Right now, the US is bracing for, preparing for, questioning, and attempting to avoid a personal experience with the COVID 19 Pandemic. My feeds on twitter and Facebook are flooded with stats, suggestions, articles, and debates about what is happening, what should happen, and who is doing or not doing the right things. My email is flooded with corporate newsletters announcing precautions. And most of my conversations with colleagues, clients, and friends revolve around this topic.
I have training in Eastern and Western medicine. I have a lifelong interest and study in viruses, their effects, origins and patterns. (One of my favorite books is The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett.) I have had numerous jobs as an educator, advocate, and healer. I have a voice, and I’d like to share it now.
I would like to offer 3 thoughts that have been a consistent theme for me for a few weeks. I would like to focus on how you can get through the anxiety, fear, disbelief, confusion, and other myriad emotions that are prevalent right now.
First: Intention is powerful.
There is a ton of peer reviewed scientific research on how our thoughts affect our brain chemistry.
If I say, “Hey you, my Facebook Friend/Internet Friend, I am so grateful that you are always there to click “like” and let me know that someone sees me and shares a moment of connection with me. It means a lot to have you in my life.” How does that make you feel? Is there a tiny spark that flairs up in you? When I was talking with a group of children recently about this concept, one girl replied, “Every time I see you I get bouncy inside because I know you will tell me I’m amazing. I always feel better after that, even on days when I didn’t do well at school.” Imagine how much you can do for yourself and your loved ones with this! And the best part is that it is free and easy.
Another client was texting me last night saying, “I keep feeling stabbing pains in my lungs. I’m so anxious. I don’t know what to do.” This client has significant issues with asthma and is high risk for most things. We discussed how finding gratitude for how well her body has taken care of her in her 40+ years might feel. We talked about how living in awe of what works well and having sincere gratitude for that will calm the fears, and opens possibilities of living fully even in trying times. Her last text to me read, “Thank you! I forgot to thank my body. That’s a great idea.” She hasn’t texted me since, which means she is calmer and out living.
I invite you to give it a try:
Find a quiet space, take a few deep breaths.
Read these words out loud to yourself.
Thank you, Body, for being strong and working at your best capacity. Thank you, Lungs, for breathing and filling my body with needed oxygen. Thank you, Food and Water, for nourishing and hydrating my cells. Thank you, Mind, for allowing me choices and supporting those with your chemical response. Thank you, Immune System, for always doing your best to evaluate what is happening and act appropriately for me.
Feel free to modify this, or expand it to include your friends, family and community. Live in awe and gratitude for the opportunity to grow, change, and love.
Second: This is an opportunity to address the “deferred maintenance” in our own lives.
One of the main things clients ask for help with is lifestyle. As a culture, we are too busy, with too many expectations and obligations. We rarely say NO and re-prioritize our lives. Yet, much of our health and mental health is dependent on our lifestyle: what we eat, and how; who we interact with, and how; how much true rest we get; time and space to be creative and maintain perspective; time and space for deep connections with those around us; time in nature to return to our roots and understand the cycles of the planet we live on. My biggest obstacle in helping clients heal is their inability to address these lifestyle issues. Maybe this is an opportunity to evaluate what really is essential in our lives and pour gratitude and effort into those areas.
I have been shopping this week. Here is what I got:
- Mineral water (that’s for another day, but I only drink mineral water.) If I run out of mineral water, I will make adjustments to my fluid intake based on knowledge from Eastern and Native medicine. I didn’t buy hundreds of bottles, I bought enough for 2 weeks, mostly so we don’t have to grocery shop this weekend.
- Frozen berries and pineapple. These are handy if we do get sick. They are dense in nutrients and easy to absorb. Pineapple is a great anti-inflammatory and I think it’s delicious. If we don’t need them now, I will be making some great gelato out of them in a few months.
- Extra yeast, flour, and sugar. My family loves cooking and baking. If we are stuck at home for weeks, I’m pretty sure my kid and my husband have ideas of what they’d like to make. In fact, my eleven year old daughter mentioned this morning that she was researching Irish Soda Bread recipes and thought she could substitute cranberries or currants for raisins since I don’t like them.
- Treats. One box of Peanut Butter Ding Dongs, and one box of Swiss rolls. Food is medicine – and that’s emotional and spiritual as well as physical. While these “treats” contain little nutritional value, they are something we splurge on when we take road trips or have large parties. I bought them so if we do have some darker moments in the next few weeks, there is an external spark of happy that I can inject. Sometimes the happy memory far outweighs the nutritional value in the balance of living.
You probably don’t need 600 rolls of toilet paper, but do you have basic first aid supplies? Are your prescriptions filled and up to date? Do you have support from family and friends, and are you available to support them? Are you dreading spending time with your family stuck at home or are you comfortable with a chance to reconnect, clean out closets, and watch some movies? Are you so perpetually busy that the idea of weeks without activities makes you spin in terror, or do you see an opportunity to quietly read a book, do a craft, or have a long overdue conversation? Do you have a backlog of things that you really don’t want to tackle and know feel you may be “forced” to, or is there an online class you’ve really wanted to take but couldn’t find the time?
Because of what I do for a living, I didn’t need to stock up on Advil, Tylenol, couch medicine or thermometers. But that goes back to the concept of deferred maintenance. I have plenty of closets that need to be cleaned, but as far as medical preparations, I am current. If you are not, it is a great time to take a deep breath, and reset the basics.
Third: Make future plans!
I have a long standing practice with many of my besties, my family, and my clients. I like to make plans for our next adventure, get together, conversation, or meal before we end our current one. That way, our relationships don’t get lost in the “I meant to, but got busy, and now it’s been 6 months, and do either of us have time” loop. Often, those plans we make now have to be rescheduled, adjusted, or otherwise changed as the days unfold. But because the plans exist, they remain a priority and it is not 6 months before we circle back.
If reports from other countries are any indication of what is coming in the United States, I think it is more important than ever to plan for a future on the other side of this Pandemic. Where do you want to travel to? Go look at websites, visit the plethora of virtual museums online, and start planning that trip. What friend have you not talked to or seen? How can you make plans? What about a big summer get together?
It is likely that we will be impacted. It is likely that our friends and families will experience hardship, illness, and possibly worse as this unfolds. But it is also possible that on the other side of this is time to fully live and enjoy what we have. My annual 4th of July party is already in planning mode. I have ideas for summer camping, and road trips. I have clients, and friends, penciled in for appointments and coffee dates for the next 3 months.
We cannot know what will happen, nor can we know how we personally will be impacted. What we can do, is plan lovingly for a time when all the missed handshakes and hugs come back. Where joy and laughter, and tears and sadness, can be shared and processed in our communities.
A friend in Italy posted an event on Facebook this morning announcing a “Flash Mob Sing Along”! There was a start time, a song list, and instructions that included: Open your windows and join us in lifting your voices together, as a community. It is in that spirit that I encourage you to make plans. Set a skype date with a friend for next Wednesday. Plan an online lesson you can share with your friends who also have children stuck at home with them, and offer it next Saturday. Create an evite for your summer BBQ, birthday party, or pool party. Create a Pinterest board of your European Dream Vacation.
With all of that, I wish you all the best. I will be available through my Facebook page to answer questions. I will be posting as I feel it is appropriate or helpful. Thank you. <3
Research on thoughts affecting brain chemistry: