. We didn't know COVID-19 would hit us just a few months down the line. But we feel we are prepared to help our communities during this tumultuous time. We will survive this together, supporting each other, learning from each other, and when this passes, we will thrive and be stronger (and better prepared) together.
If you need guidance with supplementing your well-being with mindfulness or heightened-state-of-mind practices during this time, please feel free to reach out to us. We have several resources that we can connect you with. Later this week, we will begin 5-10 minute group meditation sessions online. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a link to participate. Stay tuned for online workshops and community events, since our in-person events have been postponed.
Stay safe and be well!
Before I sign off today, I want to remind you of a few things:
In order to keep everyone safe - yourself, your family, your friends, your friends' families and loved ones - please continue to practice social distancing, stay in, limit exposure to other people. Not everyone is blessed with a strong immune system. This is a time to be extra cautious and reduce the chances of spreading the virus or becoming a carrier / host of the virus.
Look for emergency bulletins and notifications from your local governments and agencies. They will have news about when it is safe to resume normal daily life.
Wash your hands properly for at least 20 seconds, avoid coughing into your hands, avoid touching handles and surfaces and then touch your face. Follow these guidelines by the WHO.
Educate yourself, stay informed, but seek to remain serene. Panic or calm are also contagious. When you receive information, check sources to examine reliability and credibility. Take extra care not to contribute to the spread of misinformation and fear.
Continue to take care of your mental, physical, and emotional states to the best of your ability during this time.